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Evergreen - - Contents Summer 2015 - Ed­mund Whitehouse

Many peo­ple think Frank Ifield is an Aus­tralian but he was ac­tu­ally born in 1937 at Coundon near Coven­try. How­ever, as the area re­ceived con­sid­er­able bomb dam­age dur­ing the war, like many oth­ers in search of a new life, his fam­ily em­i­grated soon af­ter hos­til­i­ties ended, to a ru­ral dis­trict near Syd­ney. It was there, while milk­ing the cows and work­ing on the land, that he taught him­self to em­u­late the Amer­i­can folk singer, Hank Snow, learn­ing how to yodel at the same time.

His par­ents gave him a ukulele for his 11th birth­day, which was fol­lowed soon af­ter by a guitar from his grand­mother by which time he had mas­tered most of the chords for coun­try mu­sic. At the age of 13 he per­suaded Ra­dio 2GB to al­low him on Aus­tralia’s Am­a­teur Hour, which led to a record­ing con­tract with EMI. Be­fore long he was ap­pear­ing on the Tim McNa­mara Show and tour­ing the coun­try with “Big Chief Lit­tle Wolf”. Other ra­dio shows fol­lowed but Na­tional Ser­vice in 1957 put an abrupt halt to ev­ery­thing. His lucky break, how­ever, came af­ter de­mob on Camp­fire Favourites, the first mu­sic show on TCN Chan­nel 9. Be­fore long he was ap­pear­ing on ev­ery TV chan­nel around Syd­ney on the strength of which EMI pro­moted him from the Re­gal Zono­phone la­bel to Columbia.

With his sights now set even higher, af­ter sev­eral farewell tele­vi­sion shows he de­parted for

Eng­land on the inau­gu­ral BOAC Comet flight in Novem­ber 1959. He en­joyed ini­tial mod­er­ate suc­cess with “Lucky Devil” then, af­ter a few other tries, hit the jack­pot in 1962 with “I Re­mem­ber You”. It was a life- chang­ing mo­ment which made him the first Bri­tish artiste, and only the sev­enth in the whole world, to sell more than a mil­lion copies. Spend­ing seven weeks at Num­ber 1 in the Bri­tish charts and mak­ing it to Num­ber 5 in the USA, it set a pat­tern which was re­peated the fol­low­ing year with “The Way­ward Wind” and “Con­fessin’ That I Love You”, both of which also made it to Num­ber 1. “No­body’s Dar­lin’ but Mine” made it to Num­ber 4 while “Don’t Blame Me” made it to Num­ber 8. Other suc­cesses in the Top 30 in­cluded “Mule Train”,

“An­gry at the Big Oak Tree”, “Sum­mer Is Over”, “Par­adise”, “No One Will Ever Know” and “Call Her Your Sweet­heart”.

A spe­cial high­light of his long ca­reer was per­form­ing at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Ten­nessee, where he was in­tro­duced by one of his singing he­roes, Hank Snow. In 1962, in a na­tional au­di­tion for the Euro­vi­sion Song Con­test singing “Alone Too Long”, he came run­nerup to Ron­nie Car­roll’s “Ring- a- Ding Girl” which even­tu­ally fin­ished in fourth place.

With Nor­rie Paramor guid­ing him along the way, he started to play amongst il­lus­tri­ous com­pany at var­i­ous venues around the UK, in­clud­ing Cliff Richard and the Shad­ows, Duane Eddy, Mike and Bernie Win­ters, and the Everly Broth­ers. He even ful­filled his dream of play­ing at the Lon­don Pal­la­dium but not as he ex­pected be­cause it turned out to be a Royal Com­mand Per­for­mance!

He con­tin­ued tour­ing and singing for many years, in­clud­ing a con­cert at Wem­b­ley and a big sum­mer sea­son at Black­pool but a bout of pneu­mo­nia fol­lowed by col­lapsed lungs threat­ened to bring his pro­fes­sional singing ca­reer to an abrupt end. It was not the fi­nale, how­ever, far from it, be­cause hence­forth he has de­voted his life to host­ing and sup­port­ing other artistes on tele­vi­sion and ra­dio, plus tour­ing folk mu­sic groups, both in Aus­tralia and the UK. In 1997 he was in­ducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame ( see above) so, to quote his web­site, “There is life in the old dog yet!”. A visit to his web­site will more than con­firm the truth of this state­ment from a golden oldie!

Frank as thou­sands of his fans re­mem­ber

him at his peak in the Six­ties. He was signed up by EMI in Aus­tralia while still a

teenager and made many records be­fore

be­ing called up for Na­tional Ser­vice. Af­ter be­ing de­mobbed, an ap­pear­ance on Chan­nel 9 cat­a­pulted him to fame and of­fered him the chance to visit the UK.

Frank has re­cently ap­peared with the Nicki Gil­lis band who have been on tour from “Down Un­der”. Win­ner of a Frank Ifield award, Nicki is shown here on the right at the stu­dios of BBC Mersey­side, to­gether with Frank ( cen­tre) and solo gui­tarist Bec Lavelle.

Just to prove age is no bar­rier to fame or pol­ished per­for­mance, in 2007 the UK “Mu­sic Maker” mag­a­zine fea­tured this pic­ture of Frank on its front cover.

Frank with his Aus­tralian con­tem­po­rary Barry Humphries ( right) at the launch of the bi­og­ra­phy of Dame Edna Ever­age!

In July 2007, leg­endary Aus­tralian news­reader and pre­sen­ter Brian Hen­der­son ( left) in­ducted Frank into the pres­ti­gious ARIA Hall of Fame ( Aus­tralian Record­ing In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion).

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