Upon hearing an old song, Silly Joke by The Strollers, over the radio, I was reminded of a musical brother who died about a year ago.
The late Bau-born Joing Mideh, who played bass for Revival of Elvis Presley — a band that I led in 1977 (in USM) — graduated a year later than me with a Housing Building and Planning degree.
I was told that our drummer, Makibin Bodok, from Sabah had also joined the afterworld but I’m sure our lead guitarist (who took over from me in 1978) Aldram (now Mohamad Adaham) and rhythm guitarist Idris Jala (now Datuk Seri) are still around.
As such my musical journey of over half a century has seen many friends cum musical buddies gone one by one.
As a 14-year-old Form One boy in 1968, I could not play guitar or sing but I needed to make friends, making it necessary to connect with peers with some musical talent.
That was when I joined Daniel, John Timban and Kenneth Sang to form a band called The Playboys.
Daniel owned a guitar and was a good player. He became our lead while Timban played rhythm and Sang became our bassist while my goodself settled for the drums.
We were one of four bands in the school and the sole band from Form One boys. Timban also sang and sounded like Cliff Richard. A year later, I was confident to do Elvis songs on stage.
I have not met Daniel, who was appointed as a penghulu, for quite a while and hope he is still around.
Sadly, Timban — whom I last met during a wedding of my niece (now deceased) to his nephew in 1993 — died some years ago while Sang also passed on about three years ago.
We remained in the band for three years. I later went solo to do Elvis and took to the guitar, joining with a few others to play together but never formed a band, including my Form Six days in Sibu.
In August 1975 in Penang, I got my first Kapok guitar costing RM32. Even owning a guitar did nothing much to improve my guitar skill. It took me months to practise songs such as Silly Joke and later took to learning difficult numbers by Deep Purple.
My favourite was blues as well as rock and roll. So, by the time my idol Elvis Presley died on Aug 16, 1977, I led some enthusiasts to form Elvis Presley Revival Band.
Initially, I was lead guitarist but later Penang’s Edwin Khoo, a guitar award winner, took over but retaining Joing and Makibin as bassist and drummer while Carter Ballang played rhythm while August Buma (now Datuk) did vocals. In 1978, Adram and Idris joined us.
After USM, I joined Rajang Teachers College, Bintangor and led our all-lecturers band The Rajang Sound.
Our initial rhythm player, Sebastian Legak, died in 1985 aged 38. My USM classmate, Carter, took over his role in 1981.
By 2002 after my Brunei stint, I had already made a good number of musical people, including a former advisor to Seri Begawan Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien.
Pehin Datuk Seri Utama Abas Datu Harun was a prolific keyboardist and used to come to my Saturday night show at The Crowne Princess Hotel in BSB. We remained friends until my last days in the sultanate. I heard he had died too.
In 2004 while teaching during the day and working as a pub deejay in the evening, I renewed my friendship with a prolific singer and guitarist Daniel Shukry, now deceased.
Another EP enthusiast Ali Hassan, a regular patron at Shelter Pub & Lounge, has also died — he was Safar Gaafar’s eldest brother.
We activated our involvement as Elvis tribute artistes since 2002 and formed the Elvis Presley Fan Club of Sarawak in 2014.
By then two of our ETAs were already gone, namely Reynolds Gregory (2010) and Miri’s Alex Ting (2013). John Sia of Sibu joined the club but also died in 2016.
In June 2019 another EP impressionist, Jimmy Adit, was also called home while in April this year, Sarawak second EP titleholder, Eskandar Eyaw, also departed.
Looking back, a dear friend, Zainal Abidin Ujang, whom I competed with for a state-level award in 1973, also died some years ago.
There were many musicians that I crossed path with who had left this borrowed world too.
That Silly Joke was in fact the favourite of Joing and Aldram, making it a nostalgic moment when hearing it while I was in the loo just now.