Those closest to Judith Durham, lead singer of The Seekers, share memories of her life – Michmutters

Those closest to Judith Durham, lead singer of The Seekers, share memories of her life

When Keith Potger remembers Judith Durham, he thinks of her generosity and strength.

Potger, one of the founding members of The Seekers, spent much of the 60s making music and touring with Durham as the frontwoman of the band.

The musicians shared many surreal moments, like knocking the Beatles off the number one spot in the UK charts and performing to screaming crowds.

But reflecting on Durham’s life after her death aged 79, Potger most remembers her advocacy work.

four people sit around a couch.
Judith Durham, Athol Guy, Bruce Woodley and Keith Potger reunited in Melbourne in March, 2019. (Australian Story: Darren James Photography)

After Durham’s husband, Ron Edgeworth, died from motor neurone disease in 1994, she worked tirelessly to raise money and awareness to fight the degenerative disease.

“It made quite a difference to the awareness of that issue, and to see her unfailingly help to raise funds… that was quite remarkable in her generosity of spirit,” Potger told ABC Radio Melbourne.

Durham is being remembered by people across the globe for her kindness, distinctive voice and contribution to music.

‘We did always share the music’

Durham was born Judith Mavis Cock in the Melbourne suburb of Essendon in 1943.

She changed her name to her mother’s maiden name at the age of 19.

Durham’s sister Beverley Sheehan said they grew up surrounded by music.

“We used to sing together in the morning and it used to wake up our parents,” she said.

“We did always share the music, but she was the one who always applied herself and didn’t have to be told to practise.”

Sheehan recalled that when Durham was about nine years old, she expressed the desire to be a world-famous musician.

“proved to be true.”

a woman with brown hair and a gray cardigan.
Beverley Sheehan says her little sister always loved music.(abcnews)

Durham’s tryout sent crowd ‘up three levels’

The Seekers was formed in 1962 and originally comprised four men, but one member left the group when he got married.

The remaining three members, Potger, Athol Guy and Bruce Woodley decided to find a female lead singer who suited the style of their music.

Athol Guy had met Ms Sheehan through the local music scene, who suggested Durham may be a good fit for the band.

Guy eventually met Durham on the first day of her new job at an advertising firm, J Walter Thompson.

“I’m sitting in the office one day… and this little head poked itself around the corner and said ‘hello… I’m Judy Durham, you were going to come and hear me sing,'” he said.

a man with glasses wearing a gray jumper.
Athol Guy can vividly recall the first night Durham performed with The Seekers.(abcnews)

After Durham pointed out his unfulfilled promise, Guy invited her to perform with the band as a try-out that night, at a coffee lounge called The Treble Clef in South Yarra.

“After we’d hit the last note our little crew in the coffee lounge went up three levels. We went ‘that felt good’, and obviously it sounded good,” he said.

“From then on everything just went the way fate decreed that it should, and I’ve always said you could never manufacture anything that happened to the band.”

In a 2016 interview with One Plus One, Durham described that first performance as “the birth of The Seekers as we now know”.

Durham joined The Seekers in 1963 and the band moved to the UK a year later, where their first three releases topped the British charts.

The Seekers would go on to achieve worldwide recognition, selling more than 50 million records.

A black and white image of three young men and a young woman
The Seekers in 1965: Athol Guy (left), Judith Durham, Bruce Woodley and Keith Potger.(Supplied: Bruce Woodley)

A familial bond between bandmates

Potger said he regarded the other members of The Seekers as being like his siblings.

“It was really quite extraordinary how that bond developed so quickly and strongly,” he said.


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