Adelaide band Stars were originally billed as Australia's `rock'n'roll cowboys'. Although the appel- lation suited the band's early image, it did become something of a millstone around their collective neck much later. Nevertheless, the band produced two fine studio albums of Southern-fried boogie and country-tinged rock'n'roll that bore a distinctly Australian flavour.
Stars formed in May 1975 out of the ashes of Flash. The band played the Adelaide pub and dance circuit before coming to the attention of Little River Band's Beeb Birtles. Encouraged by Birtles' interest, Stars relocated to Melbourne and scored a recording deal with Mushroom Records. Birtles produced the band's debut single, `Quick on the Draw'/`Straight Life' (May 1976), which made the national charts (#25 in July). Guitarist/songwriter Andy Durant (ex-Astra Kahn) joined Stars in August 1976. He added a great deal to the band's strengths, becoming the major songwriter in the group. Mushroom issued a second Stars single, `With a Winning Hand'/`Driftaway' (September), which reached #34 in October. Thompson left the band to be replaced initially by Michael Hegerty (ex-Richard Clapton Band) and then permanently by Roger McLachlan (ex-Little River Band). Thompson joined Avalanche and later the Russell Morris Band.
In mid-1977 Stars supported UK visitor Joe Cocker on his Australian tour. The tour coincided with the release of the band's third single, `Mighty Rock'/`Jupiter Creek', which reached #22 in August. In November, Ian McDonald replaced McLachlan on bass, the same month that `Look After Yourself'/`Red Neck Boogie' appeared. The single became Stars' biggest hit when it peaked at #21 in December. It had been lifted from the band's debut album Paradise (January 1978). Paradise sold well, reaching #11 on the national chart during February. The album produced two more singles, `Back Again'/`Let's Get Moving' (#33 in April 1978) and `West is the Way' (single edit)/`No Time for Crying' (June). In September, John James (J.J.) Hackett (ex-Rum Jungle, Phil Manning Band) replaced Glyn Dowding on drums.
The band kept up its national touring schedule (including support slots to The Beach Boys and Linda Ronstadt), then issued a new album, Land of Fortune (June 1979). Despite producing four singles, `In and Out of Love'/`Song for the Road' (January), `Land of Fortune'/`Innocent Bystanders' (May), `Wasted Words'/`Never Coming Back' (August) and `Last of the Riverboats'/`Gold Fever' (October), the album was not successful. By that stage, Andy Durant had been diagnosed with cancer. Coupled with the poor sales for Land of Fortune and the constant grind of touring, the band decided to split. Stars played their final show on 5 November 1979. The title of the band's live album, 1157 (July 1980), referred to the number of gigs Stars played in their four and a half year existence.
Andy Durant died on 6 May 1980, aged 25. Malcolm Eastick organised the Andrew Durant Memorial Concert, which was staged on 19 August 1980 in Melbourne. The concert featured the remaining ex-members of Stars, guest vocalists like Broderick Smith, Richard Clapton, Jimmy Barnes and Renée Geyer, plus the cream of Australian musicians like Don Walker, Kerryn Tolhurst, Rick Formosa, Glyn Mason, Ian Moss and Mick `The Reverend' O'Connor. The assembled musicians played exclusively Durant's songs, with the exception of the finale, Bob Dylan's `Knockin' on Heaven's Door'. Sales from the subsequent album release, The Andrew Durant Memorial Concert (#8 in March 1981), went to the Andrew Durant Cancer Research Foundation.
In the meantime, Mick Pealing had formed The Ideals. The line-up comprised Pealing, Mark Greig (guitar; ex-City), Chris Wilson (keyboards; ex-Buster Brown), Robbie Geappon (bass; ex-Phil Manning Band) and Barry Cram (drums; ex-Avalanche, Russell Morris Band, Contraband). Although Mick Pealing and the Ideals did not issue any records under their own name, The Ideals backed Renée Geyer on her single `Hot Minutes'/`Tangled Up in Treachery' (July 1980). Pip Joyce (ex-Bwana) joined The Ideals in early 1981. By mid-year, the line-up comprised Pealing, Greig, Geappon, Peter Laffy (guitar; ex-Mondo Rock) and Alex Formosa (drums). Laffy left after three months and Derek Beattyman (ex-Mod Cons) joined, but the band broke up in late 1981. By 1983, Pealing and Mark Mannock (keyboards) had formed The Spaniards with Billy Miller (guitar, vocals; ex-Ferrets) and Russell Hellyer-Brown (bass).
The Spaniards utilised other players as required, including Dave Springfield (guitar; ex-Ferrets), Kevin Purcell (keyboards), Russell Brown (bass) and John Annas (drums; ex-Kevin Borich Express). The Spaniards issued three singles, `God is a Shield'/`God is a Shield' (1984), `Angel'/`Angel' (instrumental) (August 1985) and `What Can I Do?'/`Memory' (1985), plus the mini-album Locked in a Dance (EMI, February 1986). Pealing went on to work with New Frontier, the Malcolm Eastick Band and Mick Pealing and the Method.
Malcolm Eastick carved out a career as one of the best blues guitarists in the country. With the break-up of Stars, Eastick joined Broderick Smith's Big Combo, appearing on the album Broderick Smith's Big Combo (October 1981) and four singles. From there, Eastick earned a reputation as journeyman guitarist-for-hire with the likes of Max Merritt and the Meteors, the Jimmy Barnes Band, The Party Boys, the Eastick–Emmanuel Band and Matt Taylor's Chain. In the late 1980s, Eastick formed the Mal Eastick Band which at times included vocalists Dave Tice (ex-Buffalo, Count Bishops, Headhunters) and Mick Pealing. In 1995, Eastick issued his debut album, The Southern Line, which included the singles `My Life Story' (April) and `Goin' Home Tonight' (August).