Sydney band The 69ers played a good-time mix of vintage rock'n'roll, jugband music and country-swing that placed them somewhere between The Panama Jug Band, Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen and Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band. There were a number of other local bands playing a similar style at the same time, including Starving Wild Dogs, Original Battersea Heroes, Gutbucket Blues Band, Stovepipe Spasm Band and Moonshine Jug and String Band.
Yet, in retrospect, none seemed to capture the humour and downright silliness of the form in such a boisterous, zany and garrulous fashion. Billing themselves as `The fabulous internationally famous 69ers', the band became a popular attraction on the Sydney club scene during the early 1970s. The band issued its debut single, `On the Road Again'/`Cup of Tea Take Three', on the independent Du Monde label in late 1970. A year later, the band issued a second single, `Morning Blues'/`Push Bike Hood' (December 1971). The single came from the band's debut album for Du Monde, The 69ers Album. The album included eclectic covers from the band's live set, The Kinks' `Harry Rag', The Byrds' `The Christian Life', Ewan MacColl's `Dirty Old Town' and Willis and Dunn's `Sadie Green (The Vamp of New Orleans)'. `Harry Rag'/`Happiness is Just for Me' came out as the band's third single in August 1972.
Helping out on the album sessions were Peter Knox (vocals), Dave Ovendon (vocals), Buddy Emmons (steel guitar), Col Nolan (piano) and Keith Harris (banjo). Knox (guitar, bass, vocals) and Ovendon (drums, vocals) later joined The 69ers as full-time members. Knox had been a member of Original Battersea Heroes. Led by Terry Darmody, the Heroes had issued an album, Little Miss Lucy and Boogie Chicken, at the same time as The 69ers Album on Du Monde's sister label Violet's Holiday (although Knox did not appear on it). The 69ers' line-up of Butler, Bethall, Knox and Ovendon played a riotous set at the second annual Sunbury festival (January 1973). The 69ers' track `Harry Rag' appeared on the triple live set The Great Australian Rock Festival Sunbury 1973 (April 1973) issued by Mushroom. Festival also issued `Harry Rag' as a single that month, backed with `Blood Flash' and `Rag Mama'. A year later, Festival/Infinity issued the band's Sunbury set as the live album Francis Butler's 69ers Live.
April 1973 was a busy time for the band, because that month Bethall, Knox and Ovendon sacked Butler from his own band. As Peter Knox's New Improved 69ers, Bethall, Knox and Ovendon recruited Tony Burkys (guitar; ex-Original Battersea Heroes; he did play on the Boogie Chicken album). The band recorded two songs for a prospective single, a cover of Shel Silverstein's `Freakin' at the Freaker's Ball' and the self-penned `Sailing Ship', but the single never eventuated. Butler responded by forming Francis Butler's Original 69ers which comprised Ray Ferguson (guitar, vocals, flute, kazoo; ex-Samael Lilith), Alex Smith (bass; ex-Bullet) and Peter Jarman (drums). Soon after, Terry Stacey replaced Smith on bass and John `Ernie' McInerny (ex-Company Caine) replaced Jarman on drums.
In the meantime, Peter Knox's New Improved 69ers had changed names to Omnibus. A month later (November 1973), the band became known as Locoweed. Locoweed broke up in March 1974 when Knox rejoined Francis Butler's 69ers. The band issued a final single, `Flash'/`Back Seat Drivin'', on the independent Earth label before breaking up at the end of the year. Francis Butler went on to issue an album of religious songs, There is No Escape, produced by Chris Neale. Musicians on the album were Grahame Wardrop (guitar), Randall Waller (guitar), Bill Grahame (bass), Phil Truscott (bass), Steve Wyatt (keyboards), Chris Neale (moog), Barry Stewart (drums) and Jim Young (drums). In 1977, Peter Knox formed Toons with Ian Willis (guitar) and Gavin Hodel (drums) before taking the stage name Izzy Foreal and forming The Fabulous Zarsoff Bros.