Col Joye’s backing group, the Joy Boys were a solid unit, originally a jazz group known as the KJ Quintet they were Kevin Jacobsen (piano), Keith Jacobsen (bass), John Bogie (drums), Laurie Erwin (sax), Ron Patton (sax), Norm Day (lead guitar) and Dave Bridge (guitar), Bridge became lead guitarist in 1961.
In addition to backing Col Joye (real name Colin Jacobsen) on his early recordings and at live performances they also produced a series of light, chirpy, instrumental hits and enjoyed considerable success in the Sydney market as well as scoring several national hits.
Between 1961-1963 they charted with Istanbul #16, then took the jaunty, rollicking sax, drums, guitar, and piano of Smoky Mokes to #4 in 1961 for one of their biggest hits; written by Abe Holzman, a Tin Pan Alley tunesmith in 1899, it was a Dixieland jazz standard recorded by numerous artists over the years, including local bandleader Graham Bell and his Dixieland Jazzmen in 1947, on the Regal Zonophone label, but the Joy Boys gave it a pop makeover and it became their biggest hit.
They followed up in 1962 with their Shadows-style tribute to the Southern Aurora, the very first uninterrupted overnight rail service from Sydney to Melbourne. Historically the advent of this train was significant as it meant that NSW (standard British rail gauge) and Victoria (Irish broad gauge) had converted to a standard gauge railway line to facilitate the new service, a significant engineering feat, and a rare example of interstate co-operation between Sydney and Melbourne.
The distinctive whistle of the train was taped and incorporated into the recording as a special sound effect, musically the track owes a debt to the Shadows Kon-Tiki but Southern ‘Rora was a big hit, climbing to #6 nationally in June ’62 for the Joy Boys second top 10 instrumental hit. They enjoyed further success with The Waltz of the Flowers (#28 in ’62), and their light-hearted contribution to the surf music genre, Murphy the Surfie which climbed to #14 in 1963.
A sad postscript to the history of the Southern Aurora was the disastrous collision between this passenger train and a goods train near Violet Town in north-eastern Victoria, on February 7th. 1969, which resulted in nine deaths and 117 passengers and crew injured. The south-bound Southern Aurora failed to acknowledge the speed limits required for it to successfully negotiate a passing loop with a north-bound goods train with which it shared the track, as the driver Jack Bowden had died of a heart attack at the controls some 6 kms before the collision. The two trains collided head-on at a closing speed of 172 kph, carriages jack-knifed in the air and were derailed or telescoped into the locomotives, diesel fuel fires erupted and engulfed several of the passenger carriages. A coronial inquiry found that the Southern Aurora fireman Mervyn Coulthard and guard William Wyer were grossly negligent in the discharge of the duties, and that the accident could have been avoided.