Ziggy Zapata arrived in Australia from Europe with his family at the age of five years and settled in Melbourne, Victoria. Shortly afterwards, he began learning classical piano with well-known teacher Alice Wittenberg and studied his way through the formal examinations at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music. During his last year in high school, out of curiosity Ziggy borrowed a school friend's electric guitar. After only a few minutes he became so intrigued by it that he decided to learn to play this instrument.
Just out of high school and having literally no income, Ziggy took his meagre savings and from a pawnshop, he bought the only guitar he could afford, a very cheap and nasty second-hand instrument of unknown origin called a Super Twin. He also bought his first amplifier, an Australian made 40 watt Goldentone. Unexpectedly after only one month of intensive practice, Ziggy landed his first professional engagement.
Henry Ekselman, the son of Jacob Ekselman who owned a photographic studio and shop in the city where Ziggy was working, heard him playing and introduced him to well-known pianist Frank Appleton, who was forming a band to play at a nightclub in Fitzroy Street St Kilda called Birdland. Frank auditioned Ziggy and immediately offered him the position of guitarist in his band and thus Ziggy found himself playing every night in the heart of the vice and crime precinct of Melbourne.
Working in the same band with top-class musicians of the calibre of Frank Appleton, tenor saxophonist Norm Absolom, drummer Ellis Davis and having to back a variety of cabaret performers and dancers every night, Ziggy quickly found out what it meant to be a professional musician. It was an amazing and unforgettable experience for somebody who was still a teenager.
The money earned from his first professional musical job allowed Ziggy to buy a better instrument, so he acquired a beautiful brand new and very expensive 1966 American Rickenbacker 335 Fireglow guitar, one of the first examples of this legendary brand to come to Australia. In fact Ziggy's guitar was quite rare, as most Rickenbackers were made with cats-eye shaped sound holes, not the traditional f-shaped variety. This was the same brand of guitar that John Lennon of the Beatles played. At that time, Ziggy also purchased an American Fender Twin Reverb 100 watt guitar amplifier.
Now having professional playing experience, the most excellent equipment and hours spent practising every day to improve his technique, Ziggy was quickly noticed by many musicians who were amazed at his speed and dexterity. At the tender age of 18, Ziggy very quickly became one of the most sought-after guitarists in Victoria. He then decided to form his own small band and found some good young musicians and managed to get bookings in a number of hotels and clubs.
Running his own band, Ziggy found that he needed a good PA system and microphones so he purchased a second-hand Italian Meazzi Factotum PA system, which had a built-in tape echo effects unit. After using the Meazzi system for a while, Ziggy decided to go upmarket and bought brand new the renowned German Klemt Echolette S tape echo effects unit, matching M40 PA amplifier and Klemt LE4 speakers.
Eventually Ziggy formed a band called The Untouchables that played in many venues and ultimately ended up in a very high-class St Kilda nightclub called Maas Cabaret, which even had a hydraulic stage. This is where the saga of The Mystrys was born.
This was a very interesting and exciting period in Ziggy's life and deserves a section of its own. Please go to Main Menu on the left and then The Mystrys to browse through the various pages about this unique one-hit-wonder band from 1966.
Unfortunately just after The Mystrys broke up, Ziggy's Rickenbacker guitar was stolen. This was a major blow, which meant that he had to quickly buy another instrument. In a music shop in Melbourne, one of the most renowned jazz guitars ever made, a post-World War II model handmade Gibson ES-175 that was brand new but already ten years old had been stored and forgotten. Totally by chance, Ziggy discovered this treasure and bought it instantly. This fabulous, literally priceless and highly customised instrument has been Ziggy's constant companion since then, although these days Ziggy also enjoys playing on his beautiful Fender American Stratocaster guitar.
For the next few years Ziggy appeared in almost every entertainment establishment in Melbourne, working from one extreme of the music business to the other as a bandleader or taking positions in well-known groups. One moment he would be performing for the cream of high society in the best hotels, restaurants and theatres and then entertaining the most notorious heavily armed gangsters in the huge array of illegal sly grog nightclubs that were then operating every night all over that city.
Ziggy diversified his career by working as a session guitarist in many recording studios such as Festival, W&G and the renowned Bill Armstrong studios, recording album backings and advertising jingles. He also played in the orchestra at Her Majesty's Theatre, as well as spending one very amusing period wearing considerable amounts of makeup as a fake Maori in a New Zealand showband. Ziggy also appeared on a number of popular television shows, including The Graham Kennedy Show, The Bert Newton Show and The Don Lane Show.
Performing every night in such an immense variety of venues with many of Australia's finest musicians and unfortunately some of the very worst, those early times gave Ziggy a great deal of very valuable experience playing many different styles of music. He also formed his own bands, taking them to interesting engagements in a variety of Melbourne and Sydney venues, as well as some very enjoyable winter seasons at the popular Kooroora ski resort at Mount Buller.
In 1970, while playing at Melbourne's premier nightclub, Sergio's Rendezvous, Ziggy teamed up with top guitarist and musical arranger Joe Paparone and formed a concert duo called Joe and Ziggy, which became one of the most unusual and hottest shows in Australia. The duo constantly toured all over the country, performing as headliners in the most prestigious venues, as well as often being the main support act for many internationally renowned stars and appearing on many TV variety shows. Joe and Ziggy were booked solid for sell-out seasons all over Australia.
Increasing family commitments in Melbourne finally prevented Joe from continuing to travel, so the very successful partnership had to end. During the duo's final performing tour in Western Australia in late 1972, Ziggy decided to go it alone and devised his solo concert act, adopting Ziggy Zapata as his stage name at this time. His virtuosity allowed him to play complicated classical pieces such as the Sabre Dance, Mozart's Rondo Alla Turca, the famous Hungarian Czardas, excerpts from Bizet's opera Carmen and also popular selections including Fiddler On The Roof, Mexican Hat Dance and Zorba's Dance. Ziggy also performed in many diverse styles with rock and roll, romantic ballads, country and western and bluegrass in his repertoire as well as singing in many languages. Audiences were quite amazed to see Ziggy easily playing extremely difficult music on the electric guitar that was originally written for violin, banjo, trumpet and piano.
After a series of concert tours in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, in 1973 Ziggy decided to base himself in Sydney, where he became one of the most exciting and popular performers on the club circuit in NSW. As well as headlining his own shows, Ziggy featured as the main support artiste for international celebrities and household names including Howard Keel, Winifred Atwell, Diane Cilento, Max Bygraves, Johnny Ray, Al Martino and many others. He also travelled the world, performing on a variety of cruise ships for P&O, Sitmar, Minghua, CTC and Pacific Cruise Lines, even including TV's famous Love Boat, Pacific Princess. A major highlight of Ziggy's career was his series of performances at the prestigious Perth Concert Hall with acclaimed Goon Show star, the late Sir Harry Secombe. In fact Ziggy was invited to be Sir Harry's main support act in a number of major venues in NSW and Queensland.
Right through the 1980s, Ziggy also appeared as a feature artiste in many huge productions at the Bankstown Town Hall Theatre Restaurant, then the biggest and best venue of its type. Lavish shows such as Sydney Smiles-Bankstown Laughs, Copacabana and many others played to packed houses and Ziggy's lightning guitar technique and rousing vocals with much audience participation wowed the crowds every night.
After many years of performing his cabaret shows, Ziggy had a flash of inspiration to try something very different. In 1993 he wrote, produced and starred in his own comedy musical show called Viva Zapata, which had an extremely successful season in Sydney's prestigious Bankstown Town Hall Theatre Restaurant. With a cast of talented artistes, musicians and an outrageously funny script, the show gained excellent reviews and was considered to be one of the best and most amusing productions staged at that venue.
In fact the McDonald's restaurant chain became involved and ran a Viva Zapata promotion in conjunction with a special Mexican food menu. One unique and popular feature was that at every performance, a patron would win a Sydney scenic joyflight conducted by Ziggy, who was also a commercial pilot. Viva Zapata was modified to suit the club circuit and was presented as Mexican Madness for an extended season with tremendous accolades from every venue where it appeared until it was finally retired at the end of 2002.
Throughout this time, Ziggy continued to perform his shows and also played as a solo lounge performer, where his expertise on guitar created a very different sound to that of most other such entertainers, who relied on electronic backing tracks for their performances.
Ziggy enjoyed this work immensely and he developed an unusual finger-picking style using a plectrum and three steel guitar finger picks, so that he could play his guitar as if it were three instruments - lead, rhythm and bass guitar, all at the same time. Ziggy's audiences, especially other guitarists, were always amazed to see such a huge and full sound emanating from nothing more than one guitar and a drum machine.
Ziggy gained an excellent reputation for his solo music work and in 2007, he was honoured by his show business peers by winning the prestigious Australian Entertainment MO Award for One Man Performer Band. He was also a finalist nominee in the Instrumental or Vocal Instrumental Performer category.
Continuing to enjoy the recognition of his peers in the music industry, in 2008 Ziggy was a finalist in three MO Award categories - Instrumental Or Vocal Instrumental Performer, One Man Performer Band and Three Man Or More Performer Band. Ziggy was also nominated for an Australian Club Entertainment Award (ACE) in the category of Solo Guitar/Vocalist.
In 2009, Ziggy was again honoured by the show business industry by winning the MO Award for One Man Performer Band. He was also a finalist in two other MO Award categories - Instrumental Or Vocal Instrumental Performer for his concert and cabaret shows and Three Man Or More Performer Band for his group Flying High.
In 2010, Ziggy and his various shows were nominated as finalists in no less than five MO Awards categories.
From a very early age, Ziggy was fascinated by gadgets and electronics, so he started building crystal sets, valve radios and other electronic projects. From this grew a passionate involvement in radio communications, where from 1963 Ziggy started experimenting with transmitters and Citizens Band equipment. Due to Ziggy's performing commitments, his electronics hobby had to be put to one side, but after he settled in Sydney in 1973, he rekindled his interest in this fascinating pastime. In 1978 Ziggy became one of the first licensed UHF Citizens Band radio operators in Sydney and acquired a broad range of skills and techniques, as well as making many new friends with the same interests.
At the same time, Ziggy decided to teach himself advanced radio communications theory and high speed Morse Code. Shortly afterwards he passed the formal exams that earned him the top class Amateur Operator Certificate of Proficiency and he was issued his Advanced Amateur Radio Operator licence. Ziggy does not have much time for his radio interest these days but is occasionally active, generally on the Two Metre Amateur band.
Having been deeply involved since childhood in electronics and radio communications, computers were an irresistible attraction for Ziggy. When home computers became an affordable reality in the late 1970s, Ziggy realised their immense potential and decided to learn as much as possible about these fascinating devices. Quickly mastering the intricacies of computer hardware and software, he utilised their power for his business activities and also for communicating with people all over the world via bulletin boards and Amateur Radio packet networks. Ziggy's continued interest grew into a computer and information technology consultancy.
These days Ziggy uses his IT skills supplying, setting up, repairing and upgrading computer equipment to a range of diverse clients. He uses his own computer network primarily for business and also for MIDI music development, composition and arrangements, Internet operations, website development, amateur radio digital mode communications and always enjoys expanding his knowledge of this ever-developing technology.
Ever since he saw his first aeroplane as a small boy, Ziggy always had a burning ambition to be a pilot. Unfortunately a minor eyesight problem developed when he was a teenager that prevented him from taking up a professional flying career at that time, as well as the heavy commitment to his musical work. However, still intent on fulfilling his childhood dream, in the mid-1980s Ziggy commenced flying training at Camden Airport, southwest of Sydney.
In a very short space of time, Ziggy earned his Private Pilot Licence with the Night Flying and other ratings and one of his proudest moments was attending the ceremony where he was awarded his pilot's wings. Shortly afterwards he qualified for the Multi-Engine Rating and the very difficult and coveted Multi-Engine Command Instrument Rating.
Also at that time, Ziggy also achieved a remarkable feat by scoring a perfect 100% in the Gas Turbine examination by completing the two-hour test in ten minutes flat, to the complete astonishment of the examiner, TAFE aviation theory teacher and renowned flying instructor Pat Watson, who had only received delivery of the individually sealed test papers from Canberra a few minutes before the start of the examination. Pat marked Ziggy's paper on the spot and announced the result to the roomful of astounded candidates as they were all literally just starting their own papers.
Ziggy continued to gain more flying experience and then took the flight test for the Commercial Pilot Licence, but with a difference. Instead of flying in a single-engined aircraft, Ziggy opted to undergo the test in a far more complex twin engined Beechcraft Duchess. He was successful and his professional flying career literally took off from that day. Ziggy operated a joyflight and commercial charter service from Bankstown Airport for many years.
Unfortunately, due to some long-term increasing health problems, very regretfully in early 2012, Ziggy was forced to hang up his wings and retired from the aviation industry on medical grounds.
Ziggy is an avid reader and his favourite relaxation is to curl up with a good book. He also enjoys solving cryptic crosswords and other mind-bending puzzles. Travel has always been a big part of Ziggy's life because of his music and aviation careers, but he is always thrilled to explore new places and languages and sample exotic food. Being so busy, Ziggy's sporting activities have had to take a back seat in recent years, however he is a most proficient ice skater.
Ziggy Zapata lives in a beautiful residential suburb of Sydney in this fabulous house built by him and keeps very busy with many diverse interests. As well as performing his concerts and production shows, he plays as a solo musician and with his various bands. Ziggy also runs an entertainment agency, booking top-class artistes and shows for clubs, hotels and corporate events. He also offers his decades of computer experience as an IT consultant.
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