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
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