Goodbye Bill Putt (1947 – 2013)

Bill Putt, bass player with Spectrum, Indelible Murtceps and Ariel, died on 7 August of a heart attack. A gentle giant, with a distinctive walrus moustache, Bill Putt  will be forever linked with the song I’ll be Gone, Spectrum’s number one 1971 hit, written by Bill’s long-time friend Mike Rudd.

“The friendship kind of evolved over a marathon period,” said Mike when I interviewed he and Bill over cups of herbal tea at Mike’s kitchen table back in 2001. “I’m sure that as musical relationships go, it’s fairly long and unusual. And as friendships go, I’m sure it’s much the same.

“I first met Bill when he turned up with drummer Mark Kennedy at my place, which was an attic. I think they were both working as gardeners. He came along to a rehearsal a few weeks later. I decided that playing bass wasn’t going to suit me, so we swapped. I gave him my jazz-bass and I took over guitar duties.”

Bill remembered that he was playing guitar for The Lost Souls before he met Mike Rudd. “I was playing guitar badly and was absolutely nailed to the wall when I first heard a tape of Mike’s music in 1969. It was the most powerful music I’d ever heard. I thought back then, ‘I’d play any instrument to play Mike’s music’. There was a magic there as soon as we met.

“I’d met a few New Zealanders before meeting Michael and they were weird cats. He was very introverted and was called Mumbles for a little while. He was a whacko kind of guy and I like those kind of people.”

When not playing or touring together Mike and Bill loved watching sport, especially rugby, on television and practising martial arts.  “If we could, we’d probably just stay inside and watch sport all day,” said Bill, who worked many part-time jobs and also became a clinical/therapeutic masseur.

Bill introduced Mike to martial arts. “Very early on we decided to never actually spar with each other. I’d be very sour if I happened to hurt Mike.”

Life in a band can be tough and the pair had their share of disagreements. “You lick your wounds and keep going,” said Bill. “Through all the bands, the friendship is continuous. We have an over-riding thing that we’re allies – we’re on the same side. When things are going well we laugh a lot. When they’re not we still sit around Michael’s kitchen table and drink tea, but we don’t laugh so much.”

“Quite often,” said Mike, “we drive long distances without saying a word. We don’t really need to say a lot these days but we have a similar viewpoint on the world in many respects – just observing our fellow man. Bill’s loyalty is unbelievable, through thick and thin.

“Bill’s got an extraordinarily evasive sense of humour. He does a lot of house-sitting stints and he gets great joy in leaving notes for people he’s been house-sitting for. They’ll discover these notes months afterwards.”

Bill Putt survived the 2009 bushfires of Black Saturday and later played benefit gigs in the devastated towns. He died while chopping wood. Goodbye Bill Putt.

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About Vin Maskell

Founder and editor of Stereo Stories, a partner site of The Footy Almanac. Likes a gentle kick of the footy on a Sunday morning, when his back's not playing up. Been known to take a more than keen interest in scoreboards - the older the better.


  1. Thanks for this piece Vin. I loved “I’ll be Gone”. And Spectrum. Great interview you did.

  2. Great obit, Vin. I loved Spectrum and their alter ego Incredible Murtceps. I remember the cover of their “Garden of the Frenzied Cortinas” album. A picture of Bill and Mike in overalls on the Ford production line in Geelong. Funny how all these things came to an end at the same time along with Harms offspring and Cats premierships.

  3. Rocket Nguyen says

    Just loved Ariel too.

    Shame Bill Putt has gone…
    but he and Mike Rudd provided a lot of joy to their fans over the years.

  4. Rhonda Versteege says

    Sad to hear that Bill Putt passed away, many happy memories back in the 60’s when playing with the Lost Souls, his music will live forever.

  5. Great memories… they were regulars on the Adelaide Uni lawn under various guises in the late 70s.

  6. Farewell Bill, great memories of a great night.

  7. Goodbye Bill.

  8. it was only a few weeks back we saw the band at st. Andrews pub. what a sound they had, it is very sad that Bill has been taken. but he has left us with a lot of memories.

  9. Mitchharmsieknowsme says

    Spectrum, Chain, Leo de Castro and Friends and Mackenzie Theory, Sid Rumpo and Crossfire were, and still are my all time favourite Oz Bands. Dutch Tilders was my solo favourite. Saw Spectrum/Indelible Murtceps many times and pleasingly saw Spectrum at Byron a few years back. Big Bill was a favourite because he played bass which I kindofhadacrackat!! Thanks big fella!! I’ll be gone is great, but there is such a fine body of work to consider – grab the Milesago double album (a big initiative for an Aussie band at the time), or Spectrum Part 1. Two great Australian prog rock albums.

  10. Ian Hauser says

    Much saddened by this news. I recall seeing Spectrum and Daddy Cool play at the refectory at Flinders Uni one night in the early 70s – went for well over two and a half hours, price $1!!!! Brilliant show in their contrasting ways. Ariel’s “Strange Fantastic Dream” album one of the all-time Aussie greats. And yes, Peter_B, that cover of Bill and Mike for “Garden of the frenzied cortinas” was sensational. RIP, Bill.

  11. Lyn Gladman says

    Oh Bill, so sad the hear you have gone… What wonderful times I had working with you at BFD clinic in Kew. We had wonderful conversations and lots of laughter.
    You helped me through some tough times. I can still remember how you used to call be ‘curly and beacon in the night’
    RIP Bill

  12. Saw Bill play @ The Lomond a few years ago. For those Aerial fans out there, Glyn Mason, with a few other veterans of the Rock’n’Roll scene, occasionally plays at the Royal Oak in North Fitzroy,


  13. RIP Bill Putt
    Thanks for the great chats at the Green Lantern. We always love seeing you and Mike play at the Lantern & gigs around Melbourne.
    Kaz & Mia

  14. Steve Ramsay says

    Lovely sentiment for one of the best human beings i’ve known. Bill,Mike ,Robbo and Daz have been making great music as Spectrum for the past decade and more. Bill, was much more than a bass player. He played acoustic, slide and nylon stringed guitars. He co-wrote many great songs with Mike. Spectrum play as either a four piece,three piece,duo or Mike solo. All of these configurations are brilliant. Checkout their website for gigs, history and Mikes forthright comments on all things musical ,but more particularly his Seinfeld observations on life.

    Love ya Bill…..Steve Sarah and James.

  15. Anthony Thomas says

    My heart is going out to Bill’s family he is a loss a big loss to Australian music you have simpathy.
    Love the Thomas family

  16. David Angee says

    Bill we got together again after 30 years last year, sadly we did not have a enough time to really get to know each other in such a short time,love to all family from cousin David.

  17. simon french says

    As a young kid, I considered Bill (a) the ultimate example of bass player cool and (b) a wonderful, unassuming bedrock to the sound of Spectrum. Fast forward many years, and my wife and I are at a lunchtime gig at Basement Discs, Melbourne. As a Melbourne gal, my wife had been to numerous concerts back in the day (TF Much Ballroom, The Reefer Cabaret, etc – and working as Hugh McSpedden’s lighting assistant!), but this was my very first actual Spectrum gig. We were there with our darling adopted son, a mere 3 months after bringing him home from China. After the gig, Bill approached me – we chatted about music and the place of Spectrum in my musical life. But he also put some time into talking with my small boy, and was nothing but charming and funny (& a little bit smitten, I think!). What a lovely man he was – I was so thrilled to meet him, and so appreciative of the bond he briefly formed with my little man. RIP Bill.

  18. That’s a good, illustrative anecdote, Simon. Bill Putt was the genuine article.

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