Lonnie Lee (born 18 September 1940) is an Australian singer. He was raised on sheep property in Rowena, New South Wales and has been performing since the mid-1950s. A Pioneer of early Australian rockabilly music, at the peak of his career, Lee had eight top 100 singles on the national charts. Seven of them peaked in the top 40, including three top 20's and two top tens. His highest peaking song on the national charts was a #2. He achieved five Gold Records. He had his last hit with 'Sad Over Someone' in (1969), but still continues to tour and perform.
Lee got his first break in 1956 with a performance on radio 2UW's talent search, Alan Toohey's Amateur Hour where he came second. In February 1957, he won an MGM contest for 'Australia's own Elvis Presley' and in 1959 recorded his first record for Leedon Records called Ain't it so, which he wrote with Johnny O'Keefe and which became his first national hit. He also formed started Sydney's first Rockabilly trio. At this time, Lee made his first of many television appearances on the ABC's rock and roll television show Six O'Clock Rock as well as Bandstand compered by Brian Henderson.
Other hits were Starlight Starbright (1959), Yes Indeed I Do (1960), I Found A New Love, Defenceless (1960). In 1961 and 1962 he made Sit Around And Talk, When The Bells Stop Ringing, Sitting By The River and Don't You Know Pretty Baby.
His last hit was in 1969 with his own song Sad Over Someone. Lonnie Lee continues to tour and perform regularly both national and internationally.
Lee's recording career achieved a number of notable firsts including
- the first Australian to have a full colour album cover;
- the first Australian to record a stereo album;
- the first Australian to have a double sided #1 record; and
- the first Australian to have a #1 from an album
In 1961 Lee was awarded a commercial radio award, the 'Golden Microphone Award' as Australia's Most Popular Recording Star.
Touring- 1960's, 1970's and 1980's
During the 1960s and 1970s, he toured the UK and US before settling in the US from 1971 recording and writing songs. His song writing included work with Roy Orbison, Cher, Florence Henderson and Glen Campbell. In 1984 Lee returned to Australia where he re-introduced the classic Rock'n'Roll with his show ' Lonnie Lee's Rock'n'Remember Show'. He brought many of that era's stars out from their regular jobs and back onto the stage. The live show was a great success and Lonnie even had a weekly radio show of the same name. In 1984 he enticed a Sydney promoter to bring his friend Fabian to Australia for a series of concerts and performed himself on these.
As well as performing with his band The Leemen since his return to Australia in 1984, he started his own record company Starlite Records to release his back catalogue and new material. Since then he has written many songs and released over 20 CDs.
Today he performs across Australia as Australia's most unique and raw example of a 1950's rockabilly singer. His shows have always been very different to other performers of his era and this continues through today.
In October 2007 he toured with fellow performers Crash Craddock, Bobby Vee and Lesley Gore from that original Rock'n'Roll era and many still say he was the stand out on that tour. It was an historic tour as 49 years before, he had toured with Crash with The Everley Brothers and other US stars of the time.
In 2008 he launched another show titled, Lonnie Lee's CRY!. It features 20 plus songs made popular by Johnnie Ray the first big pop star who many including Tony Bennett say was the father of Rock'n'Roll. The show features Lonnie, his band The Leemen together with a big band.
This takes Lonnie full circle from his teenager years in the early 1950s when he listened and sang along to these songs on the radio.
The show is not a clone show and he does not try to be Johnnie Ray. He makes all the songs his own with all the influences that makes Lonnie Lee what he is today.
As well as this show he still continues to perform with his band as Lonnie Lee and the Leemen in the show The Best of Lonnie Lee.
- Lonnie Lee website
- Transcript: GNT Interview with George Negus (16 June 2003)
- The show website
- ABC: Long Way To The Top - Lonnie Lee Stories and Highlights