Margaret & Kaye

       Margaret Hickey   Kaye Hickey

Kaye and Margaret Hickey grew up on a dairy farm 28 Kilometres out of Shepparton, in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley. There were three girls in the family when their mother died and Kaye, the youngest, was 11 at the time. They became housekeepers as well as schoolgirls, but they survived the tragedy well. When Kaye was about 15, she and Margaret added singing to their activities.

A year later they had done a few concerts and dances around the Shepparton area, and decided to enter a talent quest being run by the local radio station. It was a great stroke of fortune that the particular quest happened to be Neville Pellitt’s first job for 3SR. As we have seen, Nev was so impressed with some of the talent on the quest, notably the Hickey Sisters, that the Harmony Trail concept grew out of it, right there and then.

We didn’t get to talk to Margaret for this book, but Kaye remembers the Harmony Trail days as a busy and exciting time . . . A time of practice and working on harmonies that was fun in itself, of travelling in buses to the Harmony Trail shows, and of meeting new artists and performing for delighted crowds.

Soon came recording, and they cut their first album in Shepparton, under the direction of Neville Pellit, for the Viking label. Listening to that album today, one wonders why they didn’t go even further with their career. The answer probably lies as much with the changes that took place in the music scene as it does with their own marriages and dispersal of interest. The album shows a beautifully clear, fresh and joyful approach to all their work, accurate pitching and harmonies and a widely ranged choice of songs. They do the country hits of the day, like “Down the Trail of Aching Hearts” and “Black Hills of Dakota”, old Carter Family and Delmore Brothers favourites, some of the great material that was just beginning to come out of Australia then, like “Call of the Bellbird” and “The Wahine Song”, and a couple of originals, Nev Pellitt’s “Come Back to Me” and Col James’s beautiful “Angel Star”.

“Angel Star” was probably the best, most original and most successful thing the Hickey Sisters ever did, and it is a matter for regret that their output of originals was so small. There was always a certain amount of originality in their cover versions, but “Angel Star” shows once again that it takes fresh material to bring out the character of an artist to the full.

In 1958 the girls came to Sydney and appeared on a couple of Reg Lindsay Shows, with artists like Judy Stone and Athol McCoy. Shortly after that they recorded for the W & G label, again under the auspices of Harmony Trail.

Soon marriage and children added a new dimension to life for both girls. Soon too, rock and roll and television began to change the listening patterns of the people. The Hickey Sisters began to phase out of music, and with the demise of Harmony Trail, did not seek new outlets for their work. Kaye and her husband now work a dairy farm at Rochester, and Margaret lives in Wangaratta. They have got together a few times to sing, and always leave vowing to start all over again. It would be an interesting exercise with modern backing and recording techniques, and modern material. Kaye did quite a bit of professional work in the late 1970’s with Basil Ray, another ex-member of Harmony Trail, but Basil passed away just as they were really getting known.

Meanwhile, the good work is being carried on by Kaye’s two eldest girls who sing well and are keen to develop their talent. And with seven children together, Kaye is confident that enough talent will be found to carry on.