In 2014, Peter Head went to Georgia. It was a homecoming of sorts for a man whose links to the Peach State weren’t genetic, but ran through the soul. He wanted more than anything, to go to Macon, because it was the home of Little Richard. “I heard Little Richard in 1957,” he said to his travelling companion, with a wink, “And it set me on a road to depravity from which I have never deviated.”
Peter has been a professional piano player since he was thirteen. For those of you who are counting, that’s a long time. He played in Adelaide’s first rock’n’roll band – Johnny Mac and the Macmen. Still only in high-school, he would perform four nights a week– on stage, on television, on radio – racking up shows with a young John Farnham, Doug Ashdown, and the Bee Gees. He was the musical accompaniment to the seductive dances of the showgirls at Adelaide’s notorious den of iniquity, ‘La Belle’. Then he discovered art school, jazz and funk.
He paid his way to London playing on a Greek cruise ship. He spent nights jamming alongside world class musicians in that city’s burgeoning jazz-rock club scene, and supported his young family by touring with a Jamaican reggae band. He went back to Adelaide and co-founded seminal prog-rockers, Headband. Over 4 years, Headband released three singles and an album that featured players from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and a 110 voice children’s choir. They won ‘Hoadley’s Battle of the Bands’, supported Elton John and toured with The Rolling Stones.
After Headband split in 1974, Peter launched the Mount Lofty Rangers, a country rock supergroup with an evolving cast that would eventually number 200 artists and musicians – Bon Scott (AC/DC), Glenn Shorrock (Little River Band), Chris Bailey (The Angels/ Gangajang/Headband) and national treasure, Robyn Archer, to name a few. He was musical director for Archer as she relentlessly toured her hit musical, ‘A Star Is Torn', and himself wrote and staged his own musicals, 'Lofty' and 'Fun & Games'.
Peter was resident piano artiste at Adelaide’s Festival Theatre, then moved to Sydney, where he performed with Lucky Starr, Jeff St. John, Jimmy Little, Jeff Duff, and legendary, enigmatic soul singer, Wendy Saddington. In 1985 he released the ’The King Of The Cross’ EP. While it was written about the underworld kingpin, Abe Saffron, the nickname eventually became Peter’s own, having himself become a fixture in the late-night, hedonistic shadowland of Kings Cross. For more than a decade, as many as four times a night, Peter could be found at the piano in iconic nightclubs like Round Midnight, The Bourbon & Beefsteak, The Paradise Room and Springfield’s. Later, he would travel to New York and take a sojourn as resident piano man at New York’s Broadway Piano Bar.
Peter attracted international attention in 1986, with the re-release of his 1973 song, ‘Round & Round & Round’, which featured a young Bon Scott. In 2004 he released ‘In The Key Of Night’, a timeless, beguiling collection of his own songs, as well as distinctive interpretations of tunes by Leonard Cohen, Ray Charles, Tom Waits, Randy Newman, Professor Longhair and Bob Dylan. This recording’s standout achievement was to capture Peter in his element – late at night, solo, on a grand piano.
In 2013 he collaborated with his daughter, Lo Carmen, to release the wonderful album, ‘The Apple Don’t Fall Far From The Tree’. The Australian called it “a charming, smoky blues romp”. The Music called Peter’s playing, “elegant and melodious” and they shared stages with Kinky Friedman, The Handsome Family and Renee Geyer. In 2016 Peter was inducted into the South Australian Music Hall Of Fame and in 2017 he released New Masters, Vol. 1.