The Seekers were formed by Athol Guy, double bass, and guitarists Keith Potger and Bruce Woodley, who all attended Melbourne High School. Their lead singer was Ken Ray, who later left the group to get married. His place was taken by Judith Durham who was an established trad jazz singer, having recorded an EP with the Melbourne group Frank Traynor's Jazz Preachers (she was replaced by Margaret RoadKnight). The Seekers soon gathered a strong following in Melbourne and Durham's connections with W&G Records led to the group being offered a contract.
Discovery in the UK
After a brief career in Australia, The Seekers were offered the chance to travel to the U.K. on the Sitmar cruise liner Fairsky, in exchange for providing on-board entertainment. They had intended to return to Australia ten weeks later on the same ship, but on arrival in the UK they were offered work by the prestigious Grade Organisation.
The group decided to remain in the UK and after filling on a bill headlined by Dusty Springfield, they met up with her brother, songwriter-producer Tom Springfield, who had experience with folk-pop material with his earlier group The Springfields. He penned a song for them called "I'll Never Find Another You", which they recorded in November 1964. It was released by EMI Records (on the Columbia label) in December 1964 and was championed by the pirate radio station Radio Caroline. Despite the fact that the group had not signed a contract with EMI, the single reached the UK Top 40 and quickly began selling. In February 1965, it reached #1 in the U.K. and Australia, and #4 in the U.S. where it was released on EMI's Capitol label.
The distinctive and soaring soprano voice of lead singer Judith Durham, the group's sweet harmonies, memorable songs, and non-threatening image encouraged the BBC to give them exposure, making them appealing to a broad cross-section of the pop audience.
Remarkable string of hits
The Carnival Is Over
"I'll Never Find Another You" sold 1.75 million copies worldwide, and made The Seekers the first Australian pop group to have a Top 5 hit in all three countries (Australia, UK, and United States) simultaneously. They were also the first Australian recording artists to sell more than a million copies of a single. The Seekers followed "I'll Never Find Another You" with two more Tom Springfield compositions, "A World of Our Own" (which reached #1 in May 1965 in the UK) and "The Carnival Is Over", which reached #1 in November. At its peak, "The Carnival Is Over" was selling 90,000 copies a day in the U.K. alone.
In 1966, they recorded Paul Simon’s "Someday, One Day", which reached #4 in Australia and #11 in the UK. This was Simon's first UK success as a writer, and his first hit as a composer outside of his work with Simon & Garfunkel. Bruce Woodley co-wrote several songs with Simon at this time, including "Red Rubber Ball" which became a US #1 single for The Cyrkle. Also co-written with Simon were "I Wish You Could Be Here", and "Cloudy", which was included on the Simon & Garfunkel release, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme, but without a Woodley writing credit.
After returning to Australia in early 1966, The Seekers filmed their first television special, At Home With The Seekers. The Seekers were named Best New Artists at the 1966 New Musical Express Poll Winners Awards and they appeared at the celebratory Wembley Arena concert, on a bill that included The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield and The Animals.
The same year, the group appeared at a Royal Command Performance at the London Palladium, before the Queen Mother.
Malvina Reynolds' "Morningtown Ride" was the Seekers' sixth major hit, reaching #2 on the British Charts in December 1966. The single had been recorded earlier on the 1964 album "Hide and Seekers", but for copyright reasons, the song was re-recorded for The Seekers' Christmas 1966 single.
Their biggest US hit is "Georgy Girl" (#1 in Feb 67, #3 in the UK), for which the Seekers were awarded a Gold Record for 1 million copies sold in the United States. Jim Dale and Tom Springfield were nominated by the US Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences for best song of 1967. They lost out to Leslie Bricusse. The recording sold 3.5 million copies.
Triumphant return to Australia
The Seekers became the Australian of the year in 1967.
In March 1967, The Seekers returned to Australia for a triumphant homecoming tour, which included a record-breaking concert at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne, attended by more than 200,000 people. This concert was listed in the 1993 Guinness Book Of World Records as the largest concert crowd ever gathered in the southern hemisphere. Vision of the appearance was incorporated into their 1967 Australian television spectacular The Seekers At Home and Down Under, which was screened on the Seven Network and drew a record rating of 67, and it still remains in the Top 10 Most Watched Television Specials in Australian history.
In January 1968, in recognition of their many achievements, the group was named Australians of the Year for 1967 and accepted their award during a triumphant Australian tour. During their 1968 visit, the group also filmed another television spectacular, The World of The Seekers, which was screened in cinemas, before being screened nationally on the Nine Network to phenomenal ratings.
Later in 1968, Judith Durham made the shock announcement that she was leaving The Seekers to pursue a solo career, and the group disbanded. Their final performance in July 1968 was screened live by the BBC as a special called Farewell The Seekers, with an audience of more than 10 million viewers.
The special had been preceded by a week-long season at London's Talk Of The Town nightclub, and a live recording of one of their shows was released as the LP record, The Seekers Say Goodbye Live From The Talk Of The Town. It reached #2 on the U.K. charts. Also in July 1968, the compilation album The Seekers' Greatest Hits was released and spent 17 weeks at #1 in Australia. It was known as "The Best of the Seekers" in the UK and spent one week at #1 in February 1969, managing to knock The Beatles (White Album) off the top of the charts. The album spent 125 weeks in the charts in the UK.
The Seekers Biography
Following the split, the solo careers of the artists struggled, and lapsed into obscurity. Judith Durham released a Christmas album For Christmas With Love (recorded in Hollywood, California) and later signed with A&M Records, releasing two albums, A Gift of Song and Climb Ev'ry Mountain. Keith Potger formed the successful group The New Seekers in the UK. Bruce Woodley would release several solo albums and focus on songwriting, eventuating in the unofficial national anthem "I Am Australian". Eventually Potger re-joined Woodley and Guy in reforming The Seekers in 1975 with Louisa Wisseling, then Julie Anthony in the 1980s, and then Karen Knowles, but the unique timbre and perfect pitch of Durham's voice was missing from their sound. Durham later rejoined the group in 1992. Woodley himself left for a time in the 1970s and was replaced with Buddy England, before rejoining in the 1980s.
The Seekers in the 1990s and 2000s
The Seekers re-united late in 1992, with the original lineup of Guy, Potger, Woodley and Durham. A 25 Year Silver Jubilee Reunion Celebration tour in 1993 was so successful that The Seekers remained together for a further 11 years. They staged several sell-out tours of Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K., released several albums, including new studio albums Future Road and Morningtown Ride to Christmas.
In 1995, they were inducted into the ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) Hall Of Fame, and were the subjects of a special issue of Australian postage stamps.
After much speculation (including a parody of the coming event by ABC TV's Olympics satire The Games) The Seekers reunited again for the closing ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games on 29 October 2000, with a performance of "The Carnival Is Over". Judith Durham had suffered a broken hip and performed at the Paralympics in a wheelchair.
On 1 September 2006, having ceased touring, The Seekers were presented with the Key to the City by Melbourne's Lord Mayor, The Honourable John So.