Remembering Our Kings & Queens Of Pop

Remembering Our Kings & Queens Of Pop


Before the ARIA’s, before the Countdown Awards, in the late ‘60s, and for most of the ‘70s, Australia had the King of Pop Awards.

Times being as they, the women weren’t even acknowledged with an award in the early years. Normie Rowe stood on his lonesome as King in 1967 and 1968. When Johnny Farnham was crowned in 1969, 1970 and ’71, he was a single monarch as well, even though Allison Durban was acknowledged as “Best Female Artist”. It wasn’t until 1972, when Farnham won for the fourth year in a row, that he had a Queen; Colleen Hewett was crowned Queen of Pop that year and the next.

The awards began as an extension of the Go-Set Awards. Go-Set, of course, was the weekly pop newspaper of the day. When Normie Rowe was voted most popular performer by Go-Set’s readers in 1967, Channel O’s Go!! Show decided to crown him on air. In the following years, TV Week took up the televised awards and emulated what they’d been doing for years with the Logies – encouraging their readers to vote by mailing in a form.  The King of Pop Awards ceremony was broadcast by the 0–10 Network from 1967 to 1975, and from 1976 to 1978 by the Nine Network.

Whilst we’ll spend more timing looking at the male-dominated awards in part two, this time we’ll look at some of the women who contributed so much to Australian pop at the time.

ALLISON DURBIN: Best Female Artist, 1969, 1970, 1971 (Also, Best Dressed Performer – Female, 1971)

Already a major star at home in New Zealand when she moved here in 1966, Alison was a dominant artist in Australia from the time of her first #1, “I Have Loved Me A Man”. In addition to a number of solo hits, she scored with an album of duets with her ‘King’, Johnny Farnham.

COLLEEN HEWETT: Queen of Pop, 1972, 1973

Colleen first recorded in 1968 with Laurie Allen, of Bobby & Laurie fame, in Melbourne’s Laurie Allen Revue. She easily established herself as a solo artist and had a number of hits, including superb versions of “Superstar” (which she recorded before the Carpenters’ hit) and this track from Godspell. Colleen’s epic version of “Day By Day”, as produced by Ian Meldrum, is one of the great Australian records. Colleen returned to the studio with 2016’s comeback album Black And White topped the iTunes Blues chart.

JUDY STONE: Best Dressed Performer – Female, 1972

Perhaps more of a consolation prize than an award, Judy also lost out to Colleen chart-wise with her own version of “Day By Day”. Judy’s time as a pop artist was really the ‘60s – she had huge hits with "4,003,221 Tears from Now" in 1964 and “Born A Woman” in 1966 – but as the ‘70s progressed she moved deeper into Country music. She reached #2 with "Would You Lay with Me (In a Field of Stone)" in 1974.

LINDA GEORGE: Best New Talent, 1973

One of the truly – an unjustly – forgotten Australian artists of the ‘70s, Linda was a much-loved Sydney soul-jazz singer whose career got a boost when she appeared in a theatre production of Tommy. Her cover of Gladys Knight & The Pips’ “Neither One of Us” nearly cracked the top ten in 1973.

DEBBIE BYRNE: Queen on Pop, 1974, 1975

Coming to national prominence via Johnny Young’s Young Talent Time program, Debbie was already known to millions of Australia before she started making records. in March 1974 she won the Logie Award for Best Teenage Personality and released her first single, “He’s A Rebel”, which went to #1 in Melbourne and #25 nationally. Seven months later, in October, she was crowned Queen of Pop for the first time.

MARICA HINES: Queen of Pop, 1976, 1977, 1978

Unlike those who preceded her on the throne, Marcia has endured and remains an icon. Her story is well known; arriving here at the age of 16 in 1969 to perform in Hair she followed up with a key role in Jesus Christ Superstar and work with the popular Daly Wilson Big Band before pursuing a highly successful pop career. “From the Inside” was her second single and first national Top 10 hit.

OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN: Best Aust, International Performer, 1976

She’d left our shores in the mid-‘60s, but with massive international success happening, the King of Pop Awards recognised her with a special “Best Australian International Performer Award”. “Have You Never Been Mellow” was our Olivia’s second consecutive US #1.

- Dave Laing


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