Betty McQuade (26 August 1941 - 26 December 2011) was an Australian Rock 'n' Roll singer, best remembered for her bluesy rendition of 'Midnight Bus' which reached No. 6 on the music charts in Melbourne in 1961.
Born Elizabeth (Betty) Rankin McQuade in Paisley, Scotland on 26 August 1941, Betty's family migrated to Australia and settled in Brisbane when Betty was eight years old. As a teen she appeared in many talent contests and performed in various clubs and music venues around Brisbane. Then in 1956 she won a major competition held at the Brisbane City Hall - she was 15 years of age.
This seemed to have kick started her career and from 1956 through to 1960 she started working in venues around Brisbane such as, Cloudland which was a famous dance venue in that city. It was at Cloudland that she found herself sharing the same stage as Johnny O'Keefe. She also worked at the Brisbane City Hall and other clubs and in fact later the young Bee Gees would be support act for her. It was also around this time that she began to get television appearances.
In 1960 Betty moved to Melbourne in the hope of advancing her singing career and quickly found success as the new lead singer of The Thunderbirds replacing Judy Cannon. In 1961 Betty was signed to Astor Records as part of the company's new policy of signing and promoting local artists.
Midnight Bus, recorded in 1961, has been released more than six times. This record is an Australian rock-n-roll classic and is sought after by collectors It was eventually voted in a newspaper's poll The #1 Rock song of the 20th century in Australia!
The runaway success of 'Midnight Bus' led to television appearances on 'Six O'Clock Rock', Teen Scene', 'In Melbourne Tonight' and 'The Go!! Show' and in 1962 she joined The Premiers who provided backing vocals for her fourth and last single with the Astor label, 'Bobby, Bobby, Bobby'.
In 1965 Betty was signed by the Go!! label which re-released 'Midnight Bus' and Betty's 2nd single, 'Blue Train'. On returning to Queensland in 1966 Betty Mc Quade featured at Brisbane and Gold Coast cabarets and night clubs. Betty’s repertoire expanded to include evergreens and ballads to compliment the rock-n-roll.
She retired in 1968 when she returned to Brisbane and married. Her marriage wasn't successful, and she returned to playing small clubs and venues but it took a return to Melbourne in 1983 for her to find her "mojo" again! It was April and Betty was headlining the video, "Rockin' at the Arcadia", which also featured The Thunderbirds, Judy Owens and several other artists.
During the 1980s, a resurgence of interest in the first wave of Australian rock 'n' roll saw Betty performing at many rock 'n' roll reunion tours and concerts performing with The Thunderbirds, The Premiers and the Allstars. Betty guested on numerous radio and television shows. She also toured the southern states of Australia with the Allstars and performed on Johnny Chester’s Rock-n-Roll Reunion at Crown Showroom in 2002.
She continued to be a dynamic live performer well into the 2000s and was much admired by the music community. Her last gig was at Seagulls on the Gold Coast on 22nd September 2007. She died in Brisbane on 26 December 2011 after a long illness.
(Info edited from Arts Centre, Melbourne & Toorak Times.)
Here’s Betty McQuade with the Allstars 18th December 2006