Little River Band was founded by Australian musicians who had performed as members of other popular bands. On the way to their first performance in Geelong, Victoria they realized they hadn’t settled on a name yet. As they passed an exit for a town called Little River, legend has it one of them said “Let’s be Little River Band tonight.” And the name stuck.
Little River Band was formed in Australia in 1975. Four members formed the core of the group They were – Glenn Shorrock (lead vocalist and songwriter), Graham Goble (vocalist and songwriter), Beeb Birtles (vocalist and songwriter), and Derek Pellicci (drummer).
Each of the founding members had been in successful Australian bands prior to the formation of Little River Band. Shorrock was the lead vocalist for two successful bands in the 60s-70s, The Twilights and Axiom. Goble had been a member of Travis Wellington Hedge and Allison Gros, which became Mississippi in 1972. Birtles was a member of Zoot (which included Rick Springfield and Darryl Cotton), and later joined Goble in Mississippi. Pellicci was the drummer for Mississippi.
Shorrock had gone to England with Axiom, but the band broke up there. Mississippi had gone to to England as well in 1974, but had limited success there. Another successful Australian musician turned manager, Glenn Wheatley, went to meet with all 4 and suggested that they get together back in Australia to form up in a new band. It can be argued that Little River Band was Australia’s first “supergroup”.
Glenn Shorrock was the first lead singer and one of the founding members of Little River Band in 1975. In January of 1982, Shorrock asked that the band take a year off so he could fulfill his goal to record a solo album. The band had been touring and recording non-stop since its inception.
Shorrock wanted some time to himself to write and record his own music – away from the heavy touring schedule, not to mention the constant and sometimes heated discussions and negotiations inherent in band life. The rest of the band, however, were eager to start work on a new album, which had been the usual procedure since the band’s creation. Little River Band was very prolific, and all the members wanted to start fresh on a new project.
During a meeting convened to discuss the situation, the other founding members of the band took the opportunity to voice their displeasure with Shorrock’s plan, and to encourage him to step out of the way so that they could proceed without him. He was basically asked to leave, which he did. He was replaced by John Farnham, who sang lead for the band until 1986.
Farnham left LRB later that year, after recording No Reins, the band’s last album under the Capitol Records contract. The management contract with Glenn Wheatley was also about to expire, and new management stepped in. A new deal was struck with MCA to record 2 albums. The deal was dependent on Shorrock coming back to Little River Band, which he did in 1987. The two records enjoyed little success internationally, but Monsoon did spawn a song called Love Is A Bridge, which became Little River Band’s last top 10 hit in Australia.
Shorrock continued to tour with Little River Band until 1995, the 20th anniversary of the band’s formation. In early 1996, he chose to leave the band and pursue his solo career. He still performs in Australia on a regular basis with his own band, and as a guest artist in many reunions and festivals that feature his contemporaries.
Currently the touring and recording lineup for Little River Band is…
Wayne Nelson – bass and vocals
Chris Marion – keyboards and vocals
Ryan Ricks – drums and vocals
Colin Whinnery – gtr and vocals
Bruce Wallace – gtr and vocals
Although they have been over 40 performers that comprised LRB touring lineups since its inception in 1975, only 13 were actually included in the band’s Australian business structure.
For varied reasons, 12 of the 13 have left, or been asked to leave, at one time or another. Three came back for another round of service. Here’s how the door has swung for LRB…
These are the founders:
Glenn Shorrock – lead singer and composer 1975 to 1982. Left to pursue a solo career. Returned to the band in 1987. Left again in 1996 due to professional differences.
Graham Goble – singer and composer 1975 to 1989. Left to pursue a solo career.
Beeb Birtles – singer and composer 1975 to 1983. Left for musical differences.
Derek Pellicci – drummer and composer. Left in 1984 for musical differences. Returned in 1987. Left again in 1997 for family reasons.
Other band members:
Ric Formosa – guitarist 1975-1976. Left due to touring demands. Now composes for orchestra.
Roger McLachlan – bassist 1975-1976. Left for personal reasons. Toured again in 1998, but left again for personal reasons.
David Briggs – replaced Formosa as guitarist 1977 to 1981. Asked to leave for personal reasons.
George McArdle – replaced McLachlan as bassist 1977 to 1979. Left for personal beliefs. Became a minister in New South Wales.
Wayne Nelson – replaced McArdle as bassist 1980 to 1996. Left due to touring demands and personal reasons. Returned to the band in 1999 and is currently lead singer and bassist.
Stephen Housden – replaced Briggs 1981 to 2021. Retired from touring in 2006 but remains a band member and composer, as well as owner of the LRB Trademark.
John Farnham – replaced Shorrock as lead singer 1982-1986. Left to pursue a solo career.
David Hirschfelder – replaced Birtles as keyboardist 1983-1986. Left to join John Farnham band. Currently a successful film composer.
Steve Prestwich – replaced Pellicci on drums 1984-1986. Left for musical differences. Rejoined Cold Chisel for a reunion tour. Has since passed away due to a brain aneurism.
There are 11 songs considered Little River Band’s Greatest Hits…
It’s A Long Way There
Help Is On Its Way
The Night Owls
Take It Easy On Me
Man On Your Mind
The Other Guy
Other top 40 songs in the US and/or Australia include…
Every Day Of My Life
I’ll Always Call Your Name
Home On A Monday
Down On The Border
You’re Driving Me Out Of My Mind
Playing To Win
Love Is A Bridge
None of the founding members of Little River Band are still in the band. The longest serving member still touring with the band is Wayne Nelson. He became the only American to be added as an actual band member, his tenure beginning in 1980.
Each of the founding members left for different reasons at different times. Glenn Shorrock left in 1982. He was hoping to take a year off from the band’s touring schedule in January of that year, but other founding members took advantage of that request and chose to ask him to leave, citing musical and personal differences. (Shorrock was replaced by John Farnham.) Birtles then chose to leave in 1983, again citing musical differences. (Birtles was replaced by David Hirschfelder on keyboards.) The next one to leave was Pellicci – in 1984. (Pellicci was replaced by Steve Prestwich, former drummer for Cold Chisel.) Goble was the last founding member to leave the lineup in 1989. (Goble was replaced on tour by Peter Beckett from Player.)
There are 4 other musicians to consider when speaking of actual band membership. They are Ric Formosa, Roger McLachlan, David Briggs, and George McArdle. Formosa and McLachlan were in the first touring and recording lineup of the band between 1975-1976. They were replaced by Briggs (guitar) and McArdle (bass) in 1977. McArdle left for personal reasons in 1979, and was eventually replaced by Wayne Nelson in 1980. Briggs was fired from the band in 1981, and was replaced by Stephen Housden. Farnham, Hirschfelder, and Prestwich all joined between 1982-1984, but all left by 1986 as the band’s contract with Capitol Records expired.
There are many other musicians who have toured with Little River Band, but there were only 13 members ever added to the business structure of the band…Shorrock, Goble, Birtles, Pellicci, Formosa, McLachlan, Briggs, McArdle, Nelson, Housden, Farnham, Hirschfelder and Prestwich. If and when someone departed the lineup, the band always looked for an able replacement to carry on Little River Band’s touring and recording legacy. The name of the band and its trademark always stayed in legal possession of those business members who remained.
Glenn Frey was an iconic member of The Eagles. He traveled to Australia twice to tour with Little River Band in 1988. The culmination of the first tour was a live-to-TV performance at Expo ’88 in Brisbane, Queensland. In front of approximately 125,000 in attendance for the show, Glenn stepped to the microphone and said what a pleasure it was to be in Australia and performing with Little River Band – “the best singing band in the world!”
Band membership at that time included Glenn Shorrock, Graham Goble, Wayne Nelson, Derek Pellicci, Stephen Housden, and James Roche on keyboards. The song list for the show contained Frey’s hits as a solo artist, and medleys of Eagles and Little River Band songs – Heartache Tonight/The Night Owls, and Desperado/Cool Change. (It should be noted that Frey made his comment while the Eagles were still officially broken up!)
Little River Band finds itself in a unique position in the music business. The band continues to tour successfully and create new music, but there are no founding members left in the band.
LRB isn’t the only successful band that has had to face the issue of attrition. Bands like Journey, Foreigner, The Guess Who, Toto, Ambrosia, Orleans, Creedence, and many more have all gone through changes in membership. Some founders are still touring, but many have left for solo careers or just stayed home. But the music lives on
This discussion about the issue isn’t looking to explain all those other situations. But many ask about the LRB situation as if it’s unique…it’s not. As bands age, there are inevitable differences of opinion, different tolerances for travel and being away from home and family, different goals to be considered, and differences in lifestyles and communication skills. Any or all can lead to a musician withdrawing from a band, or getting fired by bandmates. Over the 48 years since 1975, all those variables have happened with Little River Band.
After making the decision to form a new band in 1975, the founders – Glenn Shorrock, Graham Goble, Beeb Birtles, and Derek Pellicci – needed to find a bass player and a lead guitarist to fill out the lineup. The first two players added to the touring and recording lineup were Ric Formosa (gtr) and Roger McLachlan (bass). After a year or so and one album release, Formosa apparently decided that band touring life wasn’t for him. Legend has it that McLachlan was let go at the same time because of lifestyle and/or personality clashes. Whatever the reason, the replacements for those two were David Briggs (gtr) and George McArdle (bass).
The bulk of LRB’s early success came from songs written and recorded during the tenure of Briggs and McArdle with the founders. But that lineup would eventually change too. And the process was one that would continue to current times – when someone left or was removed, a replacement was found that brought something original to the band, and LRB moved on.
In approx. 1979, McArdle chose to leave the band and become a minister. A session bass player took over the touring responsibilities. The band also used multiple bassists for the next recording project. First Under The Wire. McArdle’s permanent replacement was found in the US while on tour in the fall of ’79 – American musician Wayne Nelson. Plans were put in place for a couple world tours, rehearsals for another record, and the making of that record in 1981. During the sessions for Time Exposure, David Briggs was very unhappy with much of what occurred in the studio. His actions caused him to be fired shortly after returning to Australia. His replacement was Stephen Housden, also discovered in a support act while LRB was on tour in Australia in Jan of 1981.
Notice that the process was the same – regardless of the reason that someone either left or was asked to leave, a replacement was found that brought something unique to the band’s lineup, and LRB moved on with the approval and endorsement of all involved.
In 1982, Shorrock wanted a break to record his own solo project. He asked for a year’s hiatus from the band’s touring and recording schedule. The founding members of the band not only said no to Shorrock’s request, but took advantage of the situation to express their displeasure with him. He was asked to leave by the other three founders.
Shorrock’s replacement was John Farnham. That choice was endorsed by all involved, including Shorrock and band management (Glenn Wheatley was managing LRB, Shorrock, and Farnham at the same time.) A year later, Birtles said he didn’t like the musical direction with Farnham as lead singer, so he left the band. He was replaced by keyboardist David Hirschfelder. One year after that, Pellicci did the same, and was replaced by Steve Prestwich on drums.
There were many different reasons for leaving the band, but LRB moved on with the approval and endorsement of all involved.
In 1986, LRB recorded its last album under the Capitol Records contract, at which point Farnham left for a solo career. Hirschfelder went with him. Prestwich left as well to pursue his writing career. Wheatley’s management contract expired at that time too. New management was found and a deal was struck with a new label to record 2 albums, but only if Shorrock was brought back into the fold as a lead singer and writer. Pellicci came with him, and in 1987 a new lineup was formed with some old faces.
The revolving door swung again. Different reasons abounded, but LRB moved on again with the approval of all involved.
In 1989, with no more labels interested in LRB, Goble decided to leave the band. He was replaced with touring personnel, but this time they weren’t added to the business structure of the band. They would be considered sidemen.
Nelson left the band in 1982 for family reasons. He was replaced by a sideman while LRB continued to tour Australia, New Zealand, and the US. He returned for the 1995 world tour commemorating LRB’s 20th anniversary. The tour was only mildly successful, and was full of heated discussions about whether to bother making new music again. The rancor resulted in Shorrock and Nelson both leaving again in early 1996. However, Pellicci and Housden carried on with American musicians until 1997, at which time Pellicci left for family reasons. Housden then created an all-Australian lineup and toured the US with them in 1998. Noteworthy in that lineup was the very first Australian bass player, Roger McLachlan. But he quit at the end of that year for his own family reasons.
With the promise of making new music with the Aussie lineup, Nelson returned to the band in 1999. He would go on to produce 5 recording projects between 2000-2006, with various Aussie and American musicians, under the LRB banner which was and is still owned by Housden.
Housden left the touring band in 2006. Since then the lineup has been US based and virtually all the tour dates are in N America, Europe, or New Zealand. More on that later in this discussion.
But the process never changed – people either left or were asked to leave. Success varied up and down throughout all those years. The future looked bright, then it didn’t, then it did, then it got ugly, then it got bright again. But throughout the entire timeline, LRB moved on. There was always energy from somewhere or someone to pick up the banner and move on.
In all cases, and as a result of that energy to not give up, good music and good live shows have been created throughout. Did the songs chart, or did they sell millions of copies, or did they create headlines? No. But did they move people who heard the music or attended the shows? Absolutely they did. Fans write in all the time to say that they didn’t know or care about Little River Band until they first heard The Night Owls (‘81), or the Other Guy (‘82), or We Two (‘83), or Love Is A Bridge (‘88), or Who Made the Moon (’00).
So where can a line be drawn when it all should have stopped for the bands in question? Which iteration of Little River Band should have been the last? Or of Journey, Foreigner, The Guess Who, Toto, Ambrosia, Orleans or any other band that has changed membership? (Maybe there’s someone out there who likes Pete Best and think the Beatles should have quit when they changed drummers and found Ringo!) Who gets to determine a band’s end point?
It’s been said that when art is confined, art dies. Some bands get formed with friends, and then they evolve because some of the friends can’t keep up, or don’t want to. Are they supposed to quit and abandon their brand because of a circumstance out of their control? Some bands suffer through a death of one of the members. Should they stop or change names and abandon their history because life happens? Some bands make agreements about membership, then people change their minds about those agreements and break them, then get taken to court to settle the disagreements. Some bands end up with no founding members left but continue to tour and record good music, fending off haters who have bought into the lie that the band was stolen!
That’s the core of the Little River Band story. There have been many skirmishes since 2005, blaming the current lineup of using recordings and photos trying to deceive the public as to who was currently in the band. That’s false. Blaming the current lineup for stealing the band’s history. Also False! But misinformation can circulate through the internet and keep false stories alive. We know that all the bands mentioned in this discussion face the same falsehoods and bad press on a regular basis. Some people get angry enough to threaten violence.
Little River Band’s response is a simple one. Through the magic of digital recordings and video, it is possible to enjoy online, or on CD or DVD, any iteration of the band that fans love and want to hear. But as is the case with all the bands in question, if you want to hear the music played live, fans must decide to attend a concert with the current lineups or stay home. That’s the way it is.
Founding members start bands. As they quit, new members can spark new energy by bringing in their originality. They might not be founders, but they can still be original and have a positive impact on a band’s music and its legacy. And art moves on…