BEFORE VJ KING JR
learned to walk he & his sister, Chantelle
Marie King, would sit at their dad’s feet for hours singing kids’ tunes,
home-spun melodies, and Sunday School hymns played out on an old family
Those daily family music-room rituals echoed a bygone era when, free
from the enervating influences of today’s modern society, music – live
music – was the turnkey of family bonding and, importantly, a catalyst
for artistic expression and musical development.
This was the crucible in which VJ, from a very early age, experienced
the miracle of music and the fundamentals of rhythmic & melodic expression
that find their reflection in his own dynamic musical expression today.
Acknowledging the significant contributions that have been made along
the way by many musicians (Jim Conway, Phil Emmanuel, Tommy Emmanuel,
Dieter Kleemann, Max Paton, Ross Ward, Wolf Mail, Walter Trout and John
Russell, to name a few) VJ King Jr is, rightly, seen as the protégé
of Peter Andrews – a highly respected professional musician and guitar
tutor now residing in Australia.
Andrews, who learned his craft in the UK during the late 50s at the
birth of rock ’n' roll and the popularisation of the blues, was invited
to the King family home in March, 1998.
It was a watershed for Andrews as well as the budding six-year old...
for within two years VJ King Jr was in a recording studio, and Andrews,
inspired by his young charge's rapid progress, was kept busy composing
tracks for VJ’s debut CD, Shadow of a Dream.
A year after he commenced lessons with Andrews, VJ made his first public
appearance. It was 8 March 1999, in an open-age Castle Hill Show Talent
Quest Heat. Judges standing to applaud a contestant's performance was
a rare sight ... they were expecting Baa Baa Black Sheep, and were treated
with a dose of Lethal Blues and Wonderful Land. VJ landed one of eight
Grand Final spots in a competitive field of over fifty bands & vocalists,
and ran third.
His first professional performance came two months later, on
14 May 1999 at Dural Country Club,
as a special guest in Paddy Twohill’s Elvis & Friends concert. Two days
later, 16 May 1999, he was on stage jamming with Whose Muddy Shoes at
a Sydney Blues Society sponsored Sydney Harbour Blues Cruise.
Winner of The Hills Talent Search 2001, after being placed Runner Up
to his sister Chantelle the previous year, VJ capped off 2001 with the
release of his debut album, Shadow Of A Dream, followed by three outstanding
centre-stage performances before 40,000+ during the Annual Schools Spectacular
at the Sydney Entertainment Centre.
There have been many outstanding highlights in VJ King Jr's short career,
but none are likely to rank as having had more adrenalin pumping than
his performances with Pete Cornelius and The DeVilles at the Narooma
Blues & Rockabilly Festival (October, 2002); with Phil Emmanuel (Galston
Club and Silks City Tattersalls Club, February and May, 2003); and with
Tommy Emmanuel (Yallah Woolshed and TV 9's Mornings With Kerri-Anne,
April, 2003). [see
2003 saw VJ serve out the last of his primary school years at
Samuel Gilbert (Sydney, Australia) and, in 2004, commence his secondary
education at the Sydney Conservatorium High School. He enjoys golf,
cricket, rugby league, American football (accounting for Touchdown,
track 5 on VJ's CD). He is a keen
Baseballer. VJ is a member of the
Castle Hill Baseball Club in the Hills District U14 Division 1 competition,
and also represented the
Hills District in their U14 Representative Team that contested the
NSW Junior Baseball League State Cup.
"Baseball is a fabulous
sport ...", said VJ, adding "...
what I really love about it is that, apart being an exciting, competitive
physical outlet – a real contrast to most of my music activities – I
learn valuable things about team play, support play, thinking ahead,
strategies, and reacting to constant, fast changing game situations.
All of these things apply equally to my work in music. Every recording
session, rehearsal, concert, etc., calls for good team work and the
need for everyone to be 'on their toes', thinking ahead, and adapting,
at times instantly, to change."
During 2003, VJ also found selection in the Castle Hill, Sydney West,
NSW PSSA State Boys Softball teams. Speaking of his participation
in the week-long November Australian National Championships, VJ said:
"I am very proud to be
the first Samuel Gilbert Primary School student to represent New South
Wales at a national softball tournament."
Team NSW were undefeated throughout, and crowned Australian Champions
An admirer of Hank Marvin, B B King, Chuck Berry, Luther Allison, Eric
Clapton, SRV, Phil Emmanuel & Tommy Emmanuel – it was Tommy who had
the earliest influence when, in September 1998, at his Vinegar Hill
Woolshed concert, he signed an autograph for VJ which featured the injunction
“Never give up!”
Tommy’s words had impact. In a published March 2002 interview
with Sydney Blues Society's Julie Fox, VJ declared:
“I haven’t given up . . . I’m
going to keep at it . . . [and] one day I’m going to bump into one of
those guys, and I need to be in good shape to jam with them.”
For a young lad with his teen years still a distant shimmer on the horizon,
the dream of playing with the world's best may have seemed a bit out
of the ordinary at the time... but, as those who know him well will
tell you, VJ is no ordinary individual.
In what became known as the Tale of Two Woolsheds, VJ's dream materialised
when, on 17 April 2003 at the Yallah Woolshed, he was invited to jam
with Tommy Emmanuel – later emerging to join him on-stage where, cheered
by a very receptive audience, the two of them performed together for
the first time.
Tommy's 1998 Vinegar Hill Woolshed autograph is a classic example of
the power of the small, kind and thoughtful gesture.
That a scrap of paper with so few words written on it should take such
pride of place among VJ's most treasured personal possessions, speaks
volumes of his love and admiration for a very special guy – one William
Thomas ('Tommy') Emmanuel.
Parallel though they may have been, the pathways that led VJ King Jr
to both Tommy Emmanuel's and Phil Emmanuel's dressing rooms were independent
of each other ... yet, providentially, they came together at almost
A less known, yet important historical fact is that it was Tommy's brother,
Phil Emmanuel - Australia's legendary electric guitar player - who can
lay claim to being the 1st of the Emmanuel Brothers to host VJ at an
Emmanuel Concert when, on 8 March 2003, Phil invited VJ to join him
on stage at a Camp Quality Charity Fund Raiser at the Galston Club,
in Sydney's leafy, semi-rural Hills district.
However, VJ's appearance on Australia's national TV 9 Network with Tommy
Emmanuel ('Mornings With Kerri-Anne' - 21 April 2003) was credited with
being the defining moment. It instantly elevated VJ's public media
profile from a local to a national level, while at the same time garnering
support from international Shadows, Blues, and Finger Picking communities
who unhesitatingly acclaimed his performance.
Tommy and VJ had no sooner said their goodbyes at Sydney's City Recital
Hall on 26 April of that year, than on 3rd May 2003 VJ was back on stage
with Phil Emmanuel at Silks (City Tattersalls Club, Sydney) - playing
a selection of 60s Shadows hits.
As with 2003, 2004 began with VJ performing as guest artist with Phil
Emmanuel (this time, at Phil's Sydney Harbour Music Cruise 11 January);
and then an invitation to play with Tommy Emmanuel (at the Yallah Woolshed
on 06 February). It also marked a new beginning for VJ, as he
starts his very first year of secondary education at the Sydney Conservatorium
By far the year’s greatest highlight was TV Nine Network’s invitation
for VJ to be their special guest at Jupiter’s Gold Coast Casino for
the filming of Tommy Emmanuel – This Is Your Life. To close out the
show jamming on stage with heavyweights Col Joye, Troy Cassar-Daley,
plus Phil Emmanuel and Tommy Emmanuel, was the thrill of a lifetime,
an honour heart-felt, and an experience he will treasure forever.
Hard times, however, lay directly ahead.
They came in the form of a major family
disruption, one that caused his world to fall apart and his confidence
to crumble. Over a year passed. Patience would have her reward when,
mid-way through 2005, with tactful encouragement and assistance from
a few very dear friends, VJ stood up to the plate once again and belted
out sets at ShadOz (Melbourne), Crestwood (a major Hills District Orange
Blossom Festival event) and the Great Southern Blues & Rockabilly Festival
(known affectionately as the Narooma Blues Festival) where his on-stage
performances with Phil Emmanuel, Johno’s Blues Explosion, and Steve
Garry & The Lemon Squeezin’ Daddies were enthusiastically received –
sending a positive signal to his camp that the kid was back.
New Year’s resolutions and all, the beginning
of 2006 demanded a re-think … and a brainstorm of sorts followed. From
this was born a plan for VJ to embark on a three-months educational
tour of the US / UK / and Europe along with his sister, Chantelle Marie
King. It was time for both to broaden their relative perspectives on
life ... and music, in particular.
Carefully identifying what was thought to be a sufficient number of
key cultural music centres throughout the world and making allowance
for sufficient time to plan a practical schedule that would avoid the
extremes of a northern winter, and summer, the months of March through
May 2007 were decided upon. ‘Feelers’ were sent to a number of overseas
friends and contacts to ascertain who the King Kids might have opportunity
to visit while on their music cultures tour. Responses were very encouraging.
Enter Jim ‘Grizzly’ Strawser, co-owner and prime DJ of Internet radio
station SoftSoundsRadio.com and talent scout for Peter Pilkey’s (Montana)
Bitterroot Smokin’ Blues Festival. It is Wednesday, 22 February 2006
at 3:22 in the morning (Sydney time) as Strawser’s email descends from
cyberspace for a soft landing at HeartBeat headquarters. At a more respectable
hour of the day his email is opened … and it read, in part:
have your booking agent contact me personally. What a Blues fantasy,
VJ King Jr
and Michele Lundeen on the same stage! Our festival here in Montana
is the best last
great blues festival in the US. Keep on picking, young man ‘cause you’re
There seemed little doubt at the time that this simple paragraph penned
by Strawser might act as an epi-central 'collision of the plates' –
a point from which VJ's music would begin to rumble across an international
stage. (Montana, however, would not unfold as planned.)
VJ immediately moves forward his preparations to record a new album,
Ignition, and is booked to begin recording in April 2006. The album
would be the masthead for his 2007 USA “Ignition Tour" scheduled to
begin at Stevensville, Montana, on 27 July 2007 where he was to headline,
along with Michele Lundeen, the Bitterroot Smokin’ Blues Festival.
Disjointed recording dates at a busy studio endeavouring to accommodate
his sessions combined with the sudden and extended illness of VJ’s father
brought recording aspirations to a halt.
August 2006 brought news of the collapse of Montana’s Smokin’ Blues
Festival, following North America’s scorching July heat wave. VJ’s US
tour would be deferred, at least until 2008 while Jim Strawser picks
up Montana’s fallen flag, rallies thirsty festival sponsors and supporters,
and lays plans to kick-start a new (replacement) Sapphire Blues Festival.
Doors open as well as close. During this period, the paths of Ross Ward
(Australia) and Wolf Mail (USA) cross with VJ’s, thanks to booking agent
Dierdre LeBlang. Ward and Mail separately host VJ at several gigs –
Ward in Sydney and Narooma and Mail at Wollongong and Newcastle. An
impressed (and generous) Mail invites VJ to accompany his October 2006
At 15 years old, life on the road comes as a timely and practical experience,
immersed in the daily grind of an exacting 3000-mile European schedule.
Generous receptions accompanied VJ throughout Europe, and UK, providing
timely motivation as the shadows lengthened at the closing of a relatively
In the UK, VJ meets Shadows guitar enthusiasts in Watford and Manchester,
old-time jazz ‘n blues guitarist John Coverdale, Australian ex-pat and
touring Bee Gees keyboardist Gary Moberley, and draws glowing praise
from visiting US blues-rock artist, Walter Trout following their Nottingham
concert jam. Prospects are raised for a Walter Trout & The Radicals
Australian tour that Trout insists must include VJ King Jr and band.
In an industry governed by the unpredictable and served by the illusive,
2007 looms in defiant challenge for an emerging artist intent on pursuing
his dream to ultimately join the ranks of successful, touring professional
Simply put, where would young aspiring artists be without a Tommy Emmanuel,
Phil Emmanuel, Pete Cornelius, Ross Ward, Ray Beadle , Wolf Mail or
Walter Trout! And, as industry observers well know, VJ is not
alone as a beneficiary of their integrity, generosity and friendship.
Finally, on behalf of VJ King Jr, “Thank You!” to the many supporters,
friends, and tireless behind-the-scenes workers, technicians, and management
who, together, make up Team HeartBeat.
tough when it knocks you down … staying down means quitting …
so I keep on saying to myself,
Up .... and .... Never Give Up!
' ” – VJ