The original Zoot line-up came together in Adelaide during 1966 under the name of Down the Line. School friends Darryl Cotton and Dutch- -descended Gerard Birtlekamp joined forces with a recent arrival from Manchester, England, guitarist John D'Arcy. Adelaide had already produced the likes of The Twilights and The Master's Apprentices, and the young band no doubt had designs on following in the footsteps of such distinguished company.
With a name change to The Zoot in 1967, the band became the premier `mod' group on the Adelaide dance scene, playing note-for-note renditions of new material by British bands such as The Move, The Small Faces and The Hollies. In early 1968, D'Arcy left to be replaced by Steve Stone. In mid-1968, The Zoot relocated to Melbourne where EMI/Columbia sent the band into the studio to record its debut single, `You Better Get Going Now'/`Three Jolly Little Dwarfs' (August). The Zoot launched the single at Berties discotheque, with owner Tony Knight and the band's new manager Wayne de Gruchy decking out the venue, and the band, in total pink. It was the start of The Zoot's `Think Pink—Think Zoot' promotional campaign, a ploy which was to haunt them in later years.
The Zoot's second single, written and produced by The Twilights' Terry Britten, `One Times, Two Times, Three Times, Four'/`Sailing' (January 1969) became a moderate hit in Melbourne when it peaked at #32. Soon after, Higgins and Stone left the band to be replaced by Rick Brewer (drums; ex-Third Party) and Roger Hicks (guitar) respectively. The band became regulars on Melbourne pop show Uptight. Single number three, Hans Poulsen and Seekers' Bruce Woodley's `Monty and Me'/`Little Roland Lost' (produced by Ian `Molly' Meldrum) only managed #33 in Melbourne during June, but soared to #1 in Brisbane. By that stage, The Zoot was spearheading Australia's emergent bubblegum pop movement, vying with the likes of The Valentines, The Flying Circus and New Dream for a place on the charts and in the hearts of hysterical teenage girls.
Guitarist Rick Springfield (ex-Wickedy Wak) replaced Roger Hicks, who joined Brisbane band The Avengers. Springfield was a talented musician and songwriter, and with him on board the band gradually began to move in a more musically substantial direction. In September 1969, The Zoot joined the cream of Australian popdom (Russell Morris, Johnny Farnham, Johnny Young, Ronnie Burns, The Valentines, The Master's Apprentices and Doug Parkinson In Focus) on the ambitious Operation Starlift tour of capital cities. EMI issued The Zoot's fourth single, `It's About Time'/`Sha La La' (October 1969), without the band's consent. It was not successful. The Zoot ended the year by being voted Top Australian Group in the Go-Set Pop Poll.
In early 1970, The Zoot ceremoniously burned all the pink gear before the cameras of Happening '70. The band's next single, `Hey Pinky'/`Strange Things' (April), was an unsubtle dig at the just-discarded pop image. The single was promoted in the pages of Go-Set by a beefcake shot of the members of The Zoot displaying their bared bums for all to see. While the photo may have fluttered the hearts and stirred the loins of a few of the band's young female fans, the single failed to chart. Under Springfield's direction, the band recorded its debut album, Just Zoot (August 1970), which emerged as a creditable effort. One month before its release, The Zoot took out second spot to The Flying Circus in Hoadley's National Battle of the Sounds final.
In December 1970, The Zoot issued a thunderous re-working of The Beatles' `Eleanor Rigby'/ `Turn Your Head' as a single. It became the band's biggest hit when it reached #4 on the national chart (March 1971). `Eleanor Rigby' was just one of a number of contemporary songs that the band re-arranged in a suitably heavy fashion for live appearances. They included The Beatles' `Hello Goodbye', Joni Mitchell's `Woodstock' and Donovan's `Hurdy Gurdy Man'. The single stayed on the charts for 21 weeks, but ironically sales fell just short of attaining gold status. That occurred when EMI finally re-issued `Eleanor Rigby' in 1979.
In the meantime, The Zoot followed that up with another hard rock single, `The Freak'/`Evil Child' (April 1971), which only managed to reach #27 in Melbourne. By that stage, frustrations had come to a head when The Zoot was unable to throw off the shackles of its teenypop past. The Zoot parted ways in May 1971. Rick Springfield signed to Robie Porter's Sparmac label and launched his solo career with the single `Speak to the Sky'/ `I Didn't Mean to Love You' (October 1971). Springfield went on to attain superstar status in the USA as a highly visible solo performer and television actor.
Darryl Cotton and Beeb Birtles formed the duo Darryl and Beeb, playing harmony-laden soft rock. The Frieze clothing company offered the duo a sponsorship on the condition, as Noel McGrath wrote, that they wear the company's clothing and perform under the name Frieze. Frieze issued a cover of Mann–Weil's `Feelings'/`Young Man's Lament' (September 1971) as a single on the Sparmac label. Utilising Burke and Wills as its backing band, Frieze recorded the album 1972 BC for Warner Brothers. Cotton's debut solo single, `Why Do Little Children Have to Die?'/`Jimmie and Jessie', was lifted from the 1972 BC album. Cotton and Birtles dissolved the partnership in May 1972. Birtles joined Mississippi and later enjoyed considerable acclaim in Australia and the USA with Little River Band.
Cotton left Australia in July 1972, and travelled to the UK where he worked with Mick Flynn, (ex-Mixtures). In early 1973 he received an offer to join a band in the US called Friends with American Michael Lloyd and fellow Aussie expatriate Steve Kipner (ex-Steve & the Board). Friends signed to Warners and issued one self-titled album, plus a couple of singles including `Gonna Have a Good Time'/`Would You Laugh?' (1973). The A-side was a cover of the Vanda and Young tune `Good Times', which had mysteriously been credited to Vanda-Young-Cotton-Lloyd-Kipner on the record label. Cotton and Lloyd continued as Cotton Lloyd and Christian with new member Chris Christian. The vocal trio recorded a self-titled album for 20th Century which was also used as the soundtrack to the 1976 US teen film The Pom Pom Girls directed by Joseph Ruben. Cotton Lloyd and Christian issued the single `Crying in the Rain' in April 1977. Cotton toured as guitar player and backing vocalist for Olivia Newton-John before returning to Australia in early 1978.
On returning to Australia, Cotton signed to Ross Wilson and Glenn Wheatley's Oz label (through EMI) and issued the single `Don't Let It Get to You'/`Can't Face the Music' (August 1978). The single peaked at #22 in Melbourne during October. In January 1979, Cotton was in Adelaide hosting the television pop show Summer Rock for the Nine Network. He issued two more singles on Oz, a cover of Hall and Oates' `I Don't Want to Lose You'/`Let the Music Take You Away' (February 1979) and `Glamour Girl'/`Childish Games and Foolish Pride' (July) before turning to acting. Cotton appeared in the Nine Network's soapie Young Doctors for a season, before hosting another series of Summer Rock. In 1980, he signed to EMI and enjoyed his biggest solo hit when `Same Old Girl'/`What'cha Gonna Do?' (February 1980) reached #6 on the national chart in April. The single came from his debut solo album Best Seat in the House, which had been produced by his old partner from the US, Chris Christian.
Cotton formed a backing band, dubbed The Charts, which comprised Joey Amenta (lead guitar; ex-Taste, Redhouse, Russell Morris Band), Randy Bulpin (guitar; ex-Mondo Rock), Terry Davidson (keyboards), Simon Gyllies (bass; ex-Mondo Rock) and Andy Buchanan (drums). The band toured the Australian pub circuit to some success. Cotton issued three more singles on EMI, `Here Comes Another Heartache'/`Dance' (June 1980), Burt Bacharach and Hal David's `Little Red Book'/`Rollin' Over' (May 1981) and `Nice Girls'/`All Nite', `Break Out Tonight' (November). Cotton's 1981 touring band, The Divers, comprised Amenta, Davidson, Spiro Philipas (bass) and Robert Ross (drums).
In July 1983, Cotton issued a duet single with Heather Favell on CBS, `Baby You're Changing'/ `No One Wants to Dance'. In 1984, he recorded an album of rock'n'roll and pop chestnuts for the Hammard label called Rockin' Good Fun. Cotton retired from live performances and returned to television to host the Ten Network's Saturday morning children's show The Early Bird Show (sharing the limelight with Marty the Monster). During 1996, Cotton joined up with fellow 1960s veterans Russell Morris and Ronnie Burns to play the revival circuit. The three singers issued a self-titled album during the year which comprised nine original solo recordings, plus three new recordings by the trio.