In 1984, Jon Jessie decided he could do it - busk around OZ for nothing more than he earned on the street. And, after a shaky start, he was on his way. Thirty years later, he's still at it. A hoot!Jon Jessie decided to busk his way around Oz, living entirely on what he earned.
And the miracle is he succeeded. In 1984, he went up the East Coast of the country, then decided to go inland and try to get right around for nothing.
That first busking session in Kings Cross, Sydney on 4th April 1984, began an alternative lifestyle that was to last more than 30 years. Even now, in his seventies, he still sings with his guitar to passers-by. And hopes for another few years yet!
Listen to two of the Jon Jesse compositions which occurred during this epic journey:. Busking in Sydney
Helscha How We Waited
Read about his first session here:
My First Ever Busking Session
I took the escalator up from the station to Darlinghurst Road. It was three years since I last went up these moving stairs and then I'd only been here as a tourist. Then, there had been no anxiety or unsureness. I'd looked forward to an interesting evening just like all the other millions of tourists that flock each year to this Little Paris of Australia, where watching prostitutes standing before shop doorways was the name of the game!
But now, it was with a completely different feeling that I came to the top—and I looked different as well. I wore a checked shirt, over which lay a blue velvet waistcoat which my mother had made and I was wearing black corduroy trousers with my lovely black hat on my head. On my feet were red socks and blue artistic- looking leather shoes and I hoped that I looked a proper busker. I turned left and headed for the spot I had chosen to do my first ever busking session.
It was on the other side of the road about a hundred metres along where a side street went down a hill. But the closer I got, the more the resistance in me built up. “Stop it! Put that out of your head! Think of Mike! Remember what he said!” I urged myself, “Don't think about it, do it! Don't think about it, do it!” This I now kept repeating to myself until I reached my spot and put my guitar case down,, opened it, took out my guitar, put it over my shoulder and put my capo in place, all with “Don't think about it, do it! Don't think about it, do it!”
Now turn yourself around towards the road, I told myself, straighten up and sing!
I'd already chosen to begin with an up-beat song from Elvis Presley. Good old Elvis, he knew how! I hit into my guitar and pushed out the opening line: “Won't you wear my ring around your neck …..” I was doing it, I was!
I really was doing it, after all these years! I might now be 43 years old, but that hadn't stopped me. Elation overwhelmed me. But keep on going, I told myself, just keep going! Don't stop for at least half an hour! So started my first busking session and, straight away, I made my first mistake. I'd hardly sung a couple of lines when I noticed nearby a swaying drunk. He smiled at me and, foolishly, I smiled back at him. That was it. Suddenly we were old pals and he'd come and sing along with me like good friends do!
He staggered over to me and his alcoholised breath was excruciating!
"Damn, what should I do now?" I thought, and I've only just started!
Go away you bugger! But in his intoxicated state he saw it that pals naturally stay together and had to help me with my performance! With his head next to mine it was unbearable.
You stupid idiot, you were nice to him so now he won't go away! I cursed and tried to move away from his breath. We ended up going around in a circle. I cursed again that I'd caused this to happen right at the beginning of my first busking attempt. Christ, go away, won't you!
That would have been the first and last busking session of my life, had my Fairy Godmother not come along and saved me! She appeared in the form of a thirty year old woman accompanying her friend—who was in such a bad state that she had to be dragged along. Both were pretty high but my saviour knew what she was doing.
After watching and listening to me for some seconds with an amused smile, she took pity on me. She let her friend slither to the floor, looked into my eyes with a hearty laugh and then went behind the drunk. She put her hands on his shoulders, twisted him away and guided him to the middle of the road where she walked him along for some way before giving him a hearty shove. I prayed that he wouldn't turn around and come back and he didn't.
"Thanks so much for your help!” I shouted at her as she returned to pick up her friend.
“Think nothing of it, Luv! I could see yer needed some 'elp!” she shouted back and left, helping her drugged companion over the road and down an alley.
With relief I carried on. Now I had peace for a while and began to get used to this new activity. The money wasn't coming in fast but some coins had landed in my case which helped.
I'd been there about half an hour when across the road, moving this way and that, I noticed a woman heading toward me. Her body was hunched and, the way she hung her head, stuck forward going from side to side, she seemed like a worn out version of E.T. As she got close to me she made a kind of butterfly flit towards me. Then, a yard from my face, she hovered, vibrating in little quivers.
For long seconds she stared at me with wide eyes and suddenly cried, “Wheeee,” threw her arms out wide and zigzagged off.
“Now, that's what I call hi,” I thought as I stood there singing, “real hippy happy hi!”.
I continued with my set. My, was busking hard work! In a way it was a bit like being a teacher. You had to be fully concentrated and had to know your stuff.
I ended up singing for an hour and a quarter and although there was no fortune in my guitar case, it felt like one to me. I felt great, why, that ought to be enough money to keep me for a whole day!
In fact, my singing from 8.30 until 9.45pm had left me more than content, I was elated! Because I'd done it! Yes, I really had, at long, long, last.
As I walked back towards the station, I wondered if maybe I'd started too soon. Well, I would find that out the next time. But I was now looking at everything in a different way, as a participator rather than an observer. I'd entered the world of the busker—and needed time to come back down to normality. As I reached the station and the escalator started to carry me down, I knew what an advance I'd just made. This feeling of fulfilment was justified, I had every reason to be pleased with myself. It was 11.30pm when I got back home. I was tired but over the moon. As the brightness of the living room engulfed me I saw four interested faces peering at me.
“Well, how did it go?”
“How much did you make?”
“Well, did you do it then?” came rushing out at me.
“Yep, I did it!” I said gleefully with outstretched arms.
“For how long then?” someone asked.
“About an hour and a quarter.”
“And how much did you make?” my son Mark asked again.
I took out my pouch and let coins fall on the table. They amounted to $9.56.
“Hey, not bad for the first time!” one gasped as I sat and recounted the evenings experience.
They were as impressed as I was. Because, after so many years of turning away, I'd finally pushed myself through and done it. All I had to do now was to keep on going and, with time, it would get easier and easier and I would get better and better. That was now my aim. Yes, tomorrow night I'd go again.