Archie van der Ploeg


27th January 2002

The passing away of Archie van der Ploeg on Jan 10th, 2002 has added to the closing of an era in the history of South African pop music, for he was indeed a true pioneer of the recordings of the 60's era and his guitar work can be heard on just about every recording made at the time, because he was without doubt the first choice guitarist inmost studios until his departure, some years later, to firstly Cape Town and then to his beloved Namibia, where he lived, initially in Swakopmund and more recently, in Windhoek where he passed away.

I met Archie during our schooldays at Roosevelt High, although I mustadmit, neither of us were destined for great academic heights although one thing became obvious at a very early stage, this man was gifted and at age 17 he left school and started painting the most beautiful landscapes, using oils. His mother, affectionately known as Ma Van, sold these paintings (I don't think there is a farm in the Eastern Free State that doesn't boast a Van der Ploeg or two on their walls).

I spent many long days with Archie, watching him magically create thosemasterpieces and listening to pop music on the portable radio. Amazingly, he bought an acoustic guitar and one day he just started playing along with Elvis, Cliff and Gene Vincent songs and within a couple of months he was happily playing along with any song that came on the air and that describes just how talented he was... I alwayssaid that God was very kind to Arch, because he was outstandingly talented in two totally different directions, yet I can say without hesitation, that he was one of the most modest and unassuming guys I have ever known.

We played in many bands together, including the Giants and Little Archie and the Twisters. We collaborated with Archie Silansky and became the first rock band to play at the very posh Ciros Nightclub in downtown Johannesburg. We then moved to Archie's which he and MaVan opened in the basement of the old Chelsea hotel and it became the "in" place for many years. I guess you could say that's where I learnt to sing, with Archie on lead guitar, Barry White on rhythm guitar, Ricky van der Ploeg (aged 13) on bass and Tony van der Ploeg (aged 11) on drums. I think we replaced Tony with Bob Wishart because Tonywas under age and not allowed to play in a licensed establishment.

I left the band when Sylvia Bera joined them, but Archie continued to play on my recordings, including the Dream Merchants albums, and most of the others, until he left Johannesburg. I think Archie the painter was attracted to Namibia by the perfect landscapes and breathtaking sunsets. In fact, his paintings took on a totally different pastel shade feel, which was obviously heavily influenced by the desert,which he loved so much.

I was fortunate enough to see a lot of Archie in the last five years, due to the many times I toured with fellow artists: Gene Rockwell, Barbara Ray, Sally Vaughn, Jody Wayne,and Patricia Lewis. The two of us spent many hours reminiscing on the old days. Some years ago he was honoured by the Namibian Government who commissioned a painting to bepresented to Queen Elizabeth II of England, during her visit to thatcountry. He later received word from Buckingham Palace officials that the Queen considered his painting to be one of her favourites. When last I saw Archie a year or so ago, he was all fired up about the potential of starting an artist colony at the famous Spitskoppe, a dream which sadly, never materialised.

But of one thing you can be sure! On a quiet summer night, in the Namibian desert, if you listen carefully, you will hear the sounds of an acoustic guitar, drifting across the shifting, whispering sands and hopefully the worldwill one day come to realise what a truly great son Africa lost on January 10th, in the year 2002. Your guitar may be silent now, but your legacy will live on forever in the hearts and minds of the many people who were touched and moved by your magnificent and endless talent..... rest in peace my friend.

Billy Forrest


South Africa's Rock Legends

South Africa's Rock Classics