HEART TO HEART - JOHN PETKOVICH R.I.P.

The funeral for WA music industry giant, John Petkovich, aka Pecko, was held on Tuesday, September 5. Respected Perth guitarist and founder of GuitarCloud, Jaime Page, reflects here on the passing of her bandmate, mentor and dear friend...

So, here I am reflecting on the day we said goodbye to Pecko.

I have found it impossible to write what I feel in recent weeks, but now is the time to put the pieces together and pay tribute to the man.

I first saw JP (same initials and football teams) performing with the mighty Brix. That band was insanely talented, with a world class professionalism and polish that impressed me greatly. They were at the top of their game, on fire.

The driving force of Brix was this huge, dynamic and powerful drummer with the voice of an angel. Sure, the whole band was great, but this awesome John Bonham-incarnate was a monster, and he head a huge kit and gong! He must be good! That was the mighty John Petkovich. Lord Of The Drums.

My next experience with JP was seeing him drafted into The Sweethearts featuring the excellent Whyalla boy, Steve Garde. I had known and admired Steve as a player since school days, and was impressed with the band, which mutated into The Invaders with superstar vocalist, John Worrall, of Fatty Lumpkin fame and Roy Daniels. It was fast turning into a supergroup, and certainly sounded fantastic.

It was not long after seeing them at The Raffles that I got a call from Steve asking if I was interested in having a jam with them as their second guitarist Harvey was ‘leaving’.

For a green young player like me this was massive. All of these heroes in one great band. Wow.

My first tryout was at The Studio in Ossie Park. I was my usual confident but quiet self, in a new situation, with musicians of experience and huge reputations.

Steve was very calming and helpful; Worrall bemused by the little kid; Roy quite aloof and almost dismissive. Pecko was very kind and attentive, determined to give me a chance.

Recently, JP and I chatted about this. JP had the deciding vote and I was in. I felt that Roy really was not happy, but I dealt with it and put my best foot forward. I remember Roy saying that Pecko always got his way!

As JP told the story…

The City Hotel, early days. We had a pub full of American sailors on leave, direct from the danger zone and full of energy in need of release. The atmosphere was electric, tense.

Here he was, wondering how the little kid he had voted into the band would survive this trial by fire. Uncertain looks from Worrall and Steve, had he made a huge mistake?

Oh well, dig in, heads down, what the hell? And then there was moi, aloft on the bar, guitar played with teeth and blood capsules streaming, lighters aflame from the wildly appreciative sailors. WTF? Alright then!

From that point, the quiet little guitarist was now held in higher esteem, and JP’s casting vote looking a much better choice on reflection. We were in business!

Yes, that is a condensed version of what John told me, but it was very poignant and meaningful, as he proudly recalled the tale.

We had a very intimate, tearful chat about the meaning of life, and I left the hospital feeling rather special, deeply thankful for the faith shown in me back then, and also now, as I reinvented myself as me.

JP’s last words to me then were typical of him. ‘You just tell me if anyone gives you a hard time, Pecko will be there to sort them out!’

At the tribute gig I was very mindful to give him space, and let him enjoy the moment, but we did have one beautiful snap together, and I was proud to see him rocking side stage, at which I motioned my love and respect to him as we played.

It was a special moment, encased in the mania of Highway Star, and the last time I saw JP. (Swallows back tears).

I never made it back to the hospital. Time had run out.

It all happened so suddenly. I was lost for words.

I had lost a great mentor and friend. A fellow West Ham and West Coast nut, a wonderful drummer, a beautiful human being.

I have so much to be thankful to JP for.

He taught me how to be a professional musician. He taught me humility and compassion. He helped me learn to sing. He gave me confidence to have a go, to be me, to go for it. He was the best man at my wedding. He was there at my Dark Universe CD launch cheering me on, and at the end he was also my protector.

We had so many laughs, great moments on stage; the ferocious Focus meetings with Jimmy and Brian and so much more, but mainly I remember his strength and power, musically. Boy could he drive a band hard, and that voice was sublime. Never a duff note, ever.

I remember his audition with Jon Ryder and either Hammer or Trilogy. JP then thought he was the one not good enough, and I put my hands on his shoulders, stood behind him and told him not to be so silly, that he was up for it. How things can turn around.

In latter days, John was instrumental in hooking me up with Brian May of Queen at Metropolis. This was a very difficult meeting, but JP made it happen, and again it was one of the highlights of my life. So, it is with a tear in my eye and a gut that is wrenching a little after today’s beautiful ceremonies that I pay tribute to a great bear of a man that I am not afraid to say that I loved, as did we all.

Pecko, long may you live on in our hearts. You made a difference while you were here, and that respect was borne out with the massive turnout to bid you farewell.

I truly hope that God appreciates you when you get him/her to gigs on time, and that you and Bonzo become great mates.

You made a massive difference to my life and to many others.

Now fly free, you Desperado you! xxx

Jaime P, September 2017

 

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