RE­VIEW

South Waikato News - - ENTERTAINAMENT - By ROBYN DOWNY

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

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