The Seekers formed in late 1962 and played the folkie clubs and coffee houses of Melbourne until their classic line up was completed in Melbourne in 1963, after two employees of the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency, a young secretary by the name of Judith Cock (Judith ultimately adopted her mother’s maiden name, Durham) and an advertising account executive Athol Guy, met and Athol invited Judith to join his group.At the time the Seekers were a Weavers- style folk group, who were performing at the Treble Clef Coffee Lounge in Toorak Rd (Melb) and needed to replace their existing tenor singer, Ken Ray. Keith Potger and Athol Guy had come from R&R bands – the Trinamics and the Ramblers respectively, and Woodley via a doo wop group, the Escorts, and all three had been students at Melbourne Boys’ High School (below).Jazz singer Judith Durham performed at The Memphis Jazz Club with Frank Traynor’s Jazz Preachers (Melb) from 1962-63 and was in a relationship with Traynor, Judith was 19 and Traynor was 35. She was invited to fill-in for the Seekers as lead singer at the Treble Clef, once Ken Ray left the group to get married. Judith did not know at the time, but she was not the first choice to replace Ken Ray, local jazz/folk performer, the beautiful and talented Judy Jacques (below) had been offered the position first, but turned it down as she was more interested in pursuing blues, gospel and jazz music than the Australian folk ballads for which the original Seekers were then known.Despite a lifelong struggle with bronchiectasis, Judith had already emerged as a talented jazz/blues vocalist with the Frank Traynor (below) Jazz Preachers, her influences included Mahalia Jackson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Joan Baez, Bessie Smith, Ronnie Gilbert (of the Weavers) and Odetta, she was a classically-trained pianist with an amazing voice, and at eighteen years of age had already cut an EP of Dixieland jazz standards with Frank Traynor, once she decided to join the Seekers, she quickly became their lead singer.Several misconceptions about the recruitment of Judith Durham by Athol Guy at this time, would come back to disrupt the Seekers four years later when they prematurely disbanded. Judith had always understood that her job was to perform on the cruise to the UK and that there was no formal commitment beyond that date, and furthermore that the group was to be known as Judith Durham and the Seekers, but the paternalistic and single-minded Athol Guy vehemently opposed the idea, despite the fact that it was Judith’s sublime vocals that were the unique quality within the group. Judith was already experiencing anxiety about her appearance, she fad-dieted regularly, and disliked the anonymous identity she had to endure within a four-person group, these factors, and the poor management and promotion of the group which never really capitalized on their incredible chart success in the form of lucrative concert engagements, would ultimately lead to her defection to a solo career in 1968.Athol Guy had landed the group a job as the onboard entertainment on Sitmar’s SS Fairsky cruise to the UK, the group had signed with Ron Tudor’s W&G label and issued their debut album Introducing the Seekers, in November 1963 their first single, Waltzing Matilda charted #74 locally. As they departed Australia the Beatles arrived soon after for their first and only tour of the country, upon arrival in London the Seekers were introduced to Tom Springfield (real name Dion O’Brien), via his sister Dusty (real name Mary O’Brien), with whom they had performed at a concert in Blackpool. Tom would become the trusted mentor and manager of the group and would write most of their international hits over the next five years. In many ways the Springfields were reincarnated in the Seekers and it would be easy to imagine the Springfields singing I’ll Never Find Another You and the Seekers singing the most recent hit for the Springfields, Silver Threads and Golden Needles.The Seekers achieved a beautiful balance of vocal harmonies that characterized their live performances and many recordings, Keith was a versatile tenor who possessed excellent arranging skills, Athol’s resonant bass voice and Bruce’s baritone provided a harmonic plateau on which the crystalline soprano of Judith Durham would soar, talent scouts at EMI’s Columbia label agreed, and signed them to a recording contract. Legend has it that Judith Durham slept in and was late for this recording session and when she arrived all the instrumental parts of the song had been recorded so she just added her vocals and Tom Springfield brilliantly pulled the whole thing together.
The promo video of the group “recording” the song at Abbey Road Studio 3 is fascinating, the opening shot is over the shoulder of Tom Springfield at the recording desk into the studio where the four Seekers are assembled, after some opening guitar tuning by Keith Potger, Athol Guy says “ok, ready, right, let’s make this the one”. Judith Durham in red skirt and top, twin pigtails and black stockings with her hands behind her back looks like a shy schoolgirl, Potger commences his signature 12-string acoustic guitar intro, Woodley and Guy join in with guitar and upright slap bass, Judith starts to sing the opening line “There’s a new world somewhere/ They call the promised land/ And I’ll be there someday/ If you could hold my hand…” she moves her hands onto her hips in a more confident and assured manner, nailing the vocals with ease, and remains like that for the rest of the “session”, job done, no fuss. Judith once said “I was shy, but when I sang I felt empowered.”
Guy’s slap bass anchors the song, Tom Springfield also provided percussion effects via a cabasa and conga-drum, and the guitars and tambourines delivered the rhythmic accompaniment. The lyrical structure of the song is simple with the hook (the title), being repeated at the end of each verse. Unlike a traditional folk ballad, there is no unfolding story, just a reflection on the importance of the loved one to the narrator, the endearing charm of this song, and the folk-pop hits of the Seekers, were to be found in their sublime harmonies, and the innocence and naivety of the lyrics, which optimized the accessibility for the listener in this song, by not actually naming the two lovers.But getting exposure for the record in the UK was difficult, without the support of their manager Eddie Jarrett of the Grade Organisation, who secured their early gigs; Australian DJ Allan Crawford at the pirate station Radio Caroline who played the record, and several appearances on Ronnie Carroll’s (above) ATV show Call On Carroll, the record may have sunk without a trace, but once it made the lower reaches of the top 40, the BBC were obliged to play it, and then it took off.This was the group’s first UK release and it made a huge impression, it stormed to #1 in Aust where it knocked Ray Brown and the Whispers 20 Miles off the top of the charts, and the UK where it displaced the Kinks Tired Of Waiting For You from the top spot, climbed to #4 in USA, and they became the first Australian band to sell over a million copies of a single, to date it has sold 1.75 million copies, and it became the template for future Seekers hit songs. It was also the first record by a local group to simultaneously occupy a top 5 position in the Australian, UK and US charts I’ll Never Find Another You would also be an apt eulogy for Judith Durham’s late much-loved husband Ron Edgeworth who sadly succumbed to Motor Neurone Disease in 1994.