BIOGRAPHY

On the links below there are several downloadable bio's available for different needs and sizes. Whilst a brief general bio is below, more can be found in the Press area.

EARLY LIFE
TIME LINE

The career actually first started in 1956 after an appearance on radio 2UW's Alan Toohey's Amateur Hour. He came second but got a few jobs at parties and small inner city hotels. He would catch a train or bus and walk to the venue with his guitar singing with no microphone, to small crowds of about 20 people. He was paid about one pound 10 shillings or $3 for about 2 hours singing.

The next break came after winning MGM's contest for 'Australia's own Elvis' in February 1957.  Just after this he started a trio which was very popular with the teenagers.

His first TV appearance was with his Rockabilly Trio on Sydney Tonight in 1957. They also performed all around the Sydney and close country areas and many say he had the first actual Rockabilly combo in Australia. This started many years of TV appearances, firstly on Sydney Tonight in 1957 then as a regular on Australia's first Rock TV Show, ABC's 'Six O'Clock Rock', and TCN 9's 'Bandstand'.

In 1959 he recorded for Leedon Records and his first record 'Ain't it so', which he wrote with Johnny O'Keefe, became his first hit. Many hits followed, some calling him at that time, Australia's Most Constant Hit Parader'.

Lonnie Portrait 2006

HITS AND GOLD

His first single release 'Ain't it so' in 1959, was also his first big hit. This was followed by Starlight Starbright then in 1960, Yes Indeed I do, I found a new love, Defenceless. Then in 1961 to 1964 came Sit Around and Talk, When the bells stop ringing, Sitting by the river, Don't you know Pretty baby and others. Many albums were also released.

His last #1 record was in 1969 with his own song ' Sad Over Someone' (SOS)
Over all he had 8 national Top Ten hits and 5 Gold Records.
In 2006 he released 'Can't you see it in my eyes' which received play on many stations across Australia. It is now on the Starlite Records album, 'The Light of Love'.

 

Lonnie Lee Best Nostalgia Award

AWARDS

The Awards and accolades are too numerous to mention them all here, however possibly the most important was in 1961 when he was presented with 'The Golden Microphone Award', as Australia's most popular recording star.

He was also the recipient of many publicly voted contests in fan magazines, radio and TV shows etc. Two of these were as...
The most popular star on ABC's Six O'Clock Rock  (even over J.O'K its compere) and The 2nd most popular star on TCN's Bandstand

For example in both 1998 and 1999 he was presented with the publicly voted 'Australia Post Best Performer' Award and in 2001 was presented with the 'Best Nostalgia Artist' award. He has also been inducted into various  Rock'n'Roll Walks and Halls of Fame.

 

A Night Out with Lonnie Lee LP

ALBUMS

His first album was in 1959 for Leedon Records called 'This is Lonnie Lee' with his Leemen. Some other albums were 'A Night out with Lonnie Lee', 'Walkin' with Lonnie Lee', 'Frankfort Special', 'In the middle of an island', Lonnie's Golden Record', 'Starring Lonnie Lee', 'I found a new love', just to mention a few. He is still releasing albums today.

 

Lonniie Lee portrait 1961

EARLY HIGHLIGHTS

There are also too any highlights to mention here however some of them include having more hits in Australia than Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry and many other American stars - Performing with some of the biggest stars of the time such as The Everly Bros, Ricky Nelson, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Crash Craddock, Jerry Lee Lewis, Tommy Sands, Fabian and many others. - One of only three Australian stars to have his own tours promoted by promotion legend Lee Gordon, - the first Australian full colour album cover also the first Australian Stereo album, the first to have a double sided #1 record, - the first to have a #1 from an album - the first Australian to have #1 records and successful tours of New Zealand and many other unique achievements.

In the mid 60's he and a partner started a booking and promotion business representing the 2nd wave of Australian stars such as Normie Rowe, Tony Worsley and many others.  He also managed, produced and wrote songs for many Sunshine Records starts of the day.

 

Lonnie Lee Little Darlins
Little Darlin's shows
Kissimmee Florida
1990's

LOnnie and Nashville session
Nashville recording session - Bob Babbitt,
Ed Greene, Wayne Jackson,
Byrd Byrd, Skip Mitchell
- 2006

OVERSEAS

From his first New Zealand tour in 1962 he went on to perform in UK, Europe and the Pacific in cabaret and then onto America in 1971 until 1984 when he returned to live in Australia. In US he toured with his own band, recorded and started his own record promotion company for independent labels and their stars. He managed and booked the major country music night clubs in Nashville such as Web Pierce's Rhinestone Cowboy and The Nashville Palace. He also promoted Mickey Gilley, The Stamps, The Jerry Reed Band, Tony Joe White and many others and gave 'Alabama' their first show in Nashville. His songwriting scene included writing with and for the late Roy Orbison, Cher, Florence Henderson, Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash and many others. He spent most of his time in Nashville Tennessee and in Las Vegas Nevada but also lived for shorter times in Los Angeles, Seattle and New Jersey.

He was made an 'Honorary Member of the US House of Representatives' for his service to the Tennessee community and an 'Arkansas Traveler' for similar reasons.

He was a founding director for the American Country Music Association based in Las Vegas and was producer of a country music TV show based in the Silver Nugget Casino Las Vegas.

There are many other stories and achievements of his life overseas career.

 

Lonnie Lee 2013 Honor thy music

TODAY

Today, over 59 years later, he is still winning hearts and awards.

He performs with his fantastic band The Leemen at the biggest venues across the country and has released 18 CD's  and 6 DVD's over the last few years.

Check out his Gig Guide and visit one of his shows.
You will see just how different and unique this Australian Music Legend really is.

 

LONNIE LEE BIO   February 2014

Lonnie was born to parent's who lived on a sheep property called 'Bleak House' a few miles from a small railway siding called Rowena in North West NSW between Moree and Walgett.

In 1908, his grandfather named the property,‘ Bleak House’ after the Charles Dickens classic of the same name.

Whilst he spent many of his pre teenage years as a boarder in Sydney's Trinity Grammar school, it was at this time, when, as a very young boy he made his first wireless crystal set to listen to the wider world of music which of course, led him to hear the songs which would eventually become his life. Stars like Johnnie Ray, Nat King Cole, Guy Mitchell and of course Elvis were the mainstays of this young guys life as he worked on the sheep property. Music was his escape and that's what he did.

In Sydney in May 1956 he entered a talent contest singing Elvis' first hit, 'Heartbreak Hotel' and as far as we know it was the first time an Elvis song was sung on Australian radio. A few months later he won the title Australia's Elvis Presley when the MGM movie company found that not too many people in Australia knew who Elvis was, so they wanted to promote his name.

By this time Lonnie had his own rockabilly combo which we also understand was the first pro rockabilly band in Australia. Following this successful adventure into music, he had a car accident which took him by parental control back to the country, as his conservative parents thought this new R & R was "evil".

A few months after his return to Sydney, Australia's first TV show, ABC TV's 'Six O'Clock Rock' had started and other than its compere Johnny O'Keefe, Lonnie became it's most frequent flyer. His popularity had him at one stage, edge out O'Keefe as Australia's most popular TV star. He was also voted the second most popular star of TCN9's Bandstand.

In 1966 after many top selling records, main event live shows and helping to promote new starts like Normie Rowe and John Rowles, he felt he had done all he could do here in Australia so decided to leave for Europe where he was not known. This came about after feeling he had no identity other than "Lonnie Lee" the star and so through many avenues, embarked on a self realization search to find out who he really was as a person.. In UK and Europe he enjoyed not being recognized in the street and sang in cabaret and US bases and in 1971 went to the USA where he made solid friendships with peers from Motown recording musicians such as Mickey Stevenson who wrote, 'Dancing in the streets' and Wayne Jackson from the famous Memphis Horns. During his many years there he co-wrote with Roy Orbison and in fact for a time, was his personal assistant in the mid 70's !

In 1967 at the age of 27, after a long and varied journey, Lonnie found his spiritual path....a path followed by the likes of Martin Shaw (British TV star), Mutt Lange, Shania Twain, his friend Judith Durham and many other celebrities and non celebrities around the world.. Since then it has been the core of Lonnie Lee and is the reason his private life has been just that -private!! He maintains a strong sense of integrity, honesty, following through and doing exactly as he says be it with friends, family or business! Lonnie is a man who does stand alone and is today considered ironically, 'the last man standing from his era', as he is still doing it all today and still receiving rave reviews.

There are many sides to Lonnie's personal story which this brief outline could not touch, however I will mention some interesting areas below.

Lonnie is passionate about the environment just like his cousin Peter Andrews. Peter has been featured more times on ABC's Australian Story than anyone else and they are the most watched episodes in the history of the program. Lonnie helped Peter set up his Natural Sequence Farming project and his company created and still runs, it's very popular websites.

His own belief in the environment and the consequences of human intervention sees Lonnie as a 45 year vegetarian, non drinker and non smoker. This clean life must have something to do with his incredible energy levels and really youthful appearance but by no means is it dull.

In 1980 in Nashville Tennessee he created and ran a big Expo which he called, 'Living in the 80's. It was the first of its kind in USA which focused purely on alternative means of energy and living which were then being touted as the future.

In 1976 he had the first record promotion company in USA to become computerized. This was with 'main frame' computers well before Microsoft or any desktop computers came along. When they did, he taught himself programming which has since led him through the evolution of the personal computer right up to today when he still builds and programs his own computers and networks.

His interest and knowledge of the early Australian music industry is well known. His website, 'The Roots of Aussie Rock' has many thousands of members and he has written two books in his series 'The Facts. The first is the story of the ABC TV show 'Six O'Clock Rock' and then came 'Johnny O'Keefe - The Facts'. Due to their factual nature, both of these have become 'bibles' to radio and collectors.

Ask Aussie stars of today such as Angry Anderson, Ross Wilson, Normie Rowe, Russell Morris, Jim Keays and many others what role Lonnie Lee played in their lives before they entered show business and they will tell you he was a definite influence on them and his records were amongst the first they ever bought. Phil Manning and Matt Taylor of the Aussie Blues Supergroup , 'Chain' actually wrote and released a song recently titled, 'Saturday night at the Trocadero watching Lonnie Lee'.

He still writes and records and some of his new songs are fixed on radio playlists across Australia. Starlite Records are also releasing songs from his archives and already there are already 4 volumes of his Definitive Original Collection from 1959 on best seller lists.

His life is still exciting doing what he loves doing, and it is full of ongoing projects, song writing, record and video producing, live appearances and of course following his spiritual path.

A recent project was the Roots of Aussie Rock Wall Calendar which featured over 500 images of the stars of record, radio, TV and sports of the late 50’s and early 60s’. It got rave reviews as it was the first of its kind and a very unique collector’s item. It can be seen here http://www.starliterecords.com.au/calendar

He is currently writing his own biography and as he has a library full of his peers stories. Because of the respect he holds for the industry, he is also writing the definitive 'true' story of the start of the Australian Rock’n’Roll music industry.

His live shows are legendary whether they be with his full band The Leemen at Festivals, clubs or theatres or by himself with a sideman from his band, at his occasional and very personal and interesting, ‘Up Close and Personal’ shows.

His current shows include his big band sound show, 'CRY!' the music and story of Johnnie Ray which has amazing reviews and because of this, is regularly featured on the leading Arts and Music cable channel, 'Ovation'. Two other shows including, ‘Good Rockin’ Tonight’ are also regularly featured on ‘Ovation’. His current regular shows are, 'The Best of Lonnie Lee' and 'Solid Gold' where he features his own many hits and albums of yesterday and today, as well as tributes to his friends and peers.

His fantastic 'Rockabilly Frenzy Show' is a virtual non-stop barrage of pure early rockabilly done in his own unique and energetic style. International stars he has performed with recently such as Crash Craddock, Bobby Vee, Lesley Gore and Chan Romero etc., all refer to him as, 'The Real Thing'.

His ‘Up Close’ shows also feature many stories and songs which the full on shows don’t allow time for. It is mostly for small intimate venues or ‘Morning Melodies’ shows.

The excitement levels of his vocals and performances always leave audiences wanting more whether he is at Nostalgia, Rockabilly or Country Music festivals, or in the leading clubs or theatres.

No matter what the format you must not miss this exciting and unique performer. He is a true legend of Australian popular music still incredibly popular although it is 59 years since his start and 58 since he formed his first Rockabilly Band. Many say to look at him you’d never believe he was older than late 40’s, 50's!  In fact many refer to him, as ‘The father of Australian Rockabilly’ or,’ The last man standing from his era’.

There is only one Lonnie Lee.  Unique and exciting, just like it was..

This can be downloaded from the Press Page

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

 LInk to Club Magazine Article 2013 PDF file