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- For eucalyptus species, see Red Gum; or for the deciduous tree see American Sweetgum.
Redgum were an Australian folk and political music group formed in Adelaide in 1975 by singer-songwriter John Schumann, Michael Atkinson on guitars/vocals, Verity Truman on flute/vocals; they were later joined by Hugh McDonald on fiddle and Chris Timms on violin. All four had been students at Flinders University and together developed a strong political voice. They are best known for their protest song exploring the impact of war in the 1980s “I Was Only 19“, which peaked at #1 on the National singles charts. The song is in the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) list of Top 30 of All Time Best Australian Songs created in 2001.
Redgum also covered Australian consumer influences on surrounding nations in 1984’s “I’ve Been To Bali Too”, both hit singles were written by Schumann. “The Diamantina Drover”, written by Timms’ replacement, violinist/vocalist Hugh McDonald and “Poor Ned”, written by Trevor Lucas of Fairport Convention, are examples of their bush songs. Lucas produced their June 1983 live LP Caught in the Act, which peaked at #3 on the National albums chart. Schumann left the band and pursued a solo career from 1986, Atkinson left in 1987 and Redgum finally disbanded in 1990.
From 2005, Schumann and McDonald performed together as part of John Schumann and the Vagabond Crew.
Redgum was formed in 1975 when three students at Flinders University, John Schumann, Michael Atkinson (not to be confused with the future Labor politician of the same name) and Verity Truman, collaborated for a musical assessment piece for their Politics and Art course. The trio quickly gained fame around the University community for their forthright songs, and by 1976 had been joined by violinist Chris Timms who had previously attended Flinders University. The group were soon in demand for parties, pubs and rallies throughout South Australia and Victoria. Initially a part-time band, performing weekends and school holidays (two members were teachers), it was only after they released their second album, Virgin Ground (late 1980), to strong sales and critical acclaim, that the group became full-time and started touring nationally.
On the first album, If You Don’t Fight You Lose (1978) Redgum showed it was one of the few Australian bands prepared to tackle domestic politics and culture. “One More Boring Night in Adelaide” for some will remain, despite some of its dated references, a classic analysis of Australian provincial parochialism. The group’s success continued to grow with the release of their next three albums, Virgin Ground, Brown Rice and Kerosine (1981) and the EP Cut to the Quick (September 1982), and they weathered several line-up changes including the addition of a didgeridoo and the replacement of Timms in May 1982 with Hugh McDonald, among others. They released a songbook The Redgum Songbook: Stubborn Words, Flagrant Vices (1981).
Collaboration with influential Australian folk producer Trevor Lucas (from UK folk group Fairport Convention) brought the high-point of their career – the live LP Caught in the Act was released in June 1983 and “I Was Only 19” aka “A Walk in the Light Green” (March 1983) hit number one on the Australian singles chart. The song precipitated a Royal Commission into the use and effects of chemical agents in the Vietnam War by the Australian military. The album included “The Diamantina Drover” and “The Last Frontier” which are indicative of their folk music style.
The band released their next LP, Frontline (August 1984) with its single “I’ve Been to Bali Too”, and started touring folk venues in the UK and Europe with some success. Late in 1985, Schumann announced that he had signed a solo deal with CBS Records and would be quitting. Redgum released one more album of new material, Midnight Sun (1986), and a last single “Roll it on Robbie” (1987) after which Atkinson left. There were plans to release another album but this did not occur. The album was recorded at Warrenwood in Melbourne but never released due to the studio going into liquidation The remaining members who recorded this album Hugh McDonald, Verity Truman, Michael Spicer, James Spicer and Tim Hannaford performed until 1990, when the band’s considerable debts were cleared. After this was achieved Redgum disbanded.
After leaving the band, Schumann released two solo albums before pursuing a brief political career as an independent, standing for the South Australian seat of Mayo in the 1998 Federal election and losing by a small margin. He was later employed by the Democrats as a staffer. He left the Democrats in 2000 and returned to further solo works. Schumann returned to recording in 2005 with the Vagabond Crew (which includes fellow Redgum member Hugh McDonald) and new albums were released in 2005 and 2008.
Chris Timms left to further a career in Adult Education within the Dept. of TAFE in South Australia. He was active within the Australian Labor Party for a time.
Other members of Redgum continue to work in the Australian music scene. Atkinson has worked in film and television. He composed the music for films including Heaven’s Burning (1997), starring Russell Crowe.
Truman performs in Adelaide as a longtime member of cabaret/cover band CrossRoads.
In 2005, Redgum was again brought to attention through the recording of an acoustic / hip hop cover of “I Was Only 19” by Australian group The Herd with Schumann providing some vocals. The song received high rotation on popular national radio station Triple J. Michael Spicer is currently teaching MIDI, Synthesis & Composition in Singapore Polytechnic.
Hugh McDonald died of cancer on 19 November 2016; he was only 62. 
In chronological order:
- John Schumann (vocals, guitar) 1975–1985
- Verity Truman (vocals, flute, tin whistle) 1975–1990
- Chris Timms (violin, backing vocals) 1975–1982
- Bruce Barry (bass, guitar) 1975
- Chris Boath (bass guitar) 1978–1979
- Gordon McLean (drums) 1978–1979
- Tom Stehlik (drums) 1978–1979
- David Flett (bass guitar) 1980–1983
- Geoff Gifford (drums) 1980–1982
- Russel Coleman (drums) 1982–1983
- Hugh McDonald (guitar, violin, vocals) 1982–1990
- Michael Spicer (keyboards, flute) 1983–1990
- Brian Czempinski (drums) 1984–1986
- Stephen Cooney (bass guitar, didgeridoo, guitar, mandolin, banjo) 1984-1985
- Andy Baylor (guitar, fiddle) 1986
- Peter Bolke (bass guitar) 1986
- Ray Rafael (drums) 1986–1989
- Darren Deland Darren (bass guitar,vocals) 1987–1988
- Louis McManus (guitar) 1987?
- Malcolm Wakeford (drums) 1987?
- Bob Sender Bob (guitar) 1987?
- James Spicer (drums/vocals) 1988-90
- Tim Hannaford (bass guitar/vocals) 1989-90
- If You Don’t Fight You Lose (1978)
- Virgin Ground (November 1980)
- Brown Rice and Kerosine (1981)
- Cut to the Quick (1982 EP)
- Frontline (August 1984)
- Midnight Sun (November 1986)
- 4 Play Vol 19 (EP, March 1988)
- Caught in the Act (June 1983)
- Everything’s Legal, Anything Goes – Redgum’s Greatest (1985)
- The Very Best of Redgum (1987)
- Against the Grain (2004)
- The Essential Redgum (2011)
Release Date Title Chart positions Album Australia (KMR) Jan 1981 “Long Run” – Virgin Ground Nov 1981 “100 Years On” – Brown Rice and Kerosine 1982 “Working Girls” – Cut to the Quick 1983 “Caught In The Act” – May 1983 “I Was Only 19” 1 – Aug 1983 “Long Run” (re-release) – – Feb 1984 “I’ve Been To Bali Too” 16 Frontline 1984 “Friday Night” 82 Frontline 1984 “A.S.I.O.” – Frontline 1985 “Just Another Moment On Your Own” – – 1985 “The Drover’s Dog” 20 – Nov 1986 “Running With The Hurricane” – Midnight Sun May 1987 “Roll It On Robbie” 34 –
Detailed singles information
- “Long Run” (Schumann) / “Little Hampton’s Calling Me” (Atkinson, McDonald, Truman, Schumann) (January 1981) Re-released August 1983 with B side “Fabulon” (McDonald, Truman, Atkinson, Schumann)
- “100 Years On” (Schumann) / “Nuclear Cop” (Schumann, Atkinson, Truman, Timms) (November 1981)
- “Working Girls” (Schumann) (1982)
- “Caught in the Act” (Schumann, Atkinson, Truman, Timms) / “Stewie” (Schumann) / “Lear Jets Over Kulgera” (Atkinson) (1983 EP, also released with LP of same name)
- “I Was Only 19” (Schumann) / “Yarralumla Wine” (Atkinson) (March 1983) – #1 Aus
- “A.S.I.O.” (Atkinson) / “Hira” (Schumann, Cooney) (1984)
- “Friday Night” (Atkinson) / “Last Frontier” (Schumann) (1984) – #82 Aus
- “I’ve Been to Bali Too” (Schumann) / “Still Life” (Truman, McDonald) (February 1984) – #16 Aus
- “Just Another Moment on Your Own” (Atkinson, Schumann) / “Kerang (Moon Over Water)” (McDonald) (1985)
- “The Drover’s Dog” (Schumann, Atkinson) / “It Doesn’t Matter to Me” (Schumann, Atkinson) (1985) – #20 Aus
- “Running With the Hurricane” (Atkinson, McDonald) / “Street to Die” (McDonald) (November 1986)
- “Roll it on Robbie” (McDonald, Spicer) / “Empty Page” (Truman, Spicer) (May 1987) – #34 Aus
On the Frontline (1990, Hoyts / Polygram)
- Magnus Holmgren (ed.). “Redgum discography”. Australian Rock Database. Archived from the original on 2 October 2008. Retrieved 13 October 2008.
- McFarlane, Ian (1999). “Encyclopedia entry for ‘Redgum‘“. Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86448-768-2. Retrieved 13 October 2008.
- Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. NOTE: Used for Australian Singles and Albums charting from 1970 until ARIA created their own charts in mid-1988.
- “Australian Charts portal”. australian-charts.com. Archived from the original on 22 June 2008. Retrieved 13 October 2008.
- “Best of 1983”. Oz Net Music Chart. Archived from the original on 10 October 2007. Retrieved 13 October 2008.
- “Dimensions Episode 20: John Schumann“. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). 18 June 2003. Archived from the original on 20 May 2007. Retrieved 13 October 2008.
- Kruger, Debbie (2 May 2001). “The songs that resonate through the years” (PDF). APRA. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 May 2008. Retrieved 13 October 2008.
- “APRA search engine”. Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Archived from the original on 17 May 2007. Retrieved 13 October 2008. Note: requires user to input song title, e.g. I WAS ONLY NINETEEN Cite error: Invalid
<ref>tag; name “APRA” defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
- That Striped Sunlight Sound blog Redgum: The lost album
- “John Schumann Official website Latest News”. Retrieved 3 November 2007.
- Bmusic Where are they now? Redgum (Updated)
- “Internet Movie Database entry on Michael Atkinson”. IMDb. Retrieved 3 November 2007.
- Spencer, Chris; Thomas Hurst; Bob Bolton; Wendy Lowenstein (8 June 2000). “Australian Folk Songs Discography M-Z”. Australian Folk Songs. Retrieved 8 November 2007.
- Australian Rock Database’s Redgum discography
- Rate Your Music’s Redgum discography
- Hugh McDonald’s web site
- John Schumann’s official site
- bMusic.com.au newsletter no. 102 (11 January – 17 January 2004 ) – “Redgum: Where Are They Now?”
- bMusic.com.au newsletter no. 216 (2 May – 8 May 2006 ) – “Redgum: Where Are They Now? – UPDATED”
- Redgum Lyrics Archive