Stone the bloody crows…it’s back!

The Stoned Crow hosted a swag of great local acts: we’ve got a CD prize pack for the first person to name this songstress. Email entries to news@fremantleherald.com

THE Stoned Crow was an icon of America’s Cup Fremantle.

The small wine bar over the river in North Freo became an important gathering point for the city’s in-crowd, its push for innovation matching their determination to cement Freo as Perth’s artsy, alternative capital.

But it almost never happened.

John Paterson was full of beans and oil rig cash when he bought the virtually derelict Crow in 1981, but within a year he was almost broke.

• John Paterson says his ledger and a few T-Shirts are just about all he’s got left of the legendary Stoned Crow. Photo by Steve Grant

“It was very difficult for me to make money, because we were only licensed for 160 people and being a wine bar we couldn’t sell beer, so it was difficult to attract a big crowd,” Paterson told the Herald.

He did find a distributor who provided wine-based spirits such as gin and vodka, but even he admits he wasn’t a big fan.

Paterson went back to the oil rigs and the extra cash kept the bar afloat, then he opened up the garden out the back and splashed out on a new PA system. Both were a big hit.

Young bands who couldn’t afford their own gear suddenly found a venue which also had a great alfresco hangout where a thriving drug scene emerged.

“I was always hoping to find a garage band that was going to be the next big thing,” says Paterson.

“There was The Passionfruit Club and they had a good looking guy called John and the girls used to just stand at the edge of the stage and look at him, and he was really charismatic – a bit like the Doors.

“They were great.

“But he had a bust-up with his girlfriend and went over east, and he was hitchhiking when he got hit by a truck and killed. When one of the bands came in and said he’d been killed in an accident I couldn’t believe it.”

The Crow also introduced stand-up comedy to Fremantle.

“It went down a bomb,” says Paterson.

He also hooked up with the Chimera acting group to put on live theatre, and they reciprocated by salting the crowd with hecklers during the stand up routines.

“So there was a back and forth which at times could seem really heated and gave the nights an edge, but they knew what was going on and the crowd thought it was very entertaining.”

The bar’s reputation grew and soon there were calls from eastern states musos, such as Paul Kelly, who wanted somewhere quiet in Perth for a warm-up gig. Paterson says he was forbidden from advertising these rare gems because they weren’t on the official schedule.

The Crow hosted a generation of local talent, including Steve Tallis, the Jam Tarts, The Triffids and A2Z, but even before Paterson’s time it had racked up some historic performances.

“I did a little research and Bon Scott was a North Freo boy — I worked with his brother — and Bon’s first band was The Valentines and they played there; I know that because I used to have a poster stuck to the roof which had all their signatures, but that was stolen.”

Paterson says another up and coming talent was the Farriss Brothers, who morphed into international success story INXS.

When Paterson finally got his full liquor license in 1990 he sold up, worn out after a decade of trying to keep ahead of the competition with new ideas.

He’s now planning a mini comeback, hosting a Stoned Crow reunion at what is now Mojo’s, on Sunday August 27 from 1-4pm. He’s hoping to get old bands, staff and crowds back together, including for a traditional jam session, in the now senior-friendly afternoon slot.

by STEVE GRANT

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