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The story of a man named Shirl - the life and times of Graeme "Sh...

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The story of a man named Shirl - the life and times of Graeme "Shirley" Strachan (from Skyhooks)

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Million Dollar Riff

The story of a man named Shirley

Graeme Strachan was born in East Malvern on January 2, 1952. He went to Mt Waverley High, and decided to become a carpenter when the only subject he passed in form 4 was woodwork. He had scraped through the first two years of high school pretty smoothly, with the exception of non-favoured subjects such as French. "I used to cause teachers a lot of trouble sometimes, either through my arrogance, my mouth . . . but a lot of the teachers who gave you a hard time look back now and say, oh, he's alright, but at the time they hated your guts. Still, I reckon they were good teachers," he admits.

By fourth form, Graeme was finding it hard to concentrate on schoolwork. He called this "getting the bug." So, while still in fourth form, he "dropped his bundle" academically, and after failing was forced to drop out of high school, and instead attend Trades School, where after his first year he was runner-up dux of his class. The second year he took on a building technician's course and topped it.

Graeme had grown up listening to rock'n'roll, but he never went overboard. "I never went out and bought stacks of records, oranything of that nature. If I heard something I just liked it . . . I haven't really got musical influences." He helped out with a couple of mates' bands at Trades School, but nothing serious. He was part of a band named Frame for roughly a year and a half, whilst still working as a carpenter finishing his apprenticeship.

But then, once again, Graeme "got the bug". After he had finished his apprenticeship, he packed his bags, jumped into his combi and took off down to Phillip Island. There he became part of the surf scene, where nicknames were one of life's necessities, and picked up the name he took to nation-wide fame. Shirley - for his curls, like Shirley Temple. It was also at Phillip island where he started "going steady" with Sandy Davis, his wife-to-be. He took jobs on fishing boats, and...