Pioneering Brisbane band The Purple Hearts issued a series of tough, incomparable R&B singles that remain classics of their type. The band's uncompromising approach to music-making was unrivalled in its day. Even the band's name (derived from the pep-pills favoured by the English mods of the mid-1960s, not the medal of valour) was a brash and outrageous statement.
Expatriate Englishmen Mick Hadley and Bob Dames had experienced the burgeoning London R&B club scene (Cyril Davies Allstars, Graham Bond, John Mayall, the nascent Rolling Stones) first hand before emigrating to Australia in 1963. Hadley and Dames formed The Impacts, but with the addition of Scottish-born Fred Pickard plus local musicians Barry Lyde and Adrian Redmond in 1964 the band became known as The Purple Hearts. The Hearts swiftly made an impact on the staid Brisbane scene with their uncompromising, gritty R&B. They issued a single, Graham Bond's `Long Legged Baby'/`Gloria', on the obscure, independent label Soundtrack before signing to the Sunshine label (home to Normie Rowe, Peter Doyle and other pop stars of the day). Sunshine reissued `Long Legged Baby' in October 1965 with a new B-side, `Here 'Tis'. `Long Legged Baby' reached the Top 10 in Brisbane, but by that stage the band had relocated to Sydney where Tony Cahill replaced Redmond.
The band's stay in Sydney was short; by the beginning of 1966, The Hearts had moved on to Melbourne. For the next year, The Hearts ruled over the city's discotheque circuit. They enjoyed two hit singles with `Of Hopes and Dreams and Tomb-stones'/`I'm Gonna Try' (February 1966) and the memorable `Early in the Morning'/`Just a Little Bit' (August 1966). Sunshine also issued the EP The Sounds of the Purple Hearts, which combined the `Long Legged Baby' and `Of Hopes and Dreams and Tombstones' singles. Then, on 23 January 1967, The Hearts issued a press release stating that they had ceased to progress musically, were becoming stagnant and, therefore, had decided to split. Lyde became Lobby Loyde and joined The Wild Cherries. The rest of the band continued on as a four-piece for a month, in order to honour outstanding touring commitments. The band's last two singles were the frantic `You Can't Sit Down'/`Tiger in Your Tank' (January 1967) and `Chicago'/`Bring It on Home' (April).
In 1979, reissue specialists Raven issued the six-track EP Let's Meet the Purple Hearts (`Of Hopes and Dreams and Tombstones', `You Can't Sit Down', Chicago'/`Tiger in Your Tank', `I'm Gonna Try', `Early in the Morning'). Raven also included `Just a Little Bit' on Ugly Things Volume 2 (1982).
With the break-up of The Purple Hearts, Cahill travelled to the UK were he replaced Snowy Fleet in The Easybeats. In early 1968, Hadley joined Rob Lovett (ex-Wild Cherries, Loved Ones) and Malcolm McGee (ex-Wild Cherries, Python Lee Jackson) in the heavily hyped would-be Walker Brothers, The Virgil Brothers. After only a couple of weeks' rehearsal, Hadley left to be replaced by Peter Doyle. Hadley reunited with Bob Dames in Brisbane to form a new R&B band called Coloured Balls. Sam Shannon (vocals), Robbie Van Delft (guitar; ex-Mike Furber and the Bowery Boys) and Peter Miles (drums; ex-Bay City Union) completed the line-up. Coloured Balls emerged from the same blues scene that had also given rise to Bay City Union, Black Cat Circle, The Chelsea Set and Thursday's Children.
Coloured Balls played gigs around Brisbane until the end of 1969, but did not record anything for posterity. In 1970, Dames and Miles moved to Melbourne where they joined Mick Rogers (ex-Procession) in the short-lived power trio Bulldog. In an odd postscript to the Coloured Balls story, Lobby Loyde adopted the name for the band he formed in Melbourne during March 1972 that was totally unrelated to Mick Hadley's version. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Mick Hadley formed a succession of R&B bands. He recorded the album Let's Dance (comprising all R&B covers) with Mick Hadley's Last Shout in 1988, and Butt Out in 1995 with Mick Hadley and the Shakers.