Many generations of Brisbane folk will remember Rock ‘N’ Roll George. George embodied a bygone era and was well known to the city’s Bodgies and Widgies in the 1950s.
George was a great dancer and in his day, would meet friends in New Farm Park and then drive up in convoy to the majestic Cloudland Ballroom at Bowen Hills. One day his friends surprised George with a Rock ’N’ Roll license plate which immediately took pride of place at the front of his car.
Over subsequent decades, Rock ’N’ Roll George became an icon, well known for regularly driving around Brisbane’s city streets, radio blaring, in his much loved 1952 FX Holden. George cruised in his flamboyant Holden, grabbing attention with its custom accessories, plastic streamers and white wall tyres for nearly six decades and in doing so created a local legend. George and his car were inseparable. Whilst out driving, he wore trademark stovepipe pants, made by the Argyris Brothers Tailors on Boundary Street, West End.
Good friend Bill Daicos said, “I knew George for over 20 years and I only remember him ever wearing five different coloured pants.” West End based Bill was George’s barber for two decades, and is also an artist who has painted a series of portraits of Rock ‘N’ Roll George, each with George wearing a different coloured pair of pants. The paintings as well as George’s 1952 FX Holden are on show at the Queensland Museum, South Bank until October 2 as part of an exhibition entitled Rock around The Block: Rock ‘N’ Roll George – Brisbane Legend.
The FX Holden forms the centrepiece of the modest exhibtion which provides a unique insight into the man and the legend. There are photos, anecdotes and a visitors’ book where everyone can write a tribute or share a classic Rock ‘N’ Roll George experience. Co-curator of the exhibition, Lauren McFarlane, founder of The Friends of Rock ’N’ Roll George, has been working on the non-profit community project with the Queensland Museum and Hutchinson Builders, who provided funding. They are currently researching a book about George, due for release by the Museum in 2012.
Bill Daicos is now working on a sixth and final painting of George, with a black and white theme, to be unveiled at the Queensland Museum’s upcoming celebrations marking 150 years. As part of the celebrations for their company centenerary in 2012, the owner of the car, Scott Hutchinson is planning to drive a replica around Australia wearing purple stovepipes similar to what George would have worn. The pants are being made by Rock ’N’ Roll George’s West End tailor and neighbourhood friend Peter Argyris. The original car is now considered a heritage object and too fragile for the journey.
It has been nearly two years since Brisbane lost the iconic Rock ‘N’ Roll George. He died in 2009, aged 82, after living all his life in West End. Not many people knew the man well but they certainly knew his car. Bill Daicos said his old mate would have been satisfied with what has transpired.
“George would have loved the way this has worked out,” he said. “He would be very, very happy; very happy.”
Words by Jimmy Bazianas