The Hitmen were brash, bombastic and derivative. They were also victims of their status as the first in a long line of Australian underground bands of the late ’70s to cross the battlelines and take their rock and roll campaign to the suburbs. The Hitmen peddled a broad mix of metallic pop, flamethrower Detroit rock and re-vamped ’60s standards, as well as their own wide range of originals.
With their roots in the groundbreaking Radio Birdman, the Hitmen sought overground success and clearly influenced dozens of bands that followed in their wake.
That their status as one of the Australia’s hardest-working bands never translated to huge record sales probably came down to the fact that the major labels that courted, and signed, the band had no idea what to do with them.
But the thousands of fans whose ears they opened to new sounds did – and voted with their feet by packing venues the length and breadth of Australia.
from The Hitmen Story
The Hitmen were originally an outgrowth of Radio Birdman, with most of its membership passing through the ranks of what was originally a party band.Their all-enduring member was frontman Johnny Kannis, whose Greek-Australian lineage didn’t preclude him from being a descendant of the Dictators’ Handsome Dick Manitoba and Elvis Presley. He leaned his stagecraft as Radio Birdman’s Master of Ceremonies and one-half of their back-up singers The Glutonics. The other constant in all but one post-Birdman Hitmen line-up was Chris “Klondike” Masuak, a Canadian-born teenage schoolmate of Kannis and close spiritual guitar kin of James Williamson and Ross the Boss.
Johnny and The Hitmen became The Hitmen soon after Birdman collapsed in on itself, reaching well beyond the radiitonal inner-Sydney haunts and staking a claim for the hearts, minds and dancing shoes of suburbia. With high-energy music breaking out all over Australia, The Hitmen became big business, signing to a major label and becoming part of “the industry”. Just the sort of behaviour to burn bridges with fickle inner-city fair-weather friends.Carrying themselves with a swagger born of near fanatical self-belief and arrogantly brushing aside any detractor or musical pretenders deemed to be not up to the mark, The Hitmen were impossible to ignore.
Shifting line-ups and a music business that didn’t know what to do with their derivative but always entertaining stock-in-trade meant The Hitmen never quite broke through to the big time. They were a band that packed ’em in live but their albums (“The Hitmen”, “It Is What It Is” and “Moronic Inferno” in the studio, “Tora Tora DTK” live) never did the proportionate numbers in sales. Nevertheless, scores of beer and testosterone-fuelled Aussie youths grew up with the hard rock soundtrack that The Hitmen provided ringing in their ears, and discovered some fine music in the deal.
A near fatal car accident in 1983 all but buried Johnny Kannis and the band in the process, but for more than a decade, off-and-on, The Hitmen carried a torch for hi-energy fun. Kannis’ injuries hampered his on-stage activities to the extent that he mostly moved into band management. A farewell tour and the occasional re-emergence (with the appendage “DTK” to the band name, to avoid an overseas copyright clash) kept things simmering into the mid-’90s, when Kannis’ move interstate took the wind out of the sails. Rumblings of a reunion tour have been constant.
- Peter Banesevic – Guitar
- Clyde Bramley – Bass 1978
- Alan Brown – Drums – 1978
- Charlie Georges – Guitar 1977-78
- Warwick Gilbert – Bass, Guitar 1977, 1978-81
- Steve Harris – Keys, Guitar 1978
- Ivor Hay -Drums – 1978-79
- Richard Jakimyszyn – Guitar, Vocals 1984
- Johnny Kannis – Vocals
- Ron Keely – Drums 1977
- Mark Kingsmill – Drums 1979-84
- Chris Masuak – Guitar
- Angie Pepper – Vocals 1977-78
- Geoff Peterkin – Drums 1979
- Lynne Phillips – Vocals 1978
- Tony Robertson – Bass 1982-84
- Brad Shepherd – Guitar 1981-82
- Phil Somerville – Bass 1978-79
- Tony Vidale – Guitar 1979-81
- Tony Jukic – Guitar
- Tony Harper – Guitar
- Michael Couvret – Drums
- Murray Shepard – Drums
- Gerard Presland – Drums
- Shane Cooke – Bass
- Matt Lenoray – Guitar
- Bob Sattler – Guitar
- Didn’t Tell The Man – 1979
- I Want You – 1980
- I Don’t Mind – 1981
- Bwana devil – 1982
- Everybody Knows – 1982
- The Hitmen – 1981
- It Is What It Is – 1982
- Tora Tora DTK – 1982
- Compilation 1978-82 – 1988
Actually, as far as I know, the last time the Hitmen played in the late 80’s the lineup was Kannis, Tony Jukic and Tony Harper on Guitars, Ivor Hay on Drums and Michael Couvret (yes, me) on Drums. Didn’t feel like the real thing to me either, but it WAS called The Hitmen.
Good mate of mine Noel McGuinness was in Voodoo Lust, a Brissie band who used to hire their light rig from one young Brad Shepard. Noel states he was approached to be a guitarist for the Hitmen but didn’t want to tour as he had just had his first child. Brad took it up and the rest is history.
Hitmen DTK played a few gigs in 2018 at the Leadbelly Newtown & The Captain Cook Hotel in Moore Park. John Kannis is preparing a post-covid tour for possibly 2021/22.
Saw the hitmen countless times late 70’s early 80’s all over Sydney.great live band always good value.one of my favourite live bands
Quite a few omissions in the lineups during the nineties
Gerard Presland ( moronic inferno 91-94)
Shane cooke ( moronic inferno)
Would be good for all of these soldier to be remembered for their service in battle
Thanks Gerard, much appreciated.