David Oke
Colac , early 1980s

“Just keep playing,” said the MC.

Back in the early to mid-1980s I played keyboard, sax and guitar in a covers band.  Most of us were studying either full- or part-time, so we called ourselves The Millionaires. The other guys were experienced players and, as someone in my early 20s, I learnt lots about performing live and lots about life.

What would be the worst thing that could happen to you as a band? A fight on the dance floor? That used to regularly happen with two women at the Dinosaur Hotel in Geelong.  A stage intruder? I had one at the Torquay Hotel where a guy kept twiddling with my guitar amplifier knobs while I was playing. I am glad I was wearing pretty heavy boots that night. I may have stomped on his hand but he was so drunk he didn’t feel anything.

What about someone in the audience having a heart attack?

We were having a fun time playing on the big stage at the Colac RSL for the Kana Ball, part of the annual Kana festival. Colac’s answer to Moomba, I suppose.

The venue was once a cavernous picture theatre. From the stage we had a very good view of the audience.

About two-thirds of the way through the gig there was some commotion just to the right of the stage.

From our vantage point we could see that CPR was being administered to someone. Someone who’d had a heart attack.

“Just keep playing,” said the MC.

The heart attack victim was a male and we could see that he wasn’t looking too good at all.

The next song on our playlist was The Eagles’ Heartache Tonight.

“Just keep playing’,” said the MC.

We played the Eagles’ song, not even thinking about its title, let alone its chorus.

By the time the patient was being wheeled to an awaiting ambulance I had the saxophone out and we were playing Bill Haley’s See You Later Alligator.

We learnt, after the gig, that the man did not survive.

While packing up and preparing for the long 2am drive home to Geelong it dawned on us that we had included some pretty poor choices of tunes, given the situation.

All these years later, on behalf of The Millionaires, I’d like to give a very belated apology to the deceased and his family.

The Millionaires at Modewarre Football Club, not far from Colac.

The Millionaires at Modewarre Football Club, not far from Colac.

© David Oke. More stories by David Oke

 

David is a Melbourne musician, music teacher and primary school teacher. His debut Stereo Story was about playing Great Balls of Fire at Sun Studio in Memphis. He has assisted in the organisation, and leading of gospel music workshops and Sunday gospel celebrations at the Anglesea Music Festivals, and is a member of The Seddon Jammers. His son Dan is the creative force of the band Jarrow.