He's not only one of Australia's
most talented, famous and successful exports, has world-wide #1
hits to his credit, and is still receiving awards today but for many of the
he has been discovering, fostering, and mentoring some of
Australia's finest young talent and tirelessly promoting
Australian country music wherever he can.
This is the story of
Ifield in his own words...
The Frank Ifield Story - in his own words
have always been a person who lives for today - therefore not in
the habit of constant reminiscing. Nevertheless, due to my most
recent citation from Kempsey Country Music Festival of “The 2008
Living Legend Award”, I found myself doing just that.
Upon reflection, I feel I have been very fortunate in that I
have always known what I wanted to do and just followed my
heart. My passion to entertain was evident at a very early age,
influenced mainly by Country music, known as Hillbilly music in
those days. Whatever talent I might have possessed may have been
inherent, as my Grandfather toured in the time of “Cob & Co”
coaches with the minstrel show as the Song & Dance host “Mr
Interlocutor”. As a stripling ten year old kid, I was wildly
impressed by him and later, even recording some of his old-time
music hall songs.
At the time, I was living in Dural, a rural area north of Sydney
where, for my eleventh birthday my parents presented me with a
ukulele and I quickly learned to make the chords fit any song I
sang. It accompanied me to school one day, where the headmaster
encouraged me to adapt Australian poetry to my own tunes and
then perform them to the class. This experience whetted my
appetite for what I instinctively knew was to be my life-long
Then for Christmas 1949, my beloved Gran bought me a
proper guitar and now there was no stopping me. This thirteen
year-old, soon conned his way to convincing Dick Fair into
having me appear on radio 2GB’s Australia’s Amateur Hour, which
eventually led to a recording contract with EMI Regal Zonophone.
Before long I was appearing on the Tim McNamara Show and touring
the country with Big Chief Little Wolf. With nothing holding me
back after leaving school, I appeared on many top-line radio
shows and found myself headlining many Country venues throughout
the environs of Sydney - Then in 1957, National Service put an
abrupt halt to my progress. After being demobbed, I thought it
would be very difficult to pick up again, but luckily TV was
about to offer the break I needed, An unexpected call from
producer Alec Kellaway set me as a trailblazer with my own TV
show which was the first musical show on TCN Channel 9, called
‘Campfire Favourites’. Before long I was being featured on every
TV channel in Sydney and what’s more, A&R man Ron Wills of EMI
promoted me to the more prestigious Columbia Label.
My sights were set high now and I was determined to try my luck
overseas with the London Palladium Theatre as my goal. Enter
Peter Gormely: He expressed his desire to manage me with the
proviso I would go to England. So with both our eyes set in the
same direction he became my manager. In November 1959, after
many farewell TV shows, I embarked on the inaugural “Comet”
flight from Sydney to London.
Before the year was out, I appeared on BBCTV with comedian Ted
Ray on “Ray’s A Laugh” which paved the way for more TV shows -
the exposure needed for the long climb to the top.
The achievement of gaining a two-year contract with Norrie
Paramor, A&R man for Columbia EMI, UK took me to the next step.
My first single “Lucky Devil” made the nether regions of the top
thirty pop charts and with it came my first major booking - a
summer season in the Isle of Jersey with comedians Mike & Bernie
Winters. Meanwhile my manager was setting a cracking pace by
taking on “The Shadows” who swiftly rose to #1 with “Apache” -
then by the time I returned, Cliff Richard too had joined our
stable. Things were looking up and I took on my first Pantomime
in the role of Dick Whittington with the Shadows playing the
part of the brokers men, toping the bill. Although my records
were not faring so well, I was doing what I loved best by being
on stage. And was now touring the UK with the likes of Duane
Eddy, Bruce Channel and The Everly Brothers. My contract with
Columbia was about to elapse when in the nick of time came the
winning format in “I Remember You”. This mind-boggling
record-breaking smash hit, which was acclaimed as the first
single to sell one million copies in Britain alone, proved to be
the catalyst needed to fulfill my goal of playing the Palladium.
Yet this too was more than I dreamed of, for it was a Royal
Command Performance and it paved the way for my regularly
headlining shows from the stage of this Mecca of Show-business
doing Pantomimes; Summer Seasons; Variety Shows; Specials and TV
Time brought about other accolades. The following two singles
put me firmly in the Guinness Book Of Records as the first
artist in Britain to have three number ones in a row. The third
#1 single ‘Wayward Wind’ did battle with a new band that I had
just given a break to as support act at Peterborough Theatre
during my one-night-stand touring show - The band was the
Beatles who, up to then had only worked in Liverpool.
Meanwhile the USA had discovered my name and my first release on
Vee-Jay Records reached #5 in the Billboard Pop Chart and #1 in
the Country and MOR Charts, earning the position as the first
Australian artist to have conquered the USA radio charts in the
various genres of Pop, Country, and Adult Contemporary Music.
With two major hit singles plus a chart toping LP on the
American market, I was called upon once more to assist the
Beatles – this time with a compilation, coupling us on an album
called “Jolly What” which was angled as the oncoming British
Invasion. Unfortunately, Vee-Jay became defunct and I found
myself searching for a new US label.
Britain was now totally invaded by a plethora of British Pop
Groups, and solo performers were feeling left behind and my next
single “Be Nobody’s Darling But Mine” only reached #5. So
imagine my surprise when my fifth single “I’m Confessing” forged
its way against all odds back to the coveted #1.
I always set high goals, and one was to play “The Grand Old Opry”
in Nashville Tennessee. This occurred in 1964 - Once again -
more than I envisaged. I was there to record for “Hickory
Records” under the auspices of producer Wesley Rose and during
the session I said I would like to visit the Opry and Wesley
promised to do more than that – and booked me to appear as Roy
Acuff’s special guest.
|I did three songs on Roy’s section and was recalled to the
stage by my idol Hank Snow to do an encore during his segment.
If that weren’t enough, the following day I was inducted into
the Nashville Red Carpet Club and presented with an “Honorary
Citizenship Of The State Of Tennessee” from the Governor - Frank
During my career I have played all the places I dreamed of and
more. However, during the 80’s, I was to experience some of my
greatest professional highlights - yet some of my deepest
personal lows. While touring Australia in 1985 my dear father
lost his battle with cancer. This had a devastating effect on me
and I was still reeling from the enormity of it when returning
to the UK to headline a show at the Palladium. Being an
important date, I expected my wife and family to attend –
instead, I was handed a writ for divorce. I guess she had simply
had enough of me flitting around the world chasing my dreams,
but coming at that untimely moment placed further pressure on
me. On the outside all seemed well, I performed at the Wembley
Stadium and was given my own ABCTV Special followed by a summer
season in Blackpool. But stress took its toll ending with a
sever bout of pneumonia. After treatment I headed back home to
Sydney in order to recuperate. Instead, I was rushed into
hospital with collapsed lungs. I felt fine after the operation
but was told by the doctor that I would never sing again.
This news devastated me. But after a time I began to feel that
this was not the end but only a new beginning and adapted to
doing other things that I now had time for.
I hosted TV and radio shows; Instigated the Galston Country
Music Festival; Became the patron for The Music & Arts Talent
Search (MATS); Started the annual presentation of “The
International Spur Award” given to Australian Country artists
that I felt had overseas appeal and; lined up UK and European
tours for the most promising.
||Throughout my career I have had the honour of receiving many
accolades, but I particularly treasure those received in my
latter years. They include 3 Tamworth Awards: “Hands Of Fame”
“Roll Of Renown” and “TIARA Industry Award”. “Best TV Presenter”
for two series of “It’s Country Today” and in the honour of
being inducted into the 2007 ARIA Hall Of Fame.
Meanwhile I have had lots of CD releases around the world. The
most recent Australian release is a collection of some of the
best tracks I’ve recorded from around the globe on a double
album called “Something Rare & Wonderful”. Many of the songs had
not appeared before on CD format and some indeed are great
So there is life in the old dog yet!
© 2009 Frank Ifield
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