More than sixty years on, Australian rockabilly pioneer Lonnie Lee still performs with the same passion he brought to the stage as a 15-year-old, with his pedometer showing he travels up to eight kilometres across the stage during a 90 minute show.
The 80-year-old says he feels blessed to thrive on performing to audiences when he travels around Australia, playing to packed out auditoriums.
‘I guess it’s like finding a love that lasts you your whole lifetime,’ Lonnie says.
His fans have been faithful too, including those who have enjoyed his Victorian Seniors Festival performances over the years.
‘I see real joy in their eyes when I look down from the stage. It’s like I’m in a time machine — I can go back 60 years and see those same people down there as young girls and young guys, twisting around.’
In 1961, Lonnie was presented with the Golden Microphone Award as Australia's most popular recording star. Over the course of his career he has notched up eight number one singles, wrote songs with Roy Orbison and toured with big names including Johnny Cash and The Everly Brothers. However, he shunned the sex, drugs and rock and roll lifestyle early on.
‘I took a really serious look at my health, and I became a vegetarian when I was 25 and I've been a vegetarian ever since. I live a holistic sort of a life. I'm very fit and extremely healthy. Every week I walk anywhere up to 20 kilometres at a brisk pace, and I enjoy it.’
Whilst making his health a priority in the early days was challenging, Lonnie says he is reaping the rewards now, as it’s allowed him to continue performing.
‘And, there can't be any greater gift than having another human being like what you're doing.’
Watch Lonnie's 2020 Victorian Seniors Festival reimagined performance.
Watch Lonnie's performance.