Tex Morton

The first of our country music legends to be elevated to the Roll, at its opening in 1976, was a man considered to be the father of Australasian Country Music ­ Tex Morton.

Tex Morton lived a life of breath-taking achievement. He attained fortune and huge international fame in several careers: a recording star (300 songs), singer-songwriter, stage artist (touring sensation in North America, Europe, Australasia), circus entrepreneur, best-selling comic writer, Hollywood screen actor, and with a Doctorate from McGill University, a world authority and renowned performer of hypnotherapy. 

1916 - Born Robert Lane on August 30th in the New Zealand township of Nelson.

1920's - Was in the Boy Scouts and became one of two scouts to achieve the coveted Kings Scout Badge.

1930's - Attended Nelson College for less than two years. At age of 14 he ran away from home.

1932 - Took the name Tex Morton” from a sign seen on a Waihi garage and made first recording, 16 sides on aluminium discs recorded in Wellington on Speakphone. At 16 he joined the "The Gaities" travelling show.

1933 - At age 17 departed for better opportunities in Australia. He began as a busker in Sydney with an old suitcase and a battered guitar, but Sydney was experiencing the effects of the Depression and he did not do well.  He was forced to find a job - anything on offer.  He found work labouring at Luna Park, and on construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. He also sang at showgrounds, outside bars and at race-courses, and did stints as a drover and shearer.

Hungry for experience, Tex drifted up to Queensland where he led a rough and tumble life, jumping trains and sleeping in the open.  He worked on various roadshows - he was a star boxer, a sideshow motorcycle racer riding the "wall of death" and a wild animal tamer.   

1935 - Tex returned to Sydney.  As well as joining a circus (by the age of 23, with Lance Skulthorpe Jr, he would have his own travelling cowboy show) he hustled Tim Tyler, the A&R man at Columbia Gramophone Company, for an audition. He persuaded Tyler to give him a break and recorded a song called "You’re going to leave the old home, Jim", then talked a Sydney radio station into playing it. He won first prize in a 2KY talent quest and recorded eight singles (a few of his own composition) for Columbia Records. Worked as an electrical hand for Neon Signs in Sydney. Rode a motorbike at the Sydney show in the "Wall of Death". Cut his first records with EMI's Regal Zonaphone label. "Happy Yodeller" being one of the songs recorded. Appeared on the radio serials on Radio station 2KY.

Mid to late 30’s Morton flourished as a recording star, a public speaker, and radio wit.  Extremely prolific, he recorded 18 singles in 1936, 16 in 1937, 18 in 1938 and 16 in 1939. He took time to polish his marksmanship skills with Lionel Bibby, the Australian-born world champion marksman, developing his talent to the stage where he consistently defeated Lionel.

He became the top selling recording artist in Australia during the 1930's, outselling Bing Crosby, Gracie Fields and Frank Sinatra.

1938 - Organised the first of his touring shows, regularly performing to over 2000 people up to six nights a week.

1939 - World War 2- The army had taken over some of Tex's trucks and with petrol rationing placing a strain on transport, Tex worked a lot of shows for the War Effort Entertainment for the troops in Australia and Pacific Isles.

1941 - Released "Mandrake" with the Rough Riders Band, Australia first country music band. Dick Carr on non electrified steel; Sister Dorrie on piano accordian; George Raymond of fiddle and Tex on rhythm guitar.
Ceased recording due to dispute with record company.

1943 - Made his last recording for Columbia and did not record again till 1949.

1945 - Reformed his travelling show and published a series of comics, "Tex Morton's Wild West Comic" which had a circulation of 100,000 copies a month in Australia and New Zealand.

1949 - While travelling with "Franquin the Hypnotist", Franquin became ill and Tex did the show by himself. Recorded in New Zealand for new company formed by Ralph Peer, an American who discovered Jimmy Rodgers and the Carter Family. Tex cut 24 sides (in one session) on the Tasman Label (released as Rodeo in Australia). Offered a recording contact in America by Ralph Peer.

1949 and 1950 -  Recorded more than 2 dozen tracks on the new Rodeo Lable.

1950's - Travelled to the USA and Canada. First Australian to appear on "The Grand Ol' Opry" in Nashville. Spent a couple of years as one of Hollywood's most sort after TV character actors. Obtained a B.A. and PhD from a Canadian University in hypo-therapy. Toured with Hank Williams. Was one of the most famous entertainers in North America. From 52 to 58 he toured Canada and the United States as a stage hypnotist, sharp shooter, memory expert, whip cracker and singer.

1953 - He added to his vast repertoire of songs on disc by recording with guitarist Chet Atkins and his band members Floyd Cramer, Tommy Jackson and Jerry Byrd). The tracks included his own compositions and the album, recorded in the famous studios at the Tulane Hotek in Nashville, found its way to Australia as "The Tex Morton Story".

1959 - Returned to Australia. Brought to Australia a "Grand Ol' Opry" show which included Roy Acuff, June Webb and the Wilburn Brothers.. Took out a small touring show, but as things had changed with economic conditions and the introduction of TV it was not well received.

1960 - Recorded 3 albums of monologue of poems of Banjo Patterson plus 2 albums of C.J. Dennis poems.  Set out on a tour to the Far East, England and Europe as "The Great Morton".

1960's - Back Australia he made a sentimental journey to the Australian outback, taking his two-way shortwave radio and travelling in a station wagon with three companions - a cat, a terrier and a magpie.

1966 - Formed partnership with Athol McCoy and toured Australia as "The Morton and McCoys".

1967 - Returned to New Zealand to compare and star in a TV show "Country Touch". He compared the show for 3 years.

1970 - On return to Australia he brought The Hamilton Country Bluegrass Band with him. They eventually went on to tour with Slim Dusty.

Trying unsuccessfully to lose the tag Tex, Robert Morton subsequently became a frequent actor on Australian television and earned a reputation as one of Australia's best character actors with roles like the prison governor in “Stir” and the crooked politician in “Goodbye Paradise”. 

1972 - Tex and Buddy Williams combine their talents for a joint show and album release.

1973 - Changed record label from EMI to Picture Records and recorded "The Goondiwindi Grey" and folk poem monologue album "Tex Morton's Australia". Produced children's records.

1974 - Winner of Golden Guitar for APRA Song of the Year- “The Goondiwindi Grey”, written by Wallace and Hauritz.

1975 - Appeared on TV shows "Matlock"; "Class of '75"; "Stir"; "We Of The Never Never"; plus others. Also appeared in films and TV shows in the States.

1976 - First to be elevated to the Roll Of Renown after being named "Father of Australasian Country Music". A bronze bust was erected in Bicentennial Park, in Tamworth.

1977 - Recorded voice over for television and radio advertisement "Where do ya Get It?". Also won the "Raw Prawn" award for Australia's worst TV commercial.

1977 - Inducted into the Hands of Fame in Tamworth.

1981 - Festival Records released a selection of the best in the album "Tex Morton with Sister Dorrie - You and My Old Guitar". An early selection of his very first Regal Zonophone 78s has been re-released on tape, Vinyl and Compact Disc by EMI on tape, vinyl and Compact Disc.  

1982 - Final public performance to a crowd of 4000 in 2TM's Big Top in Tamworth during the Country Music Festival.

1983 - Died on July 23 aged 65 in Sydney from lung cancer. He is buried in his hometown of Nelson, New Zealand alongside his parents in Marsden Valley Cemetery.

His Epitaph reads-

"A millionaire in the experience of Life"