Lonnie Lee History

Lonnie 1959 Sydney Stadium

His first stage performance was when he was in kindy in 1944 at Her Majesty’s Theatre. He was one of the ‘rats’ in a school play. During his school years he was a lead soprano soloist in the school choir at Trinity Grammar and at Christ Church Lavender Bay where he won the coveted Silver Medal when he was 12.

During his long career he has won many awards and accolades for his popularity and his singing. A brief overview of his career is below.

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’. The DVD, The Black and White Television Years Volume 1 and 2 featuring many of his TV shows from 1959 onwards as well as 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 56 years since he formed his first Rockabilly Band although to look at him you’d never believe he was older than late 40’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..

1940September 18 born in Private Nursing home in Chatswood.
Back to Grandparents sheep property in Rowena.
1946Started boarding school at Trinity Grammar School Strathfield then 1951 day school at Summer Hill.
1947- 1952Singing in school choir and at home with parents playing piano
Learned piano at school.
1953- 1955Went to Crows Nest Technical College
Singing in Lavender Bay Christ Church choir
Taught himself ukelele
Joined Sea Scouts 1st
1955Sang 30’s and 40’s songs then Johnnie Ray,Hank Williams & others
Taught himself guitar.
Paper deliveries before and after school.. Worked in Luna Park, on Ferries , in Woostores and factories in school holidays.
Left school  after Intrenediate Certificate.
1956Saw Blackboard Jungle Movie – heard Rock’n Roll in movie
Australia’s Amateur Hour  sang new release Heartbeak Hotel
First professional singing at small hotels, restaurants, parties
Started working in National Bank Crows Nest,Newtown,Marrickville.
Study Accountancy.
1957Started work at 2GB in Schedules and as Panel Operator.
Trocadero Ballroom Australia’s ELVIS, for Love Me Tender promo – won
Surryville Ballroom- Sydney’s Elvis Presley Contest – wonFirst TV apperance – Sydney Tonight
Sunday Sun 1st local rock page story
First Trocadero show with J.OK, one of Sydney first Rock’n’Roll shows
Started first Rockabilly Trio with Billy Mostyn & Kenny Hands
Performed in ATN7 ‘Sydney Tonight’ – Sydney’s first of it’s type
Played dances, charity events, parties,football clubs in halls
First full time 6 shows a week at Riverview Hotel Tempe
Car accident in late December so father called him home to Rowena


Went back to family sheep property at Rowena, near Moree, Walgett
Worked as Jackaroo on property
Sang at local halls and balls, offered touring with Rodeo, Circuses
Sang with country band, Frank Bourke and his White Rose Orchestra
Offered to join most popular country band, White Rose Orchestra
1959Returned to Sydney in January
Started new bands called Laurie Rix and The Beatnix, then Laurie R Lee and The Leemen, then Lonnie Lee and The Leemen
Playing nearly every night at dances and shows.
Fan Club started by Margaret Roberts and Dianne Farr and others in Bendigo and across Australia.
Offered to record first EP for Lee Gordon, ‘This is Lonnie Lee’
Performed on Stadium Show with Fabian.
Featured in first Rock’n’Roll Movie filmed at Stadium
1st # 1 of 8 Hit Records… ‘Aint it So” –  Lonnie & J.OK wrote it.
First Australian Rock’n’Roll tour – across Victoria with J.O’K
1960Featured on many Stadium, Festival Hall shows with US stars, Ricky Nelson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Crash Craddock, Bobby Rydell, Marv Johnson, The Everly Bros, Johnny Cash, The Crickets, Tommy Sands, Chan Romero and many more.
Started 2 year run as featured star on Australia’s first Rock TV Show
First Rock’n’Roll tour to Queensland and many other dances, shows.
On tour in June, Lonnie found J.OK accident near Kempsey.
Started own publishing company, ‘Lonnie Lee Music’
Had 3 sings on Hit Parade at same time.
Signature song, ‘Starlight Starbright’ released in January. First Gold.
First Full colour LP in Australia released, ‘A Night out with Lonnie Lee’.


Public vote ‘Most Popular Star ABC TV’s ‘Six O’Clock Rock’ -J.Ok 2nd
2nd most popular star on TV’s Bandstand. Col Joye first.
Golden Microphone Award as Australia’s Most Popular Star.
Many shows and dances across Australia.
Started performing on Showgrounds
1962Press Award “Australia’s Most Consistent Hit Parader
First tour of New Zealand, ‘Phillips Showtime’ – 2 months.
Many more records released.. Sitting by the River, When the bells etc

8 Top 10 Hit Records – 5 Gold Records  many Albums
Concert tours with every major US superstar of the era.
More Australian hits than Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry
Tours and record releases worldwide.
1st OZ Stereo LP in 1964  also 1st Full colour album cover in Australia 1960
1st artist to record a Bee Gee song 1960 “I’d like to leave”   
1st Australian to top NZ parades and successfully concert tour -1959-64
Started The Bowl Booking Agency
Promoted 2nd Wave of Australian stars such as Normie Rowe, Tony Worsley and wrote and produced tracks for Mike Furber, Donna Gaye, The Rajahs and many others.
Started own agency ‘ Lonnie Lee Entertainment Agency’
Toured NZ with Dinah Lee
Recorded for EMI Records’, HMV Label.
‘Discovered’ John Rowles, named him JA-AR signed and recorded him for Leedon Records and managed and booked him.
1966-1967Performed in clubs and tours across NZ and Australia
Continued booking stars
Offered trip to Europe left on Chandris to Greece.
Performed across Europe and England
1968Toured South Pacific Islands, Fiji, New Caledonia and Tahiti
Managed and produced for Sunshine Records Australia.
Helped promote Swinger Circuit.. Australia’s biggest ever tour circuit.
1969Toured NZ with Judith Durham – when she left The Seekers.
Toured Ivan Dayman’s ‘Swinger Circuit’ across Australia
1971-1984Went to USA to Seattle then Las Vegas then Hollywood & Nashville.
Living in Nashville on/off for 9yrs – wrote for and with Roy Orbison and other stars. Roy made him his, ‘Personal Assistant’. 
1980 was made an “Honourary Delegate to the USA House of Representatives.
Produced Health and Exercise TV Show at Channel 17 in Nashville for 2 seasons for ex Mr America.
Promoted franchises for ‘American Health Studios’ Nashville.
Managed and promoted Nashville’s top Country Music Nightclubs, Nashville Palace and Web Pierce’s Rhinestone Cowboy.
Had world’s first ‘Solar and Alternatives’ Expo in Nashville, ‘Living in the 80’s’ .
Lived in Las Vegas on/off 5 yrs performing and had own record label and music companies.
Started the first computerised ‘Record Promotion’ company in USA.
Performed and had own shows across USA.
Spent a year in LA with Motown producer Mickey Stevenson of “Dancin in the Street” fame.      
A Founder Director of ‘American Society of Country Music’ – Las Vegas.
Owned record label & promo company in Nashville & Las Vegas.
Produced Country Music TV Show from Silver Nugget Casino Las Vegas.
Lonnie Lee’s Nashville Country Music Show first full country show in major clubs and Sydney Town Hall.
Had Country Music Radio show for Edels Record Stores, on Radio 2KY.
Promoted stars such as Ray Charles, The Hollies, Gene Pitney, Tom T Hall.
Toured Australia with Roy Orbison.
Toured Australia as Specila Guest on Las Vegas show, ‘Elvis – The Final Farewell Concert’
1984-2000Started radio show ‘ Lonnie Lee’s Rock’n’Remember Show’ on 2GLF 99.3FM
Brought back Australia’s first rock stars such as Barry Stanton, Warren Williams, Johnny Devlin, Booka Highland, Lucky Starr and others with guest Glen Shorrack for big Rock’n’Remember’ concert recorded by ABC radio.
Chosen to represent pop music by ABC TV at 60th  Anniversary.
Ausmusic launch, chosen to represent the first Australian Rock Stars.
One of the most featured stars at Powerhouse Museum’s “Real Wild Child” exhibit.
Major attraction at Canberra festival and other major provincial events.  
Major show at Darling Harbour “Australia Day” celebrations for 3 years.
1998 and 1999 awarded “Australia Post Best Performing Artist” .
2001 awarded Australia Post ‘Best Nostalgia Act’
Tours all clubs, casino’s, outdoor events,festivals and corporate events.
Started Starlite Records and writes, records and releases new CD’s.
Recorded major hits with stars of ABC TV show, ‘Six O’Clock Rock’.
1984 Suggested Festival Records re-release albums of original rock stars. Series became known as, ‘The Festival File’.
Started and toured ‘Lonnie Lee’s Dance Ranch’, the first major Line Dance show.
Cameo performances and interviews on many TV Shows.
2002-2020Featured on major venue tour, ‘Long Way to The Top’.
Performance on Australia first Music cruise, ‘The Blue Suede Cruise’ .
Wrote and released CDs such as Light of Love’, ‘North West Mail’ and ‘Back to Base X’ and DVDs .. ‘Good Rockin’ Tonight’.
Releases Black and White DVD series of old TV shows from 1959. Vol 1 and 2 and LIve shows, ’30th Anniversary of Six O’Clock Rock’ Vol1 and 2 and The TV Years 1980 to 2018
Cable TV Channel ‘Ovation’ featuring and repeating Lonnie’s shows.
Performing at major venues such as Crown Casino QPAC and festivals with Leemen across Australia.
Turned 79 on 18th September 2019
Still writing and releasing CDs and DVDs.
Writing his book. 180,000 + words so far..
Two week QLD Seniors Tour 2016 and 2017
Victoria West Tour 2017, 2018 and 2019
Melbourne Seniors Tour 2018 – Sydney Premiers Concert to 35,000 in ICC
Repeat performances at leading clubs and other venues
2019 new CD Back to Base X of his own songs plus those of John Marascalo (Rip it up) and Otis Blackwell (Don’t be Cruel)
Biggest Hits CD from original Masters
2020-2022Due to government restrictions and lockdown mandates, all Lonnie’s shows and tours were cancelled. It is only now in mid 2022 that he is once again performing.
He has disbanded The Leemen and is now going the same way as many of the world’s heritage stars by presenting himself as a solo act accompanied by powerful video and other audio and visual effects. His major theatre show is, ‘Just me and my music’ which really says it all.
 OVERVIEW Lonnie Lee is unique – one of a kind – his music style, his vocal style and energy and his accomplishments attest to that. His shows are unique from all of his peers whether international or local. His ‘firsts’ are also unique. See testimonials from fans and reviewers on another area of this site.
 Today he still gets more plays than his peers on radio for both older and current releases.
Has recently released 44 CDs over recent years, 6 ‘live’ show DVDs and archival DVDs. He has never had a manager or exclusive agent and has always stood alone. So incredibly, 66 years later it’s still.. LONNIE LEE