Many a musical act has been torn apart by the egos of its members. Most of these ruptures take place long before the act in question gets anywhere near stardom, since its the unrealistic expectations of would-be stars that tend to cause these sorts of disputes. But occasionally, an act becomes successful, and it’s the new found pressures that come with that success that cause the problems.
In 1955, an early boy band, a four part harmony ensemble from Melbourne found this out the hard way. The four members of the group were Johnny Satin (born John Southern) from Thomastown; Harry Velvet (born Henry Vailington) of St Albans; Bruce McEwan (born Ewan McBruce), who grew up in Laverton; and Nelson Riddell (born Nelson Riddell) of Mordialloc, and in October 1955, when their first big hit, “Girl, You Like Ice Cream” hit the national top ten, they were each 18 years of age. Old enough that the money went to them instead of their parents.
Infighting among the group began almost at once, as arguments about who was allowed to dress in what colour, who was allowed to by flowers for which girl, who was allowed to adjudicate these arguments, and who was allowed to hire a new manager to hire the one that got fired for unpopular adjudications began to tear the boys apart. To be fair, the boy band was an artificial construct riven by class, political and religious disagreements, and after the sacking of the manager who’d put them together and got them this far, it was always going to come down to who could afford the best lawyers.
And that was Riddell, whose official biography mis-stated his suburb of origin by a small distance: his parents lived in Beaumaris, not Mordialloc. In short order, his dad’s lawyers had seen to it that Riddell owned the band’s name, logo, publishing and royalty rights, and costumes. (He would have taken the instruments too, but his father persuaded him that messing with session musos was more trouble than it was worth.) Riddell returned to the streets of his childhood, and spent the money on a huge property he named after the band (just to mess with his former bandmates): the Men Tones would be commemorated forever in it, even after subdivision.
Nelson Riddell was murdered in 1958 by a person or persons unknown. Parts of his dismembered body were found in Thomastown, St Albans and Laverton, but how they got there remains a mystery.
Suburbs near Mentone: