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The Quests were a popular Singapore band of the 1960s. Formed in 1961 by Jap Chong, Raymond Leong, Henry Chua and Lim Wee Guan, and later including guitarist Reggie Verghese and singer Vernon Cornelius, the band is considered the most successful local band of that era. The band started out by performing cover versions of British and American songs, but went on to record a number of singles and albums containing original compositions. The band is best known for its original hit song "Shanty".
In 1960, Chong Chow Pin (referred to by his nickname "Jap"), Raymond Leong, Henry Chua and Lim Wee Guan often listened to British music records featuring the electric guitar. Students of about 13 and 14 years old at the time, they were neighbours in the Tiong Bahru area. Inspired by music acts such as Cliff Richard and the Shadows, the four practised playing popular songs. While they did not have formal training in playing instruments or reading music, they acquired these skills through imitation and practice.
In 1961, the four formed The Quests, with Chong on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Leong on lead guitar, Chua on bass guitar, and Lim on drums. 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.
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.
In 1963, Reggie Verghese, then of The Checkmates, replaced Raymond Leong, who left the band to pursue an engineering career. With the addition of Siri Pereira as lead vocalist for a brief period, the band became known as Siri Pereira and The Quests. When Wilson David replaced Pereira, the band became known as Wilson David and The Quests. Due to David's reputation as the "Elvis Presley of Singapore", the band added a number of Elvis songs to their repertoire.
Height of popularity
By the mid-1960s, The Quests were one of the most popular bands in Singapore. The band was in great demand for regular stints at dance halls and night clubs like the Golden Venus, stage performances at venues like the Singapore Badminton Hall, and on television programmes such as Dendang Ria and Pop Inn.
In 1964, The Quests, sans Wilson David, clinched a recording contract with recording label EMI. For their 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 No. 1, where it stayed for 12 weeks. In the 1990s, the song was re-recorded by the Swedish group Invaders and the Dutch group Danny and The Electro Strings. These singles were followed by other similarly successful original compositions. Apart from their own records, The Quests also played for other EMI artists on their recordings.
By this time, the band was also famous in the region. In 1964, the band went overseas for the first time, on a tour of Malaysia with the Maori Hi-Five. This was followed by tours to countries such as Brunei and the Philippines. Their appearances in some places caused near riots, and hysterical fans sometimes ripped the clothing off band members.
In 1965, Keith Locke joined the band as lead vocalist for a brief but productive period. Reggie Verghese left the band to concentrate on his studies, but was eventually persuaded to return. When Locke returned to the UK in 1966, the band invited Vernon Cornelius to replace him. The band then released the album Questing, the first stereo album by a Singapore band.
In 1967, Sam Toh, then of The Blackjacks, replaced Chua, who left the band to pursue his studies in engineering. 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. It was a successful stint but the hectic schedule took its toll, and Cornelius left the band in 1968 for health reasons.
After their return to Singapore in 1969, the band settled down to a regular stint at the Kelong Niteclub.
With a lineup that included only two original members, The Quests officially disbanded in 1970, and the band members pursued diverse paths. Jap Chong moved to Los Angeles. Reggie Verghese became a music producer with EMI, then set up a sound studio, Boogie Productions. Lim Wee Guan and Jimmy Chan continued working in the music business as session and lounge musicians. Vernon Cornelius had a varied career that included becoming a Rediffusion DJ and frontman for The Overheads. Henry Chua headed an engineering company, and wrote Call It Shanty: The Story of The Quests, to date the only book written on the band. The band reunited for charity concerts in 1982 and 1989, and in 1994 re-recorded a CD of their hits. They also appeared on Rolling Good Times, a popular 1990s television programme.
1964 : Shanty / Gallopin’
1965 : Tea Break / Pop Inn Theme
1965 : Memories / Come On And Shout
1965 : 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
1965 : The Quests
1966 : Keith Locke & The Quests
1967 : Go Go ReQuests
1968 : Instrumentally Yours
1969 : Four Hits
1970 : The Quests
1966 : Questing
1967 : 33RD Revolution
1968 : The Best Of The Quests
1970 : The Sound Of The Quests
Chua, Henry. (2001). Call it Shanty: The story of The Quests. Singapore: BigO Books.
(Call no.: RSING 781.66 CHU)
It's rought, 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 April 1, 2010, from NewspaperSG database.
Lee, S. (2001, September 19). Retro requests. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved April 1, 2010, from NewspaperSG database.
Low, J. (1970, October 24). Pop goes the band but the beat goes on. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved April 1, 2010, from NewspaperSG database.
Music scene alive and thriving since the '30s. (1996, February 6). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved April 1, 2010, from NewspaperSG database.
1965: Those were the days. (1990, July 6). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved April 1, 2010, from NewspaperSG database.
Pereira, Joseph C. (1999). Legends of the Golden Venus. Singapore: Times Editions.
(Call no.: RSING q781.64095957 PER)
Teo, Edmund. (1978, November 5). Unnoticed but still very much there. The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved April 1, 2010, from NewspaperSG database.
The Quests beat Beatles to reach top of Hit Parade. (1964, November 20). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved April 1, 2010, from NewspaperSG database.
Those were the days. (1986, March 14). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved April 1, 2010, from NewspaperSG database.
Cheong, Vernon. (2008). Singapore 60's Pop Music Hall of Fame. Retrieved April 1, 2010, from http://mocamborainbow.blogspot.com/
In quest of...The Quests [CD]. (1994). Singapore: PolyGram Records.
(Call no.: RSING 782.42164 QUE)
Pereira, Joseph C. (2007). Singapore Sixties. Retrieved April 1, 2010, from http://blogs.myspace.com/singaporesixtiesguru
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 2010 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.