Lonnie Lee

What is it about rockabilly that (a) first drew you to it and (b) has kept you wedded to it to this day?

The raw excitement of it. Then and now.

What was life like in the 60s for a pop star?

In a way it was overwhelming because wherever you went people stared or pointed at you, chased you, wanted to touch you. Some even stalked and spied on me. For a shy, private type of guy it was very obvious that I didn’t have any private life and at times this was stifling.

There were more positives than negatives, though. Being a star meant there was plenty of travel and experiences only the privileged got to see. There were plenty of shows, tours, TV appearances and recording – all of which I loved and still love doing.

It was much the same as you see for Elvis and The Beatles in the early days – large crowds to meet you at the airport, screaming fans at the shows, thousands of letters, photos, proposals etc. Overall it was a wonderful experience.

What was it like hearing your voice on the radio for the first time?

I was quite critical of it as I felt it didn't sound like me. But it was a good feeling to know it was me – especially as Ain’t It So was played all the time on all the stations.

You had your last hit almost 50 years ago (1969) – is that because people’s music tastes moved on or do you put it down to other things?

Musical eras only last about five or six years and most artists in those eras fade and move on within that time. Others such as myself who had a lot of television, radio and press exposure last longer because we had more fans and more respect within the industry.

However, this is overshadowed by the fact that teen fans grow older and mature and their taste changes and the pre-teens become teens with their own style of music tastes.

In my case, as with Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, JOK, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and other artists from the original Rock 'n' Roll era, radio slowly dropped our style of music once the English Invasion (Beatles etc) started getting promotion.

Just because we didn’t have hits didn’t mean we weren’t still writing and recording new material – it was just that the mainstream media were interested in the new younger stars so exposure was harder to get.

Elvis survived mainly due to his movies and the fact he was so big at the beginning.

You are recording a new album at the moment. What can you tell us about it?

The album's theme will be like going back to my Rockabilly, Rock 'n' Roll roots as many of the songs have the same raw energy that the original songs did.

Most of the songs have never been recorded yet were written by two of the greatest Rock 'n' Roll songwriters ever, such as John Marascalco (Ready Teddy, Rip It Up, Good Golly Miss Molly and Otis Blackwell (Don't Be Cruel, Return To Sender, Fever, All Shook Up, Great Balls Of Fire). I have written about five songs for the album and there are also a couple of songs from my early era that I have always wanted to record, which are very popular on my current shows.

The album has the working title Back to BaseX and will be released in September on my birthday by Starlite Records.

Do you keep up with modern music? If so, what are some of the bands/singers you like?

I don't have much time to listen to other music, especially newer music, because my life is still totally absorbed with my era music. I also find a lot of it is quite lyrically challenging for a conservative older adult.

You turn 77 this year. How’s the body and voice holding up to all this touring?

I'm still doing two and three-hour shows of 50 songs each in my normal energetic way. Physically and mentally I consider myself to be on my peak plateau and unless sickness or accidents come my way, I only see time as my eventual brake. I will continue to sing and do shows until I fall off the perch!

Finally, tell us something about you we don’t know.

I have an autobiography coming out next year.

Lonnie is performing as part of the State Trustees Country Concert Series during the 2017 Victorian Seniors Festival, which runs throughout October.