The Hitmen were brash, bombastic and inventive. They were also victims of their status as the first in a long line of Australian underground bands of the late ‘70s to cross the
battlelines and take their rock and roll campaign to the suburbs. The Hitmen peddled a broad mix of metallic pop, flamethrower Detroit rock and re-vamped ‘60s standards, as
well as their own wide range of originals. With their roots in the ground breaking Radio Birdman, the Hitmen sought overground success and clearly influenced dozens of bands
that followed in their wake.

That their status as one of the Australia’s hardest-working bands never translated to huge record sales probably came down to the fact that the major labels that courted, and
signed the band had no idea what to do with them. But the thousands of fans whose ears they opened to new sounds did - and voted with their feet by packing venues the
length and breadth of Australia.


Johnny and the Hitmen
The Hitmen began life as Johnny and the Hitmen, a part-time, party band led by Radio Birdman Master of Ceremonies and Glutonics backing singer Johnny Kannis in 1977. The
ranks were populated by a shifting cast of Birdman members and friends. Three tracks were recorded under the Johnny Kannis name with Birdman as the backing band, minus
Deniz Tek who was producing, and with the addition of Hellcats guitarist Charlie Georgees. “King of the Surf” and “Under the Boardwalk” surfaced on the RCA label, with the
former and a cover of the Seeds’ “Pushin’ Too Hard” surfacing on Dog Meat years later.

THINGS GET SERIOUS In 1978 when Birdman member Chris Masuak returned from Radio Birdman’s fatal European tour, he joined Kannis in a new, more stable Hitmen outfit.
Gigs and demos followed with a long line of players passing through the ranks. Ex-Birdman bassist Warwick Gilbert signed on as a guitarist in late ’78. A concerted move to
play the ‘burbs resulted in many Birdman fans
looking elsewhere for their kicks.



By March 1979, WEA had signed the band and in July the Hitmen issued their first single, the guitar-pop classic “Didn’t Tell the Man” b/w “I Am the Man”, with a live line-up of
Kannis (voc), Masuak (gtr), Gilbert (bass), Mark Kingsmill (drums) and Tony Vidale (gtr). Ron Keeley (ex-Radio Birdman) played on the single after Ivor Hay quit. “I Want You”
b/w “Telltale Heart” was the next single and in December 1980, the band went into the studio with hotshot producer Mark Optiz (Cold Chisel). It hit the racks in July 1981, hot
on the heels of a single (“I Don’t Mind” b/w “Rock and Roll Soldiers”) by which time Vidale had quit, shooting through midway through recording. He was replaced by future
Hoodoo Gurus guitarist Brad Shepherd (ex-Fun Things). Cue lots of serious touring. The album sold moderately well but the band was one of the best live drawcards in the
land…


Pay Up or Shut Up
A national tour supporting a reformed Steppenwolf took up the balance of 1981. Warwick Gilbert parted ways with the band to concentrate on his animation career, being
replaced by Brisbane’s Tony Robertson. The Hitmen split with WEA in early ’82 and was snapped up by RCA, who wasted no time putting them in the studio with former
Birdman producer Charles Fisher. The result was an overtly commercial single, “Everybody Knows (I Don’t Like Love)” b/w “Dancin’ Time”.


Work began on album number two with RCA making a fatal mistake, imposing Mental as Anything producers Bruce Brown and Russell Dunlop on the band. “It Is What It Is”
was the result and it was released in November 1982. The songs were good and a single “Bwana Devil” b/w “I Didn’t Want to Love You” was released. (A Masuak 1990 re-mix
on Rattlesnake leaves this album for dead). Brad Shepherd’s departure to become a Guru left the Hitmen as a four-piece, with Kannis taking up guitar. The band stood at the
crossroads, debating the wisdom of a relocation to Canada from where they could assault the US market.

Do The Pop
The announcement of the first Iggy Pop tour of Australia in ’83 changed everything. Ex-Radio Birdman singer Rob Younger was asked to play the support spot. That translated
to an offer to three-quarters of the Hitmen (plus Celibate Rifle Kent Steedman) to join Younger in the first live line-up of the New Christs. Irony: Iggy was due to tour Australia
in 1977 with Birdman supporting, only to cancel when tickets failed to sell in the required numbers. Kannis simultaneously put together a soul band, Johnny Kannis and the
Night Train, while the rest of the Hitmen were on the road. A car accident on the way to a Night Train show put Kannis in hospital with critical injuries from which he took a year
to recover.The New Christs continued after the Iggy tour.

Kannis and Masuak decided to put the lid on the Hitmen in early 1984, undertaking a brief farewell tour when the singer was sufficiently well. The resulting live album “Tora Tora
Tora DTK” was a good representation of the band. The Hitmen did reform again, briefly, in ’85 to promote its release. Members continued with other bands. Masuak became a
long term member of the Screaming Tribesmen (Robertson and Kingsmill passed through) who worked with Kannis as management. Kannis also played with the Johnny Kannis
Explosion, a good-time rock and roll band with a set that drew heavily on the Hitmen.

U.E.LA. The dissolution of the Tribesmen after a US tour prompted Masuak and Kannis to re-constitute the Hitmen with new players, this time under the name “Hitmen DTK” to
avoid clashing with a US band. Gye Bennetts (drums), Matt Le Noury (guitar) and Brad Ferguson (bass) completed the ranks. An EP “UELA” (Utopian Emotional Love Aura) was
a return to the record racks but by the turn of the decade, the line-up was no more.

Surfing In A Different Direction
A new Hitmen DTK line-up travelled to Houston, Texas USA to record what would be the “Moronic Inferno” album, with ex-Birdman mixer Mort Bradley at the controls and the
same band’s guitarist, Deniz Tek, guesting. (The recording sessions marked a return from premature retirement for Tek, then living in the USA and not playing much music).
The album was a strong slice of pop-orientated rock and
roll with some of the songs dating from the Hitmen’s earliest days. It was issued in November 1991 with a four track CD single “Surfing in Another Direction” accompanying it.
The band – with Tek guesting – played out in Australia in late ’91 to promote it. The Hitmen then went on to support Dark Carnival (featuring ex-Stooges guitarist Ron
Asheton and Detroit's Queen, Niagara on Vocals) on their
Australian tour in December. The band folded soon after, Kannis moving to Queensland to promote music and Masuak going on to the bluesy Juke Savages, a career in natural
healing and, eventually, a re- formed Radio Birdman and his own Klondike’s North 40.

Undeniably spirited, the Hitmen left a lasting mark. Too rockin’ to be pop, and too hooky for the metal-heads, they similarly confounded record company marketing
departments but delighted a generation of gig goers all over Australia. Since then, there have been threatened Hitmen re formations, all to no avail – UNTIL NOW!!!!!!

Divine Providence
Call it what you like, but there’s no doubt that history, good fortune and destiny have conspired to deliver the cleanest, most pre-determined HITMEN line-up since 1981.
Drawing together ONLY members with previous service to the HITMEN, (or bands with only one degree of separation), these five men have truly earned their Rock 'n' Roll
commissions. •Johnny Kannis, Chris Masuak & Tony
Robertson all return as original soldiers. •Tony Jukic is re-called to active service from The Johnny Kannis Explosion. •Muzz Shepherd, chief Tribesman and brother of original
member Brad (currently serving in another war), now proud to serve in his stead. NOT a loose collection of reformed musicians!! Rather, a genetically spliced SupaHuman,
featuring both original and family DNA. This is
truly the Next Generation of THE HITMEN.


The Creature is Re-Born!!

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Craig Regan i94 Bar. Some dates were checked with various publications, Peter Wise’s excellent retrospective in Ian McFarlane’s Prehistoric Sounds (Vol 1 Issue 3) being most prominent. (and MUZZ!!!)
The Hitmen were brash, bombastic and inventive. They were one of the first in a long line of underground bands of the early & 80's to cross the battle-lines and take
their rock and roll campaign to the suburbs. The Hitmen peddled a broad mix of metallic pop, flamethrower Detroit rock and re- vamped '60s standards, as well as their
own wide range of originals. With their roots in the ground breaking Radio Birdman, the Hitmen sought overground success and clearly influenced dozens of bands that
followed in their wake.

That their status as one of the Australia's hardest-working bands never translated to huge record sales probably came down to the fact that the major labels that
courted and signed the band had no idea what to do with them. But the thousands of fans whose ears they opened to new sounds did - and voted with their feet by
packing venues the length and breadth of Australia.

The Hitmen have left a lasting mark on Australian Rock n Roll. Too rockin' to be pop, and too hooky for the metal- heads, they similarly confounded record company
marketing departments but delighted a generation of gig goers all over

2017 - DIVINE PROVIDENCE!
Call it what you like, but there’s no doubt that history, good fortune and destiny have conspired to deliver in 2017 the cleanest, most pre-determined HITMEN line-up
since 1981. Drawing together ONLY members with previous service to the HITMEN,
(or bands with only one degree of separation), these five men have truly earned their Rock 'n' Roll commissions.
Johnny Kannis & Tony Robertson all return as original rock n roll soldiers.
Tony Jukic (switching to lead guitar) is re-called to active service from The Johnny Kannis Explosion and previous HITMEN DTK duties.
Tony has been with the band since 2007.
Muzz Shepherd, chief Tribesman and brother of original member Brad Shepherd (currently serving in another war), now proud to serve in his stead.
Murray has been with the band since 2007.
NOT a loose collection of musicians, I say!! Rather, a genetically spliced SupaHuman, featuring both original and family DNA. With the recent inclusion of new Member,
2nd Guitarist
Vince Cuscuna (Ex Buffalo Revisited), this is truly the Next Generation of THE HITMEN DTK

The Creature is Re-Born!

HITMEN DTK Lineup
Johnny "Zeus" Kannis - Vocals
- Tony "The Kid" Robertson - Bass - Tony "Juke" Jukic - Lead Guitar
Murray "Muzz" Shepherd - Drums - Vince “Wiz” Cuscuna – 2nd Guitar