Born in North
Sydney 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.
classing course at East Sydney Technical College. Performed
“Lonesome Pal” on nationally broadcast Australia’s Amateur
Becomes more serious about show business andis given a trial at
the Leichhardt Stadium by persuasion of legendary female
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.
Worked on showboats on the harbour
and made 2 appearances on Australia Amateur Hour.
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
to Newcastle to do a show.
Once to Moree by
train – quick trips to Newcastle and Wollongong were quite
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-Indigenes 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
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
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”. ). Educational
performances of the “Imagine That! Australiana Perspectives”
disbanded. Previously seen by over half a million children.
1991 - Awarded the Medal of the Order of
Australia for service to music and the community.
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).