At the 1996 Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA) Awards ceremony, Dave Graney was named Best Australian Male Artist. With characteristic style, Dave's wardrobe for the occasion consisted of a hot pink, crushed velvet suit and a wig that would have made any self-respecting 1970s porno star jealous. By announcing tongue-in-cheek `the King is dead, long live the King', Graney accepted his rightful place alongside John Paul Young, John Farnham and Daryl Braithwaite in the King of Pop pantheon.
Of course, it had only taken the local music industry 16 years to acknowledge one of the most enigmatic and genuinely talented rock showmen this country has ever known. If paying one's dues is the way to stardom, then Graney's time was well overdue.
Graney started out in The Slunks, a punk band he put together in 1978 with a few friends in his hometown of Mount Gambier, South Australia. He moved to Adelaide and formed Sputniks with Clare Moore (drums), Steve Miller (guitar), Phillip Marks (guitar) and Liz Dealey (bass). Graney, Moore and Miller moved to Melbourne as The Moodists in 1980. The Moodists relocated to London in October 1983, and broke up in 1986. At the end of 1987, Graney and Moore unveiled their new band, Dave Graney with the Coral Snakes. The rest of the band comprised British musicians Louis Vause, Gordy Blair and Malcolm Ross. The Coral Snakes replaced the unsettling thump'n'grind of The Moodists with a more refined, lyrical style of rock with a noticeable Gram Parsons flavour.
Graney and his band recorded their debut 12-inch EP, Dave Graney with the Coral Snakes at His Stone Beach, with producer Barry Adamson in August 1988. Just as the EP came out in the UK on the Fire label, Graney and Moore had to leave the country at the behest of the Immigration Department. Once settled back in Australia, Graney and Moore formed The White Buffaloes with Rod Hayward (guitar; ex-Little Murders), Chris Walsh (bass; ex-Moodists) and Conway Savage (from Boy Kings) on keyboards. Martin Lubran (ex-Hunters & Collectors) augmented the line-up on pedal steel guitar.
My Life on the Plains (March 1990) revealed Graney's love of romantic, country-flavoured R&B;, and included covers of Gram Parson's `Brass Buttons' and Fred Neil's `Dolphins' (as covered by Tim Buckley). The album title was derived from the autobiography of Lt. Col. George Custer. Graney also developed his Buffalo Bill Cody persona around that time, replete with waxed goatee and ostrich-skin jacket. By the time the album appeared, Graham Lee (ex-Triffids) had replaced Lubran on pedal steel, and Savage had departed to tour with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. The new line-up recorded the live in the studio mini-album Codine, which came out in late 1990.
Graney and Moore returned to the UK in June 1990 with The White Buffaloes to record a second album I Was the Hunter . . . And I Was the Prey. The album was held up for over a year due to business problems with the band's English label, Fire. By the time it came out in May 1992, the band had transformed into Dave Graney with the Coral Snakes and had returned to Australia. The new line-up of Graney, Moore, Hayward, Gordy Blair and Robin Casinader (keyboards; ex-Wreckery) came together in mid-1991. That line-up recorded the live album Lure of the Tropics, issued by the Torn & Frayed label (July 1992). Casinader also issued a solo album in August 1991, All This will Be Yours.
At the end of 1992, Graney scored a publishing deal with PolyGram Publishing, and the Coral Snakes entered the studio with engineer/producer Tony Cohen to record their breakthrough album Night of the Wolverine. Helping out were Andrew Picouleau (bass; ex-Sacred Cowboys), Amanda Mitchell (backing vocals) and Tex Perkins who guested on one track. Night of the Wolverine (April 1993) was a certified Australian rock classic. It captured Graney at the peak of his songwriting powers. Tracks like `You're Just Too Hip Baby', `Night of the Wolverine', `I'm Just Havin' One O' Those Lives' and `Three Dead Passengers' were full of elegant and eccentric detail. The album was issued in the UK during July 1996.
With Gordy Blair back in the bass seat, Dave Graney with the Coral Snakes consolidated their new-found success with the album You Wanna Be There But You Don't Wanna Travel (June 1994) which made its debut at #10 on the national mainstream chart. It included the CD singles `I'm Gonna Release Your Soul' (April) and `You Wanna Be Loved' (August). Initial copies of the album came packaged with a limited edition bonus disc, Unbuttoned, which featured seven previously unissued tracks.
The Dave Graney `n' the Coral Snakes' album The Soft 'n' Sexy Sound (#15 in July 1995) included the singles `I'm Not Afraid to Be Heavy' (June), `Rock'n'Roll is Where I Hide' (August) and `I'm Gonna Live in My Own Big World' (February 1996). The album also contained one of the sharpest observations on the machinations of rock music in `Morrison Floor Show'. The limited edition bonus disc that time was titled Music for Colourful Racing Identities. `Rock'n'Roll is Where I Hide' registered #16 on the 1995 Triple J Hottest 100 list. The White Buffaloes/Coral Snakes' albums were remastered and repackaged for CD release in November 1996. The reissued Soft 'n' Sexy Sound included a different bonus disc, Simply the Best `El Supremo'. The Coral Snakes first single for 1997 was `Feelin' Kinda Sporty' (April) from the album The Devil Drives (May). The album reached #18 in June, and produced a second CD single, `A Man on the Make', in September.
‘Feelin’ Kinda Sporty’ logged the #84 placement on the 1997 Triple J Hottest 100 list. Dave Graney broke up the Coral Snakes in December 1997. Having formed a new 4-piece band, and discarded the two-gig try-out moniker of Love Me Love My Balls, he settled on the new band name of The Dave Graney Show. In the meantime, Graney and Clare Moore, backed by the Dirty Three, had contributed a cover of the Hal David/Burt Bacharach song ‘What the World Needs Now (Is Love)’, to the all-Australian To Hal and Bacharach tribute album on WEA (April 1998). Graney also made a two-episode acting appearance in television soapie Neighbours (late 1997).
As well as Graney and Moore, The Dave Graney Show comprised 21-year old jazz/funk guitarist Stuart Perera and Adele Pickvance (bass; Pickvance had also worked with the Robert Forster Band and Grant McLennan’s Far Out Corporation). The band’s new album, The Dave Graney Show, came out in November 1998. It was a strong album, and featured guest players like Sean Kelly (backing vocals), Andrew Duffield (keyboards) and Billy Miller (guitar, vocals). The album spawned a single, ‘Your Masters Must be Pleased with You’, in February 1999, by which time Miller had joined The Dave Graney Show as a permanent member.
At the end of 1999, the Grudge label issued the Dave Graney ‘n’ The Coral Snakes compilation The Baddest (September). It was released simultaneously with a batch of ‘Best Of’ collections, comprising Clouds’ Favourites, The Cruel Sea’s The Most and Beasts of Bourbon’s Beyond Good and Evil. The new Dave Graney show single, ‘Drugs are Wasted on the Young’ (February 2000), was the first release on Graney’s own label, Cockaigne. It was also the first single lifted from the album Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (April 2000). Graney took the album title from the Horace McCoy book (1948) and the James Cagney film (1950). Another classy release, the album included the masterful pastiche ‘Have You Heard About the Melbourne Mafia?’. By that stage, Billy Miller had issued his new, solo CD Elsternwick ’69 (March 2000), which featured contributions from Graney and Moore.