Lonnie Lee – Special Guest!
Born September 18 1940 (Virgo), Lonnie is the only son of David and Nancy from a sheep property in Rowena, between Moree and Walgett. Elizabeth was his sister who was three years younger. She died of cancer in 1991.
He attended Trinity Grammar School in Sydney as a boarder for 8 years then at Crows Nest Technical High School.
After leaving school in 1955 he studied accountancy, worked as a jackaroo, truck offsider, bank clerk, clerk at radio 2GB and a few other various jobs.
The career actually first started in 1956 after an appearance on radio 2UW’s Alan Toohey’s Amateur Hour. He came second but got a few jobs at parties and small inner city hotels. He would catch a train or bus and walk to the venue with his guitar and would sing with no microphone to small crowds of about 20 people. He was paid about one pound 10 shillings or $3 for about 2 hours singing.
The next break came after winning MGM’s contest for ‘Australia’s own Elvis Presley in February 1957. Just after this he started a trio which was very popular with really rock crowds.
In 1959 he recorded for Leedon Records and his first record ‘Ain’t it so’, which he wrote with Johnny O’Keefe, became his first hit
At this time he started many years of TV appearances, firstly on ABC’s Six O’Clock Rock.
His first release Ain’t it so in 1959, was also his first big hit. This was followed by Starlight Starbright then in 1960, Yes Indeed I do, I found a new love, Defenceless. In 1961 and 62 Sit Around and Talk, When the bells stop ringing, Sitting by the river, Don’t you know Pretty baby and others.
His last #1 record was in 1969 with his own song ‘ Sad Over Someone’ (SOS)
Over all he had 8 national #1 hits and 5 Gold Records.
The Awards and accolades are too numerous to mention them all here, however the most important was in 1961 when he was presented with ‘The Golden Microphone Award’, as Australia’s most popular recording star.
He was also the recipient of many publicly voted contests in fan magazines, radio and TV shows etc. Two of these were as..
The most popular star on ABC’s Six O’Clock Rock (even over J.O’K its compere) and The 2nd most popular star on TCN’s Bandstand
His first album was in late 1959 for Leedon Records called ‘This is Lonnie Lee’ with his Leemen. Some other albums were ‘A Night out with Lonnie Lee’, ‘Walkin’ with Lonnie Lee’, ‘Frankfort Special’, ‘In the middle of an island’, Lonnie’s Golden Record’, ‘Starring Lonnie Lee’, ‘I found a new love’, etc..
There are also too any highlights to mention here however some of them include having more hits in Australia than Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry and many other American stars – Performing with some of the biggest stars of the time such as The Everly Bros, Ricky Nelson, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Crash Craddock, Jerry Lee Lewis, Tommy Sands, Fabian and many others. – One of only three Australian stars to have his own tours promoted by promotion legend Lee Gordon, – the first Australian full colour album cover also the first Australian Stereo album, the first to have a double sided #1 record, – the first to have a #1 from an album – the first Australian to have #1 records and successful tours of New Zealand and many other unique achievements.
From his first New Zealand tour in 1962 he went on to perform in UK, Europe and the Pacific in cabaret and then onto America in 1971 until 1984 when he returned to live in Australia. In US he toured with his own band, recorded and started his own record promotion company for independent labels and stars and wrote songs. His songwriting scene included writing with and for the late Roy Orbison, Cher, Florence Henderson, Glen Campbell and others. He spent most of his time in Nashville Tennessee and in Las Vegas Nevada but also lived for shorter times in Los Angeles, Seattle and New Jersey.
He was made an ‘Honorary Member of the US House of Representatives’ for his service to the Tennessee community and an ‘Arkansas Traveller’ for similar reasons.
There are many other stories and achievements of his life overseas career.