To me, John Rowles was a favourite big ballad sound frequently heard coming from our family’s record player when I was a child.
My amateur musician and music teacher mother was a big fan and his early records had pride of place in her music collection with the likes of singer Nat King Cole and pianist Winifred Atwell.
In a tell-all autobiography called If I Only Had Time, John Rowles OBE, 65, reveals his early struggle- street heartland existence as the youngest child of Maori father Eddie and pakeha mother Phyllis, growing up on the North Island’s East Coast.
The Rowles childhood story probably best resembles the light-hearted aspects of the movie Boy, mixed with the odd bit of ‘‘biffo’’ from some of the lighter scenes of Alan Duff’s raw film Once Were Warriors.
The singer is philosophical and humorous, recalling winning and losing in the cut-throat global entertainment world and the pioneering steps he took from his beloved tiny New Zealand, to where it was all happening musically, from Australia to Britain, then tackling the home of popular music, the United States.
He writes about meeting the rock’n’roll king himself, Elvis Presley, performing with comedienne Phyllis Diller, and meeting the ‘‘Rat Pack’’ (which included: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr) of whom he does exceptionally clever impersonations in his shows.
He reveals the highs such as early charttopping stardom in Britain and filling big hotel venues in international meccas Las Vegas and Hawaii; and the lows such as being dropped by record companies and the constant unfulfilled promises of material from some song writers.
His autobiography could possibly be used as a handbook on how to survive after falling off one ‘‘horse’’ and getting back on another, not once but again and again. The singer, a constant promoter of his homeland, seemed to be ‘‘thrown’’ often.
Many sky-high successes would be followed by earthshattering lows, some beyond his control and others because of his naivete.
The way the singer tells his story shows a cast-iron inner strength and resilience perhaps not often found in some of the more fragile international stadiumfilling set.
He seems brutally honest about his early years weakness for beautiful women and the frenzied and sometimes unhinged reactions from female fans and groupies to his dark, exotic looks.
Rowles tells of one