The Quests



The Quests was a popular Singapore band of the 1960s. Formed in 1961 by Jap Chong, Raymond Leong, Henry Chua and Lim Wee Guan,1 and later joined by guitarist Reggie Verghese2 and singer Vernon Cornelius, the band was considered the most successful local band of that era.3 It started out by performing cover versions of British and American songs,4 but went on to record a number of singles and albums containing original compositions.5 The band is best known for its original hit song “Shanty”.6

Origins
In 1960, Chong, Leong, Chua and Lim often listened to British music records featuring the electric guitar.7 They were students still in their teens at the time, and lived in the Tiong Bahru area.8 Inspired by music acts such as Cliff Richard and The Shadows, the four practised singing and playing the British group’s songs.9 While they did not have formal training in playing instruments or reading music, they acquired these skills through imitation and practice.10

In 1961, the four formed The Quests,11 with Chong (referred to by his nickname “Jap”) on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Leong on lead guitar, Chua on bass guitar, and Lim on drums.12 The name of the band was derived from the school magazine of Queenstown Secondary Technical School (now Queenstown Secondary School), where Chong and Leong were students.13


Early years
The Quests’ first paid performance was at St Andrew’s Mission in 1961. As they were just starting out, they had to borrow instruments and equipment from friends and family. The band was paid $20 for the event.14


In 1963, Reggie Verghese, then of The Checkmates, replaced Leong, who left the band to pursue an engineering education.15 With the addition of Siri Pereira as lead vocalist for a brief period,  the band became known as Siri Pereira and The Quests.16 When Wilson David replaced Pereira, the band became known as Wilson David and The Quests.17 Due to David’s reputation as the “Elvis Presley of Singapore”, the band added a number of Presley songs to its repertoire.18

Height of popularity
By the mid-1960s, The Quests had become one of the most popular bands in Singapore.19 The band was in great demand for regular gigs at dance halls and night clubs such as the Grand Palace Night Club and the Celestial Room.20 They also performed at venues like the Singapore Badminton Hall,21 and on television programmes such as Dendang Ria and Pop Inn.22

In 1964, The Quests, sans David, clinched a recording contract with music label EMI. For its first release, the band produced two original compositions, “Shanty” and “Gallopin’”. “Shanty” became the first song by a local band to reach the top of the Singapore charts, displacing The Beatles’ “I Should Have Known Better” at the top spot, and staying there for over 10 weeks. These two singles were followed by other similarly successful original compositions. Apart from their own records, The Quests also played for other EMI artistes on their recordings.23

By that time, the band had become famous in the region. In 1964, the band went overseas for the first time, on a tour of Malaysia with the Maori Hi-Five.24 Its appearances in some places caused near riots, and hysterical fans sometimes ripped the clothing off band members.25

In 1965, Keith Locke joined the band as lead vocalist for a brief but productive period. Verghese had left the band to concentrate on his studies, but was eventually persuaded to return. When Locke returned to the United Kingdom in 1966, the band invited Vernon Cornelius to replace him. Questing, the first stereo album by a Singapore band, was subsequently released.26

In 1967, Sam Toh from the group The Blackjacks27 replaced Chua, who left the band to pursue his engineering studies.28 The following year, the band secured a contract to play at the Mocambo Club in Hong Kong, with the addition of Jimmy Chan on keyboards.29 It was a successful stint but the hectic schedule took its toll, and Cornelius left the band in 1968 for health reasons.30

After its return to Singapore in 1969, the band settled down to a regular stint at the Kelong Niteclub.31

Disbandment
With a line-up that included only two original members, The Quests officially disbanded around late 1970,32 and band members pursued diverse paths. Chong moved to Los Angeles,33 while Verghese became a music producer with EMI,34 then set up a sound studio, Boogie Productions.35 Lim and Chan continued working in the music business as teacher and lounge musician respectively.36 Cornelius had a varied career that included disc jockeying for Rediffusion and fronting The Overheads.37 Chua headed an engineering company and authored Call It Shanty: The Story of The Quests, to date the only book written about the band.38

The Quests reunited for charity concerts in 1982, 1989 and 2001, and re-recorded a CD of their hits in 1994. The group also appeared on Rolling Good Times, a popular 1990s television programme.39

Chong and Verghese passed away in 2014 and 201540 respectively.

Selected discography41
Singles

1964: “Shanty” / “Gallopin’”
1965: “Tea Break” / “Pop Inn Theme” / “Memories” / “Come On And Shout” / “Be My Girl” / “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)”
1966: “Sign Of The Times” / “You Are Standing By Me”
1967: “Da Doo Ron Ron” / “I’ll Be Looking Out For You”
1968: “La La La Means I Love You” / “A World of Tomorrows”

Extended play records
1965: The Quests

1966: Keith Locke and The Quests
1967: Go Go ReQuests
1968: Instrumentally Yours
1969: Four Hits
1970: The Quests

Long playing records
1966: Questing
1967: 33RD Revolution
1968: The Best Of The Quests
1970: The Sound Of The Quests



Author

Joanna Tan



References
1. Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Publishing, p. 31. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER)
2. The Quests beat Beatles to reach top of Hit Parade. (1964, November 20). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Lee, S. (2001, September 19). Retro requests. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Publishing, p. 131. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER)
4. It’s rough, tough at the top and unlike real life felines these have only one life not nine. (1967, May 21). The Straits Times, p. 11; Lee, S. (2001, September 19). Retro requests. The Straits Times, p. 4; Chandran, K. (1986, March 14). Those were the days. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Publishing, p. 137. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER); Lee, S. (2001, September 19). Retro requests. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. It’s rough, tough at the top and unlike real life felines these have only one life not nine. (1967, May 21). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Lee, S. (2001, September 19). Retro requests. The Straits Times, p. 4; Music scene alive and thriving since the ’30s. (1996, February 6). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. The Quests beat Beatles to reach top of Hit Parade. (1964, November 20). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Lee, S. (2001, September 19). Retro requests. The Straits Times, p. 4; Chandran, K. (1986, March 14). Those were the days. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Publishing, p. 131. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER)
11. The Quests beat Beatles to reach top of Hit Parade. (1964, November 20). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Publishing, p. 131. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER)
13. Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Publishing, p. 131. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER); Lee, S. (2001, September 19). Retro requests. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Chua, H. (2001). Call it Shanty: The story of The Quests. Singapore: BigO Books, pp. 31–32. (Call no.: RSING 781.66 CHU); Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Publishing, p. 131. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER)
15. Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Publishing, p. 132. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER); Lee, S. (2001, September 19). Retro requests. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Publishing, p. 131. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER); Lee, S. (2001, September 19). Retro requests. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Chua, H. (2001). Call it Shanty: The story of The Quests. Singapore: BigO Books, p. 51. (Call no.: RSING 781.66 CHU)
17. Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Publishing, p. 132. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER); Chua, H. (2001). Call it Shanty: The story of The Quests. Singapore: BigO Books, p. 52. (Call no.: RSING 781.66 CHU); Lee, S. (2001, September 19). Retro requests. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. 1965: Those were the days. (1990, July 6). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Chua, H. (2001). Call it Shanty: The story of The Quests. Singapore: BigO Books, p. 52. (Call no.: RSING 781.66 CHU)
19. Lee, S. (2001, September 19). Retro requests. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. The Quests beat Beatles to reach top of Hit Parade. (1964, November 20). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Chua, H. (2001). Call it Shanty: The story of The Quests. Singapore: BigO Books, pp. 86–87. (Call no.: RSING 781.66 CHU)
21. 1965: Those were the days. (1990, July 6). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. 1965: Those were the days. (1990, July 6). The Straits Times, p. 4; Lee, S. (2001, September 19). Retro requests. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Publishing, p. 132. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER)
23. Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Publishing, pp. 132–134. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER); Lee, S. (2001, September 19). Retro requests. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Publishing, p. 132. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER); Lee, S. (2001, September 19). Retro requests. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. 1965: Those were the days. (1990, July 6). The Straits Times, p. 4; Lee, S. (2001, September 19). Retro requests. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Publishing, pp. 132, 136. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER)
26. Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Publishing, pp. 133–135. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER; Lee, S. (2001, September 19). Retro requests. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Lee, S. (2001, September 19). Retro requests. The Straits Times, p. 4; Ong, P. (1972, August 26). Beautiful sound of the Blackjacks. The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Lee, S. (2001, September 19). Retro requests. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Music scene alive and thriving since the ’30s. (1996, February 6). The Straits Times, p. 3; Lee, S. (2001, September 19). Retro requests. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Publishing, pp. 141, 144. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER)
30. Lee, S. (2001, September 19). Retro requests. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Publishing, p. 144. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER); Chua, H. (2001). Call it Shanty: The story of The Quests. Singapore: BigO Books, p. 129. (Call no.: RSING 781.66 CHU)
31. Chua, H. (2001). Call it Shanty: The story of The Quests. Singapore: BigO Books, p. 129. (Call no.: RSING 781.66 CHU); Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Publishing, p. 146. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER)
32. Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Publishing, p. 146. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER); Low, J. (1970, October 24). Pop goes the band but the beat goes on. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Chua, H. (2001). Call it Shanty: The story of The Quests. Singapore: BigO Books, p. 129. (Call no.: RSING 781.66 CHU)
34. Lee, S. (2001, September 19). Retro requests. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. Chua, H. (2001). Call it Shanty: The story of The Quests. Singapore: BigO Books, p. 131. (Call no.: RSING 781.66 CHU); 1965: Those were the days. (1990, July 6). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36. Chua, H. (2001). Call it Shanty: The story of The Quests. Singapore: BigO Books, p. 129. (Call no.: RSING 781.66 CHU); Lee, S. (2001, September 19). Retro requests. The Straits Times, p. 4; Teo, E. (1978, November 5). Unnoticed but still very much there. The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
37. Pereira, J. C. (1999). Legends of the Golden Venus. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 51. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER)
38. Lee, S. (2001, September 19). Retro requests. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
39. Chua, H. (2001). Call it Shanty: The story of The Quests. Singapore: BigO Books, p. 131. (Call no.: RSING 781.66 CHU); Bachtiar, I. (1989, September 1). Yesterday’s stars bring on the night. The Straits Times, p. 3; Lee, S. (2001, September 19). Retro requests. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
40. Zaccheus, M. (2014, March 3). The Quests’ Jap Chong dies from heart attack. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Toh, C. (2015, June 17). The Quests’ guitarist Reggie Verghese dies. Retrieved 2016, July 27 from Today Online website: http://www.todayonline.com/entertainment/music/quests-guitarist-reggie-verghese-dies
41. Pereira, J. C. (1999). Legends of the Golden Venus. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 66. (Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER)



Further resources
In quest of...The Quests [CD]. (1994). Singapore: PolyGram Records.
(Call no.: RSING 782.42164 QUE)

Recollecting Singapore 60s [CD]. (2007). Singapore: EMI Music Singapore.
(Call no.: RSING 782.42163 REC)

Recollecting The Quests [CD]. (2003). Singapore: EMI Music Singapore.
(Call no.: RSING 781.66 QUE)



The information in this article is valid as at 27 July 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Arts>>Music>>Popular music
Music
Popular music--Singapore
Bands (Music)--Singapore
Arts>>Performing Arts>>Music