compiled by Vic Campbell
“I knew that I wanted to play guitar even when I was five years old,” says Rosanna Palmer. “I was at a wedding and I saw a violin. I picked it up and tried to play it, giving a terrible performance for everyone who was there.”
Inspired by a grade three teacher who played guitar and ukulele, young Rosanna Leszczynski pestered her mother for a musical instrument. Her mum bought her a ukulele, but it was a toy one with no frets. Rosanna was determined to get a real guitar. She received her dream instrument for her seventh birthday.
In grade five, Rosanna got her second guitar, a Maton with a cutaway body shaped like an electric guitar, but acoustic with six strings. The third guitar was a Yamaha twelve-string. One of Rosanna’s first public performances was at assembly in Victoria’s Drouin High School. She was in Form One. The song was The Beatles’ Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.
Eventually, Rosanna joined a band as a singer with her brother Henry and three of his friends, one of whom was Dave Palmer. Her musical journey had begun with SOLID STATE. “We’d play Venus about fifty times a night.” The band won an award in Hoadley’s Battle of the Sounds in Gippsland. It won first place and had the opportunity to compete in the Melbourne competition.
Rosanna was a perfectionist as far as music was concerned. Wanting to improve, she decided to travel to Melbourne in search of something more challenging. An audition at a theatre-restaurant, where she sang The Gypsy Rover, led to an offer of a regular spot. After twenty or thirty floorshows in two weeks, sometimes singing in two different clubs on the same night, Rosanna decided that this was not her scene. She joined a showband called STATEN ISLAND and was welcomed as a vocalist. She had no difficult singing the Shirley Bassey songs required. Dave Palmer joined this band as bass player and the group played inner city pubs decked out in fancy state costumes. But the music wasn’t rock’n’roll and both Rosanna and Dave realised this scene was not for them.
Back living at home, Rosanna, Henry and Dave formed FREEWAY. With Terry Blamey as an agent, this band played all over the east coast of Australia. Between 1975 and 1980, Rosanna sang and played guitar in pubs and clubs where the group was billed as HIGHWAY or FREEWAY and, at Hobart’s casino, as VEGAS.
Rosanna and Dave married in November 1977.
Following some line-up changes, HIGHWAY became NEXUS. In 1979, NEXUS released a single on the Infinity label distributed in Australia by Festival Records. The songs were Loving Only You and Stop Dancing with Me. A follow-up single, Moscow b/w Insomnia was overshadowed by the GENGHIS KHAN version of Moscow.
In 1981, ROSANNA’S RAIDERS was formed with Dave Palmer on bass, Johno Zafferese on drums and Rosanna on lead guitar and vocals. The band played in hotels, but band members and road crew were Christians.
From the mid to late 1980s, the group played all over Australia in secondary schools, in prisons, in churches and at festivals. Australian tours by PETRA, WHITEHEART, RANDY STONEHILL and GEOFF MOORE AND THE DISTANCE all featured ROSANNA’S RAIDERS as the opening act.
The band’s first self-financed eponymously titled album was released on cassette only in 1984. ‘RUN THE RACE’ was produced by Phil Butson at Sing Sing Studios in Melbourne and released on cassette early in 1987. This album was released worldwide as ‘Calling Down Fire’ on Pure Metal Records in 1988. In 1989, the song 'Breakaway' was nominated for a Dove Award by America’s Gospel Music Association. The album ‘Clothed in Fire’ was recorded at Grand Slam Studios in Newark, New Jersey in February 1989 and released globally by Refuge Records.
In 2007, US label Retroactive Records released a 2-CD package featuring ‘We Are Raiders’ (1985) on one disc with ‘Calling down Fire’ (1987) and ‘Clothed in Fire’ (1988) on the other. This collector’s item, ‘Fire from Heaven—The Collective Works’ contains the bonus track 'One Man' from Australian-only compilation ‘Modification’.
In 1990, ‘Rock Praise One’ was recorded at The Basin Studio in Victoria and released in cassette. It was eventually remastered and released on CD in 2010. Prior to this, ‘Power Praise Volume One’ was released in 1986 and was arguably one of the first rock albums featuring fresh new original worship songs. The participants, along with Rosanna, Dave and Johno were Gary ‘Tex’ Houston, Rohan Anderson, Phil Butson and Christine Butson. Helena Meyer sang backing vocals on the album. The album was released on cassette in Australia and the Power Praise band, encouraged by promoter David Smallbone, performed around the country as special guests on UK singer Sheila Walsh’s tour.
While ‘Power Praise Volume One’ was a relatively spontaneous recording with almost a ‘live’ feel to many of the tracks, ‘Power Praise Volume Two’ was more planned and polished with a gentler overall tone. Both albums, distributed by DTS Records, sold very well in Australia.
The ‘Changes’ album was recorded at Sing Sing Studios in Richmond, Victoria. With Phil Butson as engineer. Phil arranged for the recording costs to be paid off from album sales and, in time, this was achieved. Phil was even persuaded to play a guitar solo on the album track 'Keep on Dreaming'. Other contributors to his project included Andy Sorenson (keys), Gary ‘Tex’ Houston (keys), David Langley (guitars), Johno Zaffarese (live drums) and Clifford Meyer (congas).
In 1999, Rosanna and friends recorded a Christmas album for Dandenong Assembly of God. This was followed by ‘Walking into the New Millennium’, a Rosanna Palmer album recorded in a home studio over the summer holidays early in 2000. This album is subtitled ‘Rock Praise Volume 2’ and the liner notes refer to the Dandenong church by its new name ‘Faith! Christian Church’. Two more praise projects were completed for the church as was a second Christmas album.
In 2003, Dave and Rosanna moved to Queensland to take up roles with Surfcity Christian Church in Surfers Paradise. Initially, Dave acted as Principal of the church’s International Bible College while Rosanna was later appointed Worship Pastor at Surfcity. The worship team, encouraged by the Palmers, eventually produced an album titled ‘God is Faithful’. Rosanna completed a Diploma of Music course in which she learned how to operate with Pro Tool, a studio recording software program.
Rosanna had always seen her mission as one of writing songs, singing them and performing as a musician. When a ‘call’ came to set up a church in St. Kilda, a notorious Melbourne suburb, it took her some time to become comfortable with this new direction that would require her to play a somewhat different role in life. The move to church planting in St. Kilda coincided with the worldwide release of the band’s album which was promoted in North America in retail displays alongside new albums from two well-established Christian heavy metal bands. Solid album sales were achieved without ROSANNA’S RAIDERS touring overseas.
Rosanna sees herself primarily as a songwriter. Many of her compositions are best suited to performances with a band. Sometimes it’s the heavy and aural onslaught of ROSANNA’S RAIDERS that best delivers the song; at other times, it’s Rosanna Palmer and Band inclusive of keyboards and backing vocalists; occasionally, it’s just Rosanna and her acoustic guitar. As a solo performer, Rosanna has had opportunities in Australia to support visiting artists including Tom Howard, Larry Norman and comedian Mike Warnke.
She has made several trips to Malaysia and Singapore performing mainly worship songs. ROSANNA’S RAIDERS were invited to visit and play in England by Mal Fletcher and UK Youth Alive Director Ian Green. As Johno was unable to go, Dave and Rosanna picked up a drummer from Birmingham called Nic Burrows.
Rosanna’s album ‘Stolen Innocence’ was released on CD in Australia in November 2011 on Silver Bullet Records and worldwide in 2012 on Retroactive Records.
Since then, Rosanna and Dave have continued to write, record and release material on CD. In 2020, ‘Before & After the Fire 1985-2019’ was released in Europe and the UK by Prog AOR Records.
Living in Victoria, they pastor a rural church for three weeks a month, returning to their own home outside Bacchus Marsh for the other week in the month. They remain committed to performing whenever possible, usually as a duo with a drum track so that they can create a band sound on stage.
Click on album above top listen to "CHANGES" songs.
Dave & Rosanna Palmer 2011
Above: ROSANNA'S RAIDERS C. 1981
Above: Rosanna and Dave playing at Surfers Paradise, QLD Easter 2012