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The History of
Australian Rock 'n' Roll

New stars are born


An overview from the forthcoming Starlite Records' CD Rom publication..
'The Roots of Australian Rock-n-Roll'


As Australian radio started to play a little of the new American rock-n-roll it was bound to happen that some young listeners would be mesmerised by it and start creating their own styles or mimick those new sounds that were very quickly getting straight to the teenagers of the day that had been exposed to it.

That is exactly what happened and a few performers emerged in those early times that are still performing today. Artists such as Alan Dale and Lonnie Lee who kicked off with Rock'n'Roll in late 1956, are still very active as performers today. If it wasn't for individual tragic circumstances,
Johnny O'Keefe, Dig Richards and Col Joye, would all probably still be rockin' away as well.

All these artists as well as some others, were at the very start of the Rock-n-Roll industry. It could be argued who was first, second and third etc., in terms of months, yet they all started performing professionally that genre of music although their styles were all different.

It is much agreed however that the first Rock-n-Roll dances were held in suburban town halls in Sydney and featured either Johnny O'Keefe and The Dee Jays or Alan Dale and the House Rockers. Both bands were based on the styles of Bill Haley and The Comets and Tommy Bell and the Bellboys etc., which were sax oriented groups growing out of the big band era. JO'K was the white Australian version of Little Richard, full of emotion and at times off key whilst Alan was the straight big band singer singing rock songs. His style was much more sophisticated and in tune whilst JO'K's was raw, yelling and brash!

On the other hand Col Joye's influence was from country music and his group The Joye boys, a family effort, represented that genre with the new 'back beat' of Rock 'n' Roll. Lonnie Lee and his 3 piece combo was a little mixture of all. His style stemmed from the 50's US country music as well as the likes of all the pre rock superstars such as Johnnie Ray, Frankie Laine, Nat King Cole and of course Elvus as he became known in Australia. His raw Rockabilly combo style saw him become in February 1957, Australia's first ELVIS PRESLEY.

Dig Richards was even different again with a softer style not unlike stars like Fabian, Sal Mineo etc. whilst Warren Williams came in with a rich voice that could have been classical.

They all had dances around Sydney just as TV was starting and the teenagers flocked to them. No hard drinks, no drugs and you had to be at least aged 15. ALL LIGHTS WERE FULL ON as was the music. The 40 watt pa amps screaming... Every night in Sydney saw dances in many suburbs. Some of the better known ones were Bankstown Capital Theatre with Col Joye and the Joye Boys, Paddington Police Boys Club with Johnny O'Keefe and The Dee Jays, Brookvale Theatre with Dig Richards and The R-Jays, The Ironworkers Hall near Circular Quay with Lonnie Lee and The Leemen. Newtown and Alexandria Town Hallwith Alan Dale and The HouseRockers and Leichardt Police Boys with Johnny Rebb and The Rebels. In fact by 1959, Sydney was as Rockin' a place as anywhere on earth !

Click on the name or a brief bio of 3 of these artists.....

From 1959 there was an influx of potential stars in all states. Sydney led the way partly because most of the record companies originated there. There were others such as Johnny Rebb, The Crescents, The Delltones, The Sapphires, Lucky Starr, Ray Hoff, Barry Stanton, Rob E.G., George Karen, Adam etc.

Melbourne had it's own such as The Thunderbirds, Malcolm Arthur,Judy Cannon, Beverly Dick, Frankie Davidson, Colin Cook, Beverly McQuade et al. Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth and even Hobart had their own home grown idols.

Later still, from 1960, others such as Noelene Batley, The Fauns, The De Kroo Bros, Laurel Lea, Judy Stone, Johnny Ashcroft, Bryan Davies, Kevin Todd, Paul Wayne, Wayne Cordell and many others gave Australia a very vibrant and exciting Rock music industry.

From 1959 to mid 1965 there were literrally hundreds of bands and singers performing the most popular mass music style, human history had ever known.

Some so called rock music historians play down the fact that Australia did have a full-on industry right across the nation. Rock music was king via TV, radio, records and in thousands of 'live' music venues. In all those areas and all through that time, the most popular artists were, Johnny O'Keefe, Col Joye and Lonnie Lee.

The Starlite publication of 'The Roots of Australian Rock-n-Roll' will be released early 2000 to coincide with the Anniversary of Australia's music industry...If you are would like to be on the e-mailing list to be notified when it is due for release.
Please email your name, address, phone and e-mail address.


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Original upload March 1996 and last updated 1st June 2002