Sherbet (a.k.a. The Sherbs and Highway) was one of the most prominent and successful Australian rock bands of the 1970s. Their biggest singles were "Summer Love" (1975) and "Howzat" (1976), both reaching number one in Australia. "Howzat" was also a top 5 hit in the UK. Though the band's success in the U.S. was more limited, "Howzat" was a #61 hit in America, and under the name The Sherbs they also hit #61 in 1981 with the single "I Have The Skill". Throughout the 1970s, the group was managed by Roger Davies.
From 1970 until 1984 Sherbet scored 20 hit singles in their homeland (including two number ones) and released several platinum status albums. The single "Howzat" which was number one in 1976, also reached number four in the UK Singles Chart.
They were the first Australian band to reach $1M in record sales in Australia; the first Australian band to turn their merchandising into a huge industry; and they pioneered the concept of massive regional tours. In 1976, the book "Sherbet On Tour", by Christie Eliezer, sold 55,000 copies in its first week.
Sherbet were formed in Sydney in 1969 by guitarist Clive Shakespeare with members of his former band, Downtown Roll Band. Initially they started out as a soul band doing Motown covers and other soul and rock-based material. The band's first single was 1970's "Crimson Ships", a cover of a song by Badfinger; it featured original Sherbet vocalist Dennis Laughlin.
The band played a formative residency at Jonathon's Disco in Sydney during 1970, playing eight hours a night, four days a week for eight months, and it was during this period that they were spotted by their future manager, Roger Davies. Daryl Braithwaite joined during this period, initially as a second lead vocalist. Laughlin left the band a few months later and Braithwaite then became Sherbet's sole lead singer.
In 1971, Sherbet won Australia's prestigious national rock band contest the Hoadley's Battle of the Sounds, and they are notable as one of only two groups to win the competition (along with The Twilights) who went on to achieve major commercial success.
Sherbet signed to the Infinity Records label (a subsidiary of Festival Records) and in 1971 and 1972 scored their first hits with covers of Blue Mink's "Can You Feel It Baby?", Delaney and Bonnie's "Free The People" and Ted Mulry's "You're All Woman". Most of their early recordings were produced by Festival's house producer Richard Batchens, who also produced several hit albums and singles for Infinity's other major success, Richard Clapton. The band increased its profile with prestigious support slots on major tours by visiting international acts including Gary Glitter and The Jackson 5.
By early 1972, after much turnover, Sherbet's line-up had solidified to include lead vocalist Braithwaite, Shakespeare on guitar, bassist Tony Mitchell, keyboard player Garth Porter, and drummer Alan Sandow. As well, the band had evolved from a soul-based covers band into a pop/rock outfit that mostly relied on original material, although Sherbet would also continue to release the occasional cover tune throughout the 1970s (including Leiber and Stoller's "Hound Dog", The Beatles' "Nowhere Man" and Free's "Wishing Well".) However, from 1972 to 1976, Sherbet's chief songwriting team of Shakespeare and Porter were responsible for co-writing the lion's share of the band's music, which deftly combined British pop and American soul influences.
The band released their first album (Time Change...A Natural Progression) in 1972. The accompanying single "You've Got The Gun" (written by Shakespeare, Porter and Braithwaite) was Sherbet's first self-penned A-side, and charted at a respectable #27. The following year, the band hit the top 10 for the first time with the Shakespeare/Porter original "Cassandra". A string of hits followed in Australia, with Sherbet consistently releasing original Top 10 hits such as "Slipstream" (1974), "Silvery Moon" (1974) and the #1 hit "Summer Love" (1975). In fact a total of 12 Sherbet songs reached the Australian top 10, and the band became the darlings of Australia's teenyboppers and made regular appearances on the top TV pop show Countdown. Sherbet's albums also charted extremely well in their homeland: 1973's On With The Show peaked at #6, 1974's Slipstream reached #5, 1975's Life ... Is For Living was a #6 hit, and their first Greatest Hits compilation from 1975 became their first #1 album.
From 1974, lead singer Braithwaite also maintained an active solo career alongside Sherbet, with Sherbet members often playing on Braithwaite's solo singles.
Beginning in 1975, Sherbet's records were produced by Richard Lush who had begun his career in the UK as a trainee engineer at EMI's Abbey Rd Studios, where he helped to engineer a number of Beatles recordings including Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Porter also began to take an occasional lead vocal on Sherbet singles. His vocals can be heard on "Hollywood Dreaming" and "A Matter of Time".
Throughout this era, Sherbet toured Australia regularly and with remarkable thoroughness; they were one of the few bands to consistently commit to playing full-scale concerts in even the remotest regions of the country.
In January 1976, Shakespeare left Sherbet citing 'personal reasons'.The last song he played on before leaving the band was "Child's Play", a #5 hit in February.
Shakespeare was replaced at first by Gunther Gorman, but within weeks (and before any new recordings were made) Gorman left and was replaced by Harvey James. Around this same time, bassist Tony Mitchell stepped up to join Porter as Sherbet's new main songwriting team. The Porter/Mitchell duo was responsible for penning "Howzat" (1976), the band's only international hit, and a song which was inspired by the sport of cricket. The song's success lead to a massive international tour in 1976/77.
In fact, "Howzat" became a #1 hit in Australia, and a top ten hit throughout most of Europe, as well as South Africa, several Asian nations and parts of the Middle East -- but it failed to reach the American Top 40, stalling at #61 in Billboard's Hot 100. As well, while the Howzat album hit #1 in Australia, it failed to chart in the U.S. altogether.
Looking to become a truly international phenomenon, from 1977 Sherbet spent several years attempting to make an impact in the United States. Their 1977 album Photoplay was retitled Magazine for US release, and featured elaborate gatefold packaging. Though Photoplay and its lead single "Magazine Madonna" were successes in Australia (both reaching #3 on their respective charts), the retitled Magazine LP failed to chart in the U.S., as did the associated single.
With U.S. success proving elusive, the band's label RSO Records felt that the lightweight name "Sherbet" may have been hurting their chances. Accordingly, the band's final U.S.-recorded studio album from 1978 (the self-titled Sherbet) was issued in the States under the group name Highway and titled Highway 1. But despite the new group moniker, the Highway 1 record flopped in the U.S.
At the same time, the band's career in Australia started to go into somewhat of a decline. Though the Sherbet album peaked at #3, "Another Night On The Road" (1978) was Sherbet's final top 10 hit in Australia. The band's next single, "Beg, Steal or Borrow" missed the chart completely, and January 1979's "Angela" (from the soundtrack to the film Snapshot) only crawled to #85.
Their Australian success was on the wane, and whether as Sherbet or as Highway, the group had been unable to come up with a follow-up international hit to "Howzat". Seemingly frustrated by the sudden career turnaround, after issuing a final single in Australia as Highway ("Heart Get Ready", which flopped at #89), the band broke up in mid-1979.