Although Gary Shearston is only known in the UK for his 1974 Top 10 single "I Get A Kick Out Of You", he had been an established artist in his homeland of Australia since the 1960s and he recorded numerous albums of both his own songs and traditional material.
Shearston was born in 1939 and as his father, James, was in the forces, he was at first raised on his grandfather's farm. In 1950 the family moved to Sydney after the farm was destroyed by drought. Shearston became a stage manager for a travelling theatre company, but he also played guitar and became intrigued with the folk songs of Australia, often researching them in libraries.
In 1965 he made the album Australian Broadside and had a hit single with "Sydney Town", based on a Jamaican calypso and later recorded by Rolf Harris. Another of his songs, "Sometime Lovin'", was covered by the American folk act Peter, Paul and Mary. He established himself through his TV series, Just Folk, and wanting to expand his horizons, he spent time in both the US and the UK.
While in London he recorded the album Dingo for Charisma, and for fun he added a laconic version of Cole Porter's "I Get A Kick Out Of You", which was associated with more bravura performers like Frank Sinatra and Ethel Merman. The strummed guitars at the start were lifted from George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" and gave way to Shearston's extremely laidback vocal. He ruined Porter's multiple rhymes by changing "some guy in the sky" to "some bird in the sky" and amended the line about cocaine to suggest the drug was no stranger to him. The oddest moment occurs just before the end when he mutters the name of his girlfriend, Kristiana Maria Konchevsky, but what made the record work was the contrast between his poker-faced vocal and the gypsy violin of Kristin Kelly.
He followed it with a similar treatment to "Without A Song", whcih generated little business. Returning to Australia he became an Anglican priest working in rural areas. He continued to write and record and his "Shopping On A Saturday" was the Bush Ballad of the Year for 1990. His new CD, Reverently, is awaiting release.
Gary Rhett Shearston, singer and priest: born Inverell, New South Wales 9 January 1939; married (one daughter, one son); died Armidale, New South Wales 1 July 2013.