Castle Hill Show Music Talent Quest
Heat #4 - Monday, 8 March 1999
Debut Public Performance
Castle Hill Tavern (Sydney, Australia) - Heat 4 Act 4 - Monday, 8 March 1999
Castle Hill Show Music Talent Quest
Venue: upper level of the restaurant adjacent to Castle Hill Tavern
(above l. to r.) Mick Thorpe (drums), VJ King Jr (guitar), Bob Anderson (bass), Peter Andrews (rhythm)
VJ King Jr performed 2 instrumental numbers
Lethal Blues (andrews/king) - Wonderful Land (lordan)
On 9 January 1999 VJ was presented with his first electric guitar - a red Fender 'Fatstrat' Stratocaster. At about the same time, an advertisement appeared in the local Hills Shire Times newspaper soliciting registrations for the forthcoming Castle Hill Show Music Talent Quest - an event promoted and run by the Castle Hill & Hills District Agricultural Society Inc., and sponsored by Castle Hill Tavern.
Pitched at aspiring bands and vocalists it offered $1,000 in prize money to the winner and guaranteed $100 to each grand finalist.
Problem: VJ was neither a 'band', nor a 'vocalist'.
Undeterred, VJ's dad files an application, on 25 January 1999, fully aware that it might be rejected; but is driven by a firm belief that VJ needed an immediate, short term goal.
The only gig VJ had played in the 4 months since his (September 1998 Vinegar Hill Woolshed) brief encounter with Tommy Emmanuel, was a 1998 year-end Christadelphian Sunday School Awards afternoon.
Maybe, just maybe, they would let the kid have a crack at one of the heats.
A follow-up phone call to Talent Quest organiser, and Society President, Rod Harris, lobbying young VJ's cause, received a sympathetic hearing but with no guarantees other than to look further into the matter. The anxious wait didn't last long. An official letter confirming VJ's inclusion in the line-up of 60-plus entrants was dispatched to the young guitarist on 29 January 1999.
In the overall scheme of things, the Castle Hill Music Talent Quest may be viewed, historically, as having minor significance - however, its value must never be underestimated. For VJ, it proved to be the right medicine, at just the right time. It was his 1st public performance, he would win a place in the Finals and a $100 cheque as reward for his efforts, be beaten into 3rd place, and come out at the other end armed with the first-hand experience of knowing the twin extremes of victory and defeat.
 Originally, VJ was listed to perform in Heat 2 - 15 February 1999 - however, the night was cancelled and rescheduled to 08 March 1999, apparently due to the 'under-age' performers (i.e., under 18 years of age) in the line-up. Someone had failed to reconcile the Licensing Laws governing the Castle Hill Tavern with that part of the venue which the Tavern's operators had allocated to host the event.
 Rescheduling of the Heat initially threatened to scuttle VJ's participation in the event: all three backing musicians had prior engagements scheduled for the new date - 8 March; and the lists for the 2 remaining Heat nights (February 22 and March 1) were totally booked and thus precluding VJ from piggy-backing one of those dates. With the Finals scheduled for 13 March 1999, organisers had no alternative other than send the Heat to 08 March 1999. VJ was left feeling despondent.
 At the last minute, Mick Thorpe stood in for the original drummer, Bob Anderson cancelled his engagement to make the Heat for VJ, and Peter Andrews left Canberra a day earlier than planned to arrive in time to accompany VJ on the night.
 True! - an audience member, seeing VJ walk on to the platform, laughingly remarked "What's he going to play... Baa Baa Black Sheep!... or Three Blind Mice!"
 True! - all four judges stood and applauded at the close of VJ's performance.
 True! - two of the judges, Dwayne Elix and Matt Frost, confided privately to VJ Sr at the end of the night, that each had scored VJ Jr 10 out of 10 in 4 of the 5 categories used to assess each performer... the 5th category, 'Vocal', didn't qualify for a mention in his case. "This is the first time in the whole contest that someone has scored a perfect score." - Dwayne Elix.
 True! - Pat Twohill took over from the official MC to introduce VJ King Jr.
 True! - last minute stand-in drummer, Mick Thorpe, had never played with VJ prior to the night ... nor has he been seen since!
 True! - just days before the originally scheduled Heat VJ Sr coined the stage name "VJ King Jr" for Victor James Hocking Jr, a.k.a. James Hocking, by simply truncating the family surname - from HOCKING Jr, to KING Jr - and prefacing it with his first-names' initials.
 True! - VJ Sr found the black vest Junior is wearing in Lowes Menswear store, Castle Hill, and decided to buy it to "dress the kid up a bit" - then gave him his golf cap to "top off the outfit".
 True! - the coloured vests would not appear until August/September 2000.
 True! - the amplifier VJ used, and which features in the above photograph is a rare, old Fender Vibroverb that sported a Black Widow 12inch speaker. It belonged to ex-Ramrods lead guitarist, Barry Brady, a long time friend of VJ King Sr. Brady and King Sr attended Drummoyne Boys High School together in the late 50s.
 The original Ramrods - 1959 - comprised Barry Brady (g & v) Johnny Strange, aka John Strange (bg) Johnny Hanlon (d) Gary Moberley (k) and VJ King Sr (v) - all Drummoyne Boys High School students. Brady (now living in Tweed Heads) and Strange (Emerald QLD) came from Glebe, Moberley (now in UK) resided in Fivedock, with Hanlon (present whereabouts unknown - where are you Johnny!?) and King (now Dural NSW) were the two 'local' lads.
 True! - if you stood VJ's Fender Strat on its end... VJ could just manage to see over the top of it.
 8 March 1999 - marks VJ's debut public performance. His debut professional performance came 2 months later, on 14 May 1999 - see Dural Country Club Poster
 By sheer coincidence, 15 February 1999 (the originally scheduled date for VJ's Heat #2) would have been the 99th birthday of VJ's Grandfather, World War I veteran, Alfred Edward Hocking (a.k.a. Ted Hocking).
Information Source: Hocking Family diaries and archives