While the swallows, cherries and Betty Page hairdos of rockabilly fashion have crossed over into the mainstream, there’s a whole counterculture to discover in Melbourne
Rockabilly venues and club nights
In 2012 the Royal Derby in Fitzroy relaunched its Rockabilly Sundays, with live bands and DJs all afternoon. Given that the event first started in the very early ’80s, it’s little surprise you can often spot three generations tearing up the dance-floor.
A suburb away, The Gem in Collingwood often squeezes live acts into its front room, and can be relied upon to spin some mournful country at other times, perfect for crying into your beer.
Further out, Double Deuce Bar and Billiards in Sunshine North is decked out to the taste of ’50s revheads, while you’ll find rockabilly bands regularly play at The Lomond, St Kilda Bowls Club, The Retreat, The Monash, Christine’s Rockabilly Club at various venues, and the Daveys Hotel and Daniel’s Bar, both in Frankston.
Melbourne rockabilly bands
And now who to go see? Keep your eye out for old favourites The Straight 8s, Hank’s Jalopy Demons, The Stringbusters, The Infernos, Rechords, Sonyta and The Incinerators, Ignition, Atomic Hi-Tones, The Flying Saucers, The Road Rats and The Detonators.
Rockabilly clothes shops
Ladies are well catered for with Bonnie Rose Vintage, which sells retro ranges like Berry Page and Stop Staring online alongside vintage pieces, and also operates out of The Vintage Garage (318 Smith St, Collingwood) seven days a week.
A few blocks away you will find Bad Ladies Boutique (77 Johnston St, Fitzroy), Vivien of Holloway, which has its Australian distributor in Melbourne and Route 66 in Prahran, which has been styling the cowboy/cowgirl/bowler shirt look for decades.
Sandra V, out in the Dandenongs, offers a full-blown experience, with memorabilia all over the walls, homewares, giftware, and vintage clothes for men, women and children.
For those who prefer bespoke tailoring, visit Karlee Slater (pictured) at The Golden Age, for women’s clothing made to measure from 1930s-1950s patterns. She’s in the GPO Building until Sep 15, at which point she’ll move to Suite 11, 12 Collins Street.
For an authentic quiff, Dr Follicles has shops in Richmond, St Kilda and Fitzroy, with a retro feel and cool beer to make the time pass pleasantly. Royal Crown Barbers (630 Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn) are also well worth a visit.
Women can get made over in a 1940s-1950s glamour workshop by Boogie Bop Dames, which hits Melbourne on Sunday, Sept 18. A more regular fixture is The Boudoir (25 Aitken St, Williamstown), which provides makeovers and photo sessions for aspiring pin-ups and burlesque dancers over a cocktail.
Vintage record stores
There's plenty of fossicking to be done at Hound Dog's Bop Shop (313 Victoria St, West Melbourne) and Quality Records (269 Glenferrie Rd, Malvern).
The well renowned Outré Gallery has outstanding prints for sale, among an array of Tiki mugs and covetable bits and pieces. Across town, Kustom Lane Gallery (8 Luton Ln, Hawthorn) has artwork for sale as well as holding regular exhibitions and are organising pin striping classes for your hotrod in October. Magazine junkies should browse larger newsagents for hotrod/pinup mags Fuel, Chopped and Deadbeat.
We’ve covered the greats of Melbourne burlesque just recently, but favourite rockabilly fixtures are Hi Ball Burlesque trio Muffy Manhattan, Brandy Alexander and Rusty Nail – who perform regularly and host Red Door Burlesque on the last Sunday of every month at The Order of Melbourne. Then there’s Dolores Daquiri, who runs burlesque workshops. And if you’re thinking of trying that out, get kitted out with a costume from Sideshow Annie in North Carlton.
Local rockabilly radio
DJ Jamie Suppa has a rockabilly show on PBS, Tuesdays 2-5pm, while those in Northern Victoria can pick up the Rockin' Sounds of the Mighty Murray with Rockabilly Rob every Tuesday from 3pm on Radio EMFM - 104.7fm.
Local meetups and forums
VicRock has a healthy forum and can point you towards dance classes and pretty much anything else you fancy. Melbourne Rockabilly is a Facebook resource, while there’s a Melbourne Rockabilly and Psychobilly Meetup group that you can introduce yourself to online before quiffing up in person.