Colin Burgess, a founding member of AC/DC as well as drummer for the influential Australian band the Masters Apprentices, has died at the age of 77. Although no cause of death was given, the musician’s passing was announced on the official Facebook page for AC/DC.
“Very sad to hear of the passing of Colin Burgess,” said the post. “He was our first drummer and a very respected musician. Happy memories, rock in peace, Colin.”
Born in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia on November 16, 1946, Colin John Burgess started his career as a percussionist with The Untamed, featuring guitarist Joe Travers, but in 1967, Colin and his brother, Denny Burgess, joined forces with Travers and bassist Bill Verbaan to form Honeybunch, later known as The Haze. It was about a year after their formation when the Masters Apprentices – having had The Haze as openers at one point – decided to bring in Colin as their new drummer, and a few years later still, Denny was invited to join as bassist and lead singer.
During the course of his career with the Masters Apprentices, Colin was twice – first in 1970, then again in 1971 – named best drummer by the readers of Go-Set, a teen-oriented pop music publication based in Melbourne. The band also had several top-40 hits in Australia, including “Because I Love You,” “5:10 Man,” “Think About Tomorrow Today,” and “Turn Up Your Radio.”
During the greatest success of the Masters Apprentices, the band relocated to London, but when they ultimately gave up the ghost, the members returned to Australia, which is how – in November 1973 – Burgess found himself behind the drum kit in the initial lineup of AC/DC. His tenure in the band was decidedly short, however, and he was fired in February 1974 for being drunk onstage, although he subsequently claimed that his drink had been spiked.
Still, during that brief period, Burgess did end up being featured as drummer on the band’s debut single, “Can I Sit Next to You, Girl.” Although the version of the song featuring Burgess was never released outside of Australia, it can be heard on YouTube, but fair warning: the video for the song was actually filmed after Burgess’ departure from the ranks, so the fellow behind the drum kit is actually Peter Clack.
After his stint with AC/DC, Burgess continued his music career, and in the ‘80s he had a musical reunion with his brother Denny to form His Majesty, along with guitarist Spike Williams and vocalist Yukiko Davis. The band changed lineups over the years, but perhaps their most fascinating left turn was when they were invited in 1993 to back Tiny Tim on an album. The resulting LP, Rock, earned a certain amount of notice and/or notoriety for its inclusion of a very appropriate cover, considering Colin’s involvement: “Highway to Hell.”
Although Burgess' involvement with AC/DC wasn't sufficient to earn him entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when the band was inducted in 2003, he was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 1998 as a member of the Masters Apprentices. Approximately a month after that honor, however, he and his brother Denny were involved in a serious car accident that took them out of commission for some time, but both ultimately recovered, resulting in a documentary called The Comeback Kings.