There are very few names in Australian music history with careers that span over six decades. The talented Lonnie Lee celebrates his 80th birthday today, 18th September 2020, and is still making music and performing for adoring fans.
Lonnie (born David Laurence Rix) was born on this day in 1940, and spent his early childhood years living on a sheep property in Rowena, a small town in far north eastern NSW. His relationship with music began early, singing in the school choir and at home with his parents. He learnt to play the piano at school, taught himself to play the Ukulele at 13, then taught himself to play the guitar.
He grew up singing songs from the 30’s and 40’s by artists like Johnnie Ray and Hank Williams, and then came Elvis. At the age of 16, Lonnie entered a radio talent program called Australia’s Amateur Hour, singing a cover of the newly released track, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’.
When he was 17, he worked for 2GB in Scheduling and as a Panel Operator, then entered the Australia’s Elvis Competition held at Sydney’s Trocadero Ballroom and won. This was the beginning of everything for Lonnie.
What followed were a string of events that pushed Lonnie into the spotlight. His first TV appearance on ‘Sydney Tonight’, his first local rock story in the Sunday Sun, performing with Johnny O’Keefe in one of Sydney’s first Rock N Roll shows, starting his first Rockabilly Trio with Billy Mostyn & Kenny Hands, Playing shows at dances, charity events, parties, football clubs, in halls and a full time residency at the Riverview Hotel Tempe.
His progression from David Laurence Rix to Lonnie Lee came through his bands. First there was Laurie Rix and The Beatnix, then Laurie R Lee and The Leemen, and finally Lonnie Lee and The Leemen.
Lonnie’s name really exploded from 1959 onward. He was featured in Lee Robinson’s 1959 ‘Rock’n’Roll‘ Australian documentary, filmed at Sydney Stadium, and had his first No. 1 hit “Ain’t it So”, co-written by J.OK.
After an Australian Tour in Victoria with J.OK, he played Stadium and Festival Hall shows alongside 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.
His most famous song ‘Starlight Starbright’ was released in January 1960. It went Gold, selling over 35,000 copies. In the following 5 years he made 7 more Top 10 Hit Records and received 4 more Gold Records.
In the 70’s, Lonnie travelled to the US, writing for and with Roy Orbison and other stars. Roy made him his personal assistant. They toured Australia together in the 80’s.
The Australian Rockabilly pioneer has a huge list of accolades beside his name, and reaching 80 has not stopped him. He is still writing and releasing music and performing.
We love Lonnie and want to wish him the Happiest of Birthdays.
You can read Lonnie Lee’s full Bio here