Bruce Howe grew up in Pt Adelaide joining his first band in high school, The Fugitives. Everyone wanted to play guitar, but Bruce was different picked up the bass to give it a try. He’s been a bassist ever since. Bruce soon joined another band called The Embers before joining Tweed Harris’ band, The Clefs.
The Clefs were a popular Adelaide band who moved to Melbourne, with Barrie McAskill out front on lead vocals. Bruce would also work with singer Bev Harrell during his time in The Clefs. Bruce returned to Adelaide and in the meantime The Clefs line-ups changed and eventually transformed into Levi Smith’s Clefs now lead by Barrie McAskill.
Brue would be asked by Barrie to join Levi Smith’s Clefs after the previous backing band left to form Tully.
Levi Smith’s Clefs had settled to Barrie McAskill (Lead Vocals), Bruce Howe (Bass), Mick Jurd (Guitar), John Bisset (Keyboards) and Tony Buettel (Drums). Levi Smith’s Clefs enjoyed a successful residency at the Whiskey Au Go Go in Sydney and recorded a critically acclaimed LP Empty Monkey. After a lack lustre move to Melbourne, the band chose to leave Barrie McAskill and become a four-piece known as ‘Fraternity’, moving back to Sydney. Bruce and Fraternity were able to gain a residency at Jonathan’s Nightclub, Bruce later inviting The Valentines’ lead singer Bon Scott to join the band. Drummer John Freeman would replace Tony Buettel on Drums.
Fraternity would sign to music promoter Hamish Henry who would move them to Adelaide, South Australia. Fraternity would become one of Australia’s premier acts, recording 2x LPs, several top 10 singles and winning the prestigious Hoadley’s Battle of The Sounds competition. Hamish moved the band to London in mid 1972, where they would eventually up break up by the end of 1973.
Upon returning to Australia Bruce formed Fraternity MK II, mentoring a new singer Jimmy Barnes and his brother John Swan (drums). After Jimmy re-joined Cold Chisel in 1975, Bruce formed a Jazz-Rock Infusion outfit called ‘Some Dream’ featuring previous members of Fraternity.
Uncle John Eyers and Mauri Berg had formed hard rock band ‘Mickey Finn’, which Bruce joined after Some Dream folded.
Bruce enjoyed great success with Mickey Finn, including performing to between 40,000 – 50,000 people, kicking off 1984 in a huge Elder Park concert with Swanee and The Dukes.
Simultaneously, Bruce was asked to join Jimmy Barnes’ solo band performing on Bodyswerve and For The Working Class Man.
“I needed players I felt safe with – players who, like the guys in Cold Chisel, had been around…I approached the most influential musician in my life besides Don Walker, Bruce Howe. He had a style like no one else I’ve worked with, as far as I could tell. Bruce only played upstrokes on his bass, so his sound was very aggressive. He was tough and demanding but he encouraged me to drag out more of myself…I can’t thank Bruce enough for working with me after I left Cold Chisel. He was the one musician I needed around me at that crucial time in my life. In years to come my kids called him ‘Big Old Bruce’. He was mean and tough and a bit scary but soft as a marshmellow, once you gained his trust.”– Jimmy Barnes
Bruce met former Rose Tattoo guitarist Rockin’ Rob Riley whilst working in Jimmy Barnes band. Bruce and Rob would form their own band ‘Megaboys’ with young upcoming singer Vince Contarino (The Dukes, Serpentine and Zep Boys) and Steve McLennan (Drums). Mickey Finn called it a day in 1991 and Mega Boys continued to perform throughout the 90s.
Bruce Howe’s influence on Australian music can not be understated, mentoring four of the greatest front men in Australian rock; Bon Scott, Jimmy Barnes, John Swan and Vince Contarino. Although Bruce has never received the recognition he deserves, the impact of his work has been felt world-wide.