Frederick Colin Petersen (born 24 March 1946) is an Australian drummer, record producer and former child actor. He played as a member of the Bee Gees from their move to Britain in 1967 until 1969. Prior to this he played with Steve and the Board and latterly drummed for the short-lived folk-rock outfit Humpy Bong.
In late 1955, he starred in the film Smiley (released in 1956), with Ralph Richardson, but by 1958 he was forced to give up acting as his mother felt it was interfering with his education. Other film credits included The Scamp (1957), A Cry from the Streets (1958) and, much later, Barney (1976). In 1958, before his mother took him back to Australia, he was screen tested for the part of the young hero in Tiger Bay, but the part eventually went to the then 12 years old Hayley Mills instead, the part being rewritten for a girl. He attended the Humpybong State School at the same time that Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb did. Petersen was in Barry's class, though they seldom crossed paths in any significant way. While at school he developed an interest in music, starting out on piano but switching to drums. (He had, however, already shown himself to be a talented drums player in the film The Scamp (1957)). After leaving school he played with several bands including Steve and the Board, and became acquainted with Maurice Gibb, who invited him to sit in on one of the Bee Gees' sessions in Sydney. He ended up becoming friends with the family and ultimately played on as many as a dozen of the Bee Gees' early Australian sides.
1967–69: the Bee Gees
Petersen moved to England in 1966, little knowing that the Bee Gees would soon be doing the same. They recruited him as their permanent drummer shortly afterwards – the first non-Gibb brother to become an official member of the Bee Gees. He played on the albums Bee Gees 1st, Horizontal, Idea, Odessa, and Cucumber Castle. He was an equal partner in the group from early in their period in the UK, and the Gibb brothers regarded his playing as essential to their sound. He and the band's lead guitarist Vince Melouney, who had also moved to the UK, from Australia, had some trouble when, in the late summer of 1967, they were threatened with deportation because of an error in the way they had secured their visas. That problem was solved only by the intervention of the group's manager, Robert Stigwood, who mounted a publicity campaign that embarrassed the government into permitting them to remain in the UK. While he was a Bee Gee, he and Maurice Gibb wrote "Everything That Came From Mother Goose" with lead vocals and guitar by Colin, but it was not released. He also played drums on The Marbles' hit Only One Woman, penned by Barry and Robin Gibb.
As Petersen learned about the music industry, he raised questions about Stigwood's conflict of interest as the Bee Gees' manager, since Stigwood owned their recordings and publishing and was in effect their employer. According to Petersen this led to him being fired in August 1969, while the group were making a television film of Cucumber Castle. Petersen had already recorded the songs used in the film, which make up part of the album, but he is not credited on the sleeve. Pentangle drummer Terry Cox was brought in to complete the remainder of the drum tracks, but it is not really clear which tracks have Petersen or Cox on drums.
Vince Melouney and Robin Gibb had already left the band by then, leaving just Barry and Maurice Gibb along with Petersen. He was fired, allegedly for having lost interest in the group and missing recording sessions, and for his refusal to do any acting in the film, despite his experience in front of the cameras.
As a partner in the group, however, he could not be summarily fired as though he were an employee. The result was a series of lawsuits in which, at one point – as a ploy to get a quicker settlement from Stigwood – he attempted to block the Bee Gees from using that name, since it was jointly owned by the partners, and he alleged that he had been illegally deprived of his share in the partnership. Petersen remained on good terms with the brothers, especially Robin Gibb, after his initial exit. He and Vince Melouney attended a Bee Gees concert in 1989 but he broke off relations with the group when they failed to pay him some overdue royalties.
1969–70: Humpy Bong
The first musician he worked with after leaving the Bee Gees was Irish singer/songwriter/guitarist Jonathan Kelly. Petersen produced some of his early solo singles, and in 1970 the two decided to form a band together. It was called, Humpy Bong, a two-word variation of the name of the school that Petersen and the Gibb brothers attended in Australia. The line-up was completed with the addition of singer/bassist Tim Staffell who had previously played with Brian May and Roger Taylor in the pre-Queen trio Smile. The trio recorded two singles but before the end of 1970 they broke up without having played any concerts.
Petersen managed Jonathan Kelly as a solo artist during the early 1970s, subsequent to Humpy Bong disbanding. He returned to Australia in 1974 where, having lost his rights to royalties after his court case against the Bee Gees, eventually became a painter residing in Sydney. He remained close to Melouney, but became bitter towards his other ex-bandmates about his lost royalties.[
Petersen was required to register for National Service and was called up on 11 March 1966, but he was found medically unfit to serve in the army. [National Archives of Australia – Series J1687]
Petersen described the contrasting dispositions of the Gibb brothers as follows:
On 1 June 1968, Petersen married Joanne Newfield in Nassau, Bahamas, with fellow Bee Gees member Vince Melouney as the best man. Joanne had worked as a personal assistant to Brian Epstein up until his death, and then for Robert Stigwood. In 1969, Petersen and his wife began a management company.