Johnny ASHCROFT OAM (1977)
on February 1.
Lived at Mt Pritchard NSW on a small
First instrument: A combination banjo, mandolin and guitar with
correspondence music lessons.
- First guitar: Acoustic Hawaiian lap steel. Wrote his first
factual song “Lonesome Pal”.
He sings at a youth concert
“Comin’ in on A Wind and A
led to an engagement to sing at matinee’s in local picture
Took wool classing course at East
Performed “Lonesome Pal” on nationally broadcast
Amateur Hour–came second.
Becomes more serious about show
business and is given a trial at the Leichhardt Stadium by
persuasion of legendary female impersonator
1946 - Performed the
“Overlander Trail” on Australia’s
Amateur Hour–came first. First recording: “When I Waltzed My
Matilda Away”, a one-sided 78rpm for radio only. First road
shows: the Spastic Centre Show and Jerry Hartley and His
1947 - First major road show:
the 2000-seat “Great Levante Show”, the biggest ever vaudeville
outfit in Australia.
He had his own singing spot but was also expected to work on
skits, magician’s assistant, pantomimes, and anything else that
might crop up.
As well as
help with the tent set up and pull down.
Worked on showboats on the
harbour and made 2 appearances on Australia Amateur Hour.
First overseas show: toured
with “Varieties of 1948”. First radio production: Roundup Time,
an 8-programme series rebroadcast for three years, aired through
National Radio Network emanating from 2YA
Married first wife, New Zealander Shirley Williams. Three
children–John, Tracey and Mark.
1952-1955 – He did not tour
due to marriage and commitments.
He often took
to do a show.
Once to Moree
by train – quick trips to Newcastle
were quite common.
His son born
in 1954 same day his song “Castaway” is first aired on radio.
Later he tours
with Slim Dusty.
1953 - Wrote and performed
series for ABC Radio, “Songs Of The Homestead”, produced by Kay
1954 - First commercial
recordings: Six sides for Rodeo Records, recorded in Radio 2UE’s
Performed in the first in-house experimental pre-TV test at
1955 - Wrote
first trucking song, “Highway 31”.
1956 - Released very first
Australian vinyl micro-groove country and western album, “Songs
Of The Western Trail” (Phillips). One of the first artists and
the first country and western artist to appear on Australian
television (ABC Channel 2 Sydney with Gordon Chater). Also wrote
show’s theme, Crazy (Kings) Cross.
1958 - First Dixieland record:
with Graeme Bell. Recorded his first R&B song “Bouquet For The
Bride” and his first rock song “Buzz, Buzz, Buzz”. First hit:
“They’re A Weird Mob” recorded in skiffle style.
1960 - Wrote and recorded smash
hit single, “Little Boy Lost” (with Nancy Eichhorn). “Little Boy
Lost” released in most other English-speaking countries
throughout the world. The song was covered by overseas recording
artists, including Jimmy Dean (USA) and Michael Holliday (UK).
First Australian 45rpm Gold Record issued for “Little Boy Lost”.
At the height of the success of this track an eight year old boy
was kidnapped (and subsequently found murdered). Johnny thought
that the playing of “Little Boy Lost” would cause distress to
the parents and so asked radio stations to stop playing the
track. By this act of compassion Johnny became the only singer
to deliberately kill the airplay of his own hit song.
1961 - First New Zealand Gold
Record issued for “Little Boy Lost”.
1963 - Recorded the Top 10 hit
single “The Girl Behind The Bar”.
1964 - With family, became the
first non-Indigenous to be accepted as members of
Foundation For Aboriginal Affairs. Released “One More Time
Around,” an album consisting of previously released singles.
1965 - Released the album
“Mostly Folk,” featuring folk version of “Little Boy Lost”.
1967 – “Mostly Folk” album
re-released as Little Boy Lost. Achieved Gold status for sales.
1968 - Released “You And I
Country Style” with Kathleen McCormack.
1970 - Worked from a pontoon
in the middle of Sydney
to 110 000 people gathered on the foreshores and
(Bi-Centenary of Captain Cook claiming the east coast of
1971 - Suggested, at a triple
Gold Record presentation in Tamworth NSW, that
should present Country Music Awards. First Golden Guitar Awards
occurred in 1973.
1973 - Released Number One hit
“Playground In My Mind”. Life threatening melanoma removed.
1974 - During the Festival of
Performing Arts, which was presented within the first three
months of the opening of the Sydney Opera House, starred with
Gay Kayler in the first all-Australian country music show. Both
artists also headed up the Australian Variety Show in the Opera
House two months later.
1975 - Wrote first Australian
female trucking song. Recorded by Gay Kayler. First record
production – “My Homecoming Trucker’s Coming Home”/”Nobody’s
Wrote and recorded the Red Shield
Appeal’s hit song, “Holy Joe The Salvo”. Thereafter the 'Sallys’
were known as the ‘Salvos’. Toured Papua New
with Gay Kayler–auspices Niugini Airways. Inaugural President of
Songwriters Association (TSA).
1977 - Imprinted in the
inaugural Australasian Country Music Hands Of Fame.
1978 - Recorded the movie
version of Little Boy Lost with Gay Kayler. Performed at world
premiere of the “Little Boy Lost” movie, with child star Nathan
Dawes. Movie received Catholic Award For Decency in
Later released world-wide on DVD.
1979 - Elected Inaugural
Vice-President of the Professional Country Music Association of
(PCMAA). After two approaches by others, successfully
represented PCMAA to have country music accepted as separate
entity in the Australian Variety Artists Mo Awards and achieves
the Male Country Performer of the Year award. With Gay Kayler,
wrote, researched and produced the highly successful Australiana
series called” The Imagine
That! Australiana Show”, which
ran for eleven years.
1980 - Recorded “Beyond His
Best” on the sound track of Des Renford’s Logie-Award-winning
Sports Documentary, “Ironmen Of The Sea”. Received the first
Australian Variety Artists Mo Award for Male Country
1981 - Queensland Country
Music National Male Award presented by the Hon Bill Hayden.
Married second wife, Gay Kayler. Wrote and recorded (with Gay
Kayler) the David Callan “At Your Club” commercial–played over
31 000 times on Sydney radio stations 2GB, 2WS and 2CH. Created
his disco-singing altar ego, the Baron. Released “A Time For
Change” album on RCA. Released the Baron’s disco single of
“Sixteen Tons Of Hit The Road Jack”. Recorded multiple
tongue-twisting sound tracks for the Castlereagh Line–the Grace
Gibson big-hit radio serial broadcast
wide. Still being rebroadcast.
1982 - Badly injured (with Gay
Kayler) in major road accident.
1986 - Elevated to the
Australasian Country Music Roll Of Renown.
1987 - Formed Heritage
Productions P/L with Gay Kayler, Bettybo and Kevin Reiman–the
last true theatrical company to appear on the Registered Club
1990 - Heritage Productions
released best-selling album, “The Cross Of The Five Silver
Stars”. Awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia
(OAM). Educational performances of the “Imagine That!
Australiana Perspectives” disbanded. Previously seen by over
half a million children.
1991 - Heritage Productions also
disbanded due to death of a key shareholder.
1995 - Appointed a Fellow of the
Australian Institute of History and Arts (FAIHA).