Written by Richard Lancaster
Author of three religious’ novels, Les Barnett notes that ‘none of them have been best sellers’. We were chatting about the vagaries of life and subsequent tricks it sometimes plays on us.
“I am an Asperger’s Syndrome sufferer and have had difficulty in the past with spelling and social interaction. So, for me to write a book, let alone three, was way beyond any of my school teacher's expectations of me” he says, smiling, having conquered his spelling issues with computer spell check.
Overcoming his social skills however was something else! After an indifferent academic start, at the age of thirteen he sold newspapers near Melbourne’s Flinders Street Station and through this experience overcame his shyness. “At 5 o’clock, huge crowds of people descended on me for their daily paper. I soon learned to overcome my social interaction fear”, he remembers.
Music played an important role in his life, learning how to play a variety of instruments including the guitar, mouth-organ and xylophone, igniting a desire to become a ‘one man band’. Eventually he designed and built his first multi-instrument music machine. Along his journey in life, he met Brian Cadd, who together with Don Mudie, composed the 1971 hit song ‘Marshall’s Portable Music Machine’, which singer Robin Jolley, successfully recorded and released on the Fable label. Whilst modestly not claiming the originality for the Cadd/Mudie composition, Les and his multi-instrument machine were thereafter known as ‘Marshall’s Music Machine’.
As his fame spread, he appeared on popular TV shows such as ‘The Mike Walsh Show’ and Graham Kennedy’s ‘In Melbourne Tonight’. He rubbed shoulders with many Australian entertainment icons and performed with stars of the 70’s such as John Farnham, Ross D Wylie, Smokie Dawson, Colleen Hewitt, Daryl Summers and Ossie Ostrich.
Working the Sydney and Melbourne club circuits and an Opera House performance with Eartha Kitt further enhanced his profile. When the circuits ended, he dismantled his music machine creating a musical robot. He then commenced providing hours of entertainment at schools where he gained another legion of fans.
Now, in his early seventies, Les Barnett as `The Marshall’ is modestly content to entertain with his guitar at retirement villages and nursing homes. “I have a big one coming up. It’s a `White Christmas in July’ event at Bribie’s GemLife Retirement Village”, he said as he reflected on his 50th year of entertainment.
Les Barnett can be contacted on 0481 369704 or email email@example.com