Monday, April 7, 2014

Rock 'n' Roll George

Here in Australia we don't celebrate eccentrics the way some other cultures do, but occasionally there comes along one who is too hard to ignore. One like Rock 'n' Roll George, a bodgie from Brisbane's fifties who was still around being a bodgie decades later. Driving his venerable FX Holden around Brisbane's CBD each weekend, Rock 'n' Roll George became a Brisbane identity. Brisbane may have changed over that time - growing from a country town to a modern city - but Rock 'n' Roll George stayed the same, representing the styles and mores of an earlier era.

George Kiprios, who lived his whole life in the inner-south suburb of West End, became a legend in his own lifetime. As the fifties matured into the sixties and beyond, George continued to do what he always did. Dressed in his stovepipe jeans and winklepickers, and with his hair Brylcreemed into a flat-top, George would start up the car his mother bought for him in 1952, turn the radio on to a rock 'n' roll station - loud - and cruise the city blocks. Here are a couple of photographs of his car, parked in Queen St near Lennons Hotel circa 1980. 
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #27286-0001-0004)

This one has George himself in a familiar pose in front of his car, with the home-made rock 'n' roll plates given to him by friends visible on the front bumper.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #27286-0001-0001)

As with all legends, the truth about George was difficult to separate from the myths. One story has him cruising round and round city streets searching for a girl he once saw leaving a coffee shop in the hope of somehow finding her again. Some people say that he was always up for a chat about cars or sport, while other reports describe him as taciturn and shy.

George never married, forever remaining the teenager driving his car up and down Main St Anytown to show off to mates or to pull a bird. No matter that he aged and that the FX Holden aged; the clothes, the haircut and the music took people back to the fifties in Brisbane, a more carefree time when you didn't need to lock your doors when you left the house. Here is a colour photo of George from the early eighties.
(Photo:; David May)

George Kiprios died in November 2009 at the age of 82. The advent of the Queen St Mall in 1982 had put an end to George's city circuits but did not stop the legend.

Rock 'n' roll George lives on in the memories of many. A book has been written about him and is on sale at the Queensland Museum. Like royalty, his car is lying in state at the museum until June this year.
(Photo: © 2014 the foto fanatic)

He even has his own Facebook page - scroll down the page a bit and you'll find a video that is a musical tribute to Rock 'n' Roll George, also containing what is believed to be his only television interview. 


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