Bill Putt, bass player with Spectrum, Indelible Murtceps and Ariel, died on 7 August of a heart attack. A gentle giant, with a distinctive walrus moustache, Bill Putt will be forever linked with the song I’ll be Gone, Spectrum’s number one 1971 hit, written by Bill’s long-time friend Mike Rudd.
“The friendship kind of evolved over a marathon period,” said Mike when I interviewed he and Bill over cups of herbal tea at Mike’s kitchen table back in 2001. “I’m sure that as musical relationships go, it’s fairly long and unusual. And as friendships go, I’m sure it’s much the same.
“I first met Bill when he turned up with drummer Mark Kennedy at my place, which was an attic. I think they were both working as gardeners. He came along to a rehearsal a few weeks later. I decided that playing bass wasn’t going to suit me, so we swapped. I gave him my jazz-bass and I took over guitar duties.”
Bill remembered that he was playing guitar for The Lost Souls before he met Mike Rudd. “I was playing guitar badly and was absolutely nailed to the wall when I first heard a tape of Mike’s music in 1969. It was the most powerful music I’d ever heard. I thought back then, ‘I’d play any instrument to play Mike’s music’. There was a magic there as soon as we met.
“I’d met a few New Zealanders before meeting Michael and they were weird cats. He was very introverted and was called Mumbles for a little while. He was a whacko kind of guy and I like those kind of people.”
When not playing or touring together Mike and Bill loved watching sport, especially rugby, on television and practising martial arts. “If we could, we’d probably just stay inside and watch sport all day,” said Bill, who worked many part-time jobs and also became a clinical/therapeutic masseur.
Bill introduced Mike to martial arts. “Very early on we decided to never actually spar with each other. I’d be very sour if I happened to hurt Mike.”
Life in a band can be tough and the pair had their share of disagreements. “You lick your wounds and keep going,” said Bill. “Through all the bands, the friendship is continuous. We have an over-riding thing that we’re allies – we’re on the same side. When things are going well we laugh a lot. When they’re not we still sit around Michael’s kitchen table and drink tea, but we don’t laugh so much.”
“Quite often,” said Mike, “we drive long distances without saying a word. We don’t really need to say a lot these days but we have a similar viewpoint on the world in many respects – just observing our fellow man. Bill’s loyalty is unbelievable, through thick and thin.
“Bill’s got an extraordinarily evasive sense of humour. He does a lot of house-sitting stints and he gets great joy in leaving notes for people he’s been house-sitting for. They’ll discover these notes months afterwards.”
Bill Putt survived the 2009 bushfires of Black Saturday and later played benefit gigs in the devastated towns. He died while chopping wood. Goodbye Bill Putt.