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Rex FRANKLIN (1980)

Rex Franklin

1935 – Born Douglas Rex Franklin on September 29th in Napier New Zealand.

Among his earliest recollections, music-wise, was singing “Silent Night” in church, without any backing, as a 12 year old, but TEX MORTON was his idol from the an early age, and he wanted to sing on the radio, and then, his dream was to make records.

1950 - He bought his first guitar, a Tex Morton model, with one of his first pays, and eventually, one of his rugby team mates tuned it up for him, on the bus, on the way to a match.

1953 - Rex was beginning to learn something about the guitar, and later that year, he entered a talent quest in Dannevirke, singing the two songs he could accompany himself on, and he met fellow-contestants Horace and Tui Hartley, which lead to Horace inviting Rex to join their group, and The Ruahine Ramblers made their first radio broadcast in February 1954, and performed at dances, concerts, more radio broadcasts and talent quests, and it was at one of those talent quests, at Palmerston North in May 1954, that Rex heard, and very quickly met, a very attractive young lady by the name of Noelene Anderson, who was singing in her first talent quest.

The following year, they met again, at a dance at Linton Camp, where Rex was playing guitar in the army band, but he ended up doing more dancing than playing that night, and eventually, they teamed-up, and they sang in public for the first time together in November 1955, at Ormondville. (Noelene was born in Feilding on the 22nd of January 1936)

They continued singing at concerts, dances and began broadcasting together, from radio stations in Palmerston North, Napier, Wanganui, and Wellington, and guesting on talent quests, (mainly those organised by Johnny Cooper) and they made their first record (an old 78rpm) in 1956, followed by another two years later.

1956 – Rex, and his wife Noelene, released “Would You Mind” and “I Wonder Where You Are Tonight” on Tanza Records and achieve success bith both.

In the late 50s, Rex put on several Western Variety Shows. In Norsewood, Takapau, Porangahau, and one in Dannevirke, where he engaged the talents of the rock and roll singer Johnny Devlin.

1960 - They released their first long-play record on the Viking label, as well as a two extended-play 45s.Their first recordings were done in a lounge, with just one microphone, but they progressed to the engineer’s own small studio, then to back stage at the Dannevirke Town Hall, when they started using a band. They went on to record nine LPs, seven EPs, three 45rpm singles, as well as cassettes, and they were included on several composite albums

1964 - Rex and Noelene were asked to tour the lower South Island with Julie Nelson, who had the hit song “Sticky Beak the Kiwi”, but the tour was cut short, because it was the start of television in New Zealand, and people were staying home in droves to watch the new phenomenon, but they did record a couple of radio shows at 4ZA in Invercargill, and they were shown around the oldest radio station in NZ, 4XD Dunedin, where they were featured in some broadcasts.

The same year, two of Rex’s recordings featured on radio station FCWE in Holland, for 20 straight weeks, namely “Shackles and Chains”, and “Mansion on the hill”.

1966 – Released “Country Singalong” which was very successful.

Also had success in Denmark with one of his songs reaching the Top 20 there for 20 weeks.

His recording of “Did She Mention My Name?” being in the New Zealand charts for 16 weeks, reaching number 1.

Rex had a radio program for six years on 2ZA in Palmerston North, 2ZD Masterson and 2ZN Nelson.

1968 - Moved to Palmerston North and Rex made arrangements to do his own sponsored radio disc jockey programme from 2ZA, and Saville’s Radio Shop was his sponsor, and he received mail from all over the country, with requests for songs.

1969 - He began broadcasting, and the first artist he interviewed, was Slim Dusty.

1970 - Rex recorded at EMI Studios in Wellington, for the Philips Record Company. In the early 70s, his recording of “Did she mention my name?” was featured on 3ZB Christchurch’s “Country Top 10” for 16 weeks, and it reached the number 1 spot.

1971 - The album “Country Gold” was released. The same year, he returned to EMI, to record a 45rpm single, “The Red back on the Toilet seat”/”The Fate of the Red back”, and it did very well for him.

1972 - Moved to Nelson, and Rex recommenced his “Country Roundup” on 2ZN, and the show carried on, until 1976, when all the regional stations became just another station on “The Tonight Show”, and Rex’s final show was broadcast live on “The Tonight Show”.

1973 - Recorded two songs for EMI studios “The Best-known Street in the land (Coronation Street)” written by Rex, and “It’s getting back to me (that you don’t care)” written by Noelene.

1973 to 1980 - Rex and Noelene entertained on the pub, and club circuit around Nelson, as a trio, with Rex on guitar, Noelene on bass guitar, and  drummer Bruce Lauchlan. In that time, they appeared on concerts supporting Hank Lochlin, The Webb Brothers, and Rex Dallas, and Rex interviewed Hank Snow for his radio show, and was asked to introduce Hank’s band The Rainbow Ranch boys on stage.

1975 – Planned the 4th Annual Country Music Convention in Nelson for the NZCMA, of which he was the vice president for several years.

1980 – Inducted into the Hands of Fame.

1980 - They took a trip to Australia, toured Tasmania, where they were well-received, Noelene and son Lindsay returned home, and Rex continued on to Canberra, Brisbane, and Sydney, where Rex caught up with Tex Morton, and then on to Tamworth, where he was inducted into The Hands of Fame, and on to Rockhampton, where he did some memorable recordings.

Upon returning from Australia, Rex was asked to play lead guitar in a country music band, and he did that until they moved to New Plymouth in 1986.

For several years, Rex and Noelene were asked by Judy and Martin Gugich to participate in concerts organised by “The Oldtime Country Music Society” in Napier, and Rex played in the band, as rhythm guitarist, and then as the lead guitarist, for a most enjoyable period spanning 18 years.

Another interest for Rex, was to write regular newsletters to Country music magazines around the world, mostly to Ireland, England, and Australia, but also for a New Zealand publication “Country and Western Spotlight”.

Today, he carries on, but it is by email, to two magazines, an online newsletter, and to their own web site, as a means of keeping people informed about Rex and Noelene, and other singers, and happenings.

They were asked by Bob Everhart to attend an old-time country music gathering in America, to be recognised in their Hall of Fame, but they had to decline the offer because of potential costs. But they were honoured, in 1988, with The New Zealand Country Music Pioneer Award, at The Professional Country Music Industry Awards, held at the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington.

Rex has written several songs over the years, and they have recorded many of them, such as “On the Takapau Plains in Sunny Hawkes Bay”, “A Real New Zealand Cowboy Song”, “The Cowhand Swing”, "Upon the Outlaw Trail”, “Please send us another wee boy”, “Serenading in the evening”, “Riverbank Ramble”, “I’ll sing you a lullaby Tune”, plus many more, and just a few weeks ago, he wrote a song based on their career called “A Cowboy at heart”.

Noelene can boast that she has recorded all her own songs, These days, they have several CDs for sale, including two on the famous German label, BEAR FAMILY, a collection of their recordings made in the 50s and 60s, and the set includes their 2 78rpm records, and their first 12” Long Play record “A thousand Miles out Yonder”.

Of their own self-funded recordings, the far and away best-seller is still “Out behind the barn”.

2001 - They toured Vanuatu, with Peter Posa, there were tours with Lou and Simon, and Maria Dallas in the 60s, Eddie Low in the 70s, they have appeared on several television shows, like “COUNTRY TOUCH”, with TEX MORTON, “STUDIO ONE”, (Rex sang his own song “Nashville and Country Music”), “HAVE A SHOT ON TELEVISION”, in 1964, “Y’ALL COME”, in Invercargill, in 2004, and repeated on Sky Digital, as well as extensively on “7 TARANAKI”.

Both Rex and Noelene are featured in the HANDS OF FAME, in Gore.

2009 -They issued their final studio recorded compact disc and in October 2010, the release of a book on early New Zealand Music, called “Blue Smoke”.

2016 - Passed away on January 8th at Taranaki Base Hospital.