on February 1.
Lived at Mt Pritchard NSW on a small farm.
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 Prayer”.
The concert led to
an engagement to sing at matinee’s in local picture theatres.
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 the
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 Kinane.
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
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
1963 - Recorded the Top 10 hit single “The Girl Behind
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
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 Guinea
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 Germany.
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 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
wide. Still being rebroadcast.
1982 - Badly injured (with Gay Kayler) in major road
1986 - Elevated to the Australasian Country Music Roll
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).