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Johnny Ashcroft OAM 1986

Johnny Ashcroft

1927 - Born in North Sydney on February 1. Lived at Mt Pritchard NSW on a small farm.

1941- First instrument: A combination banjo, mandolin and guitar with correspondence music lessons.

1942 - First guitar: Acoustic Hawaiian lap steel. Wrote his first factual song “Lonesome Pal”. He sings at a youth concert Swanee River” and “Comin’ in on A Wind and A Prayer”.  The concert led to an engagement to sing at matinee’s in local picture theatres.

1944 - Took wool classing course at East Sydney Technical College. Performed “Lonesome Pal” on nationally broadcast Australia’s 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 “Nellie Small”.

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 Serenaders.

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.

1948 - Worked on showboats on the harbour and made 2 appearances on Australia Amateur Hour. First overseas show: toured New Zealand with “Varieties of 1948”. First radio production: Roundup Time, an 8-programme series rebroadcast for three years, aired through New Zealand’s National Radio Network emanating from 2YA Wellington. 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 the “flyer” to Newcastle to do a show.  Once to Moree by train – quick trips to Newcastle and Wollongong 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 Kinane.

1954 - First commercial recordings: Six sides for Rodeo Records, recorded in Radio 2UE’s studios, Sydney. Performed in the first in-house experimental pre-TV test at Frenchs Forest, Sydney.

1955 - Wrote Australia’s 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 Sydney’s 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 Harbour to 110 000 people gathered on the foreshores and Sydney Harbour Bridge (Bi-Centenary of Captain Cook claiming the east coast of Australia for England).

1971 - Suggested, at a triple Gold Record presentation in Tamworth NSW, that Tamworth 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 Child”.
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 Guinea with Gay Kayler–auspices Niugini Airways. Inaugural President of Tamworth 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 Germany. Later released world-wide on DVD.

1979 - Elected Inaugural Vice-President of the Professional Country Music Association of Australia (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 Entertainer.

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 Australia 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 Circuit.

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).