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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 06, Issue 01, 1996

Tex Morton

page 33

Tex Morton

Tex Morton was born Robert William Lane in Nelson on 30 August 1916. He was a fifth generation Nelsonian and a direct descendant of Ann Bird, the first woman to land in Nelson in February 1842. He is probably the most internationally acclaimed and recognised Nelsonian (Nelson City) who has lived. Yet apart from a small plaque outside the Trafalgar Centre, he is virtually unknown and unrecognised in his own birthplace.

He was undoubtedly Australasia's greatest showman and its first real Country music superstar. He led a diverse and utterly extraordinary life. Over a fifty year period he sang, yodelled, played guitar, composed, recited, recorded, was a travelling showman, sharp-shooter, whipcracker, buck-jump rider, hero of a comic strip, radio star, academic, hypnotist, memory expert, movie and TV actor, entrepreneur and entertainer extraordinaire. He was a colourful and charismatic character who became a legend in his own lifetime.

He was brought up in the family home at 18 Riverside. Nelson and was educated at Bishop's School, Central School and Nelson College. He had a good student record and developed an avid interest in radio and transmission and loved music and singing.

Early in the 1930 depression he left Nelson and tried a variety of jobs, which included cutting his first record in Wellington, before departing to Australia in 1932. He followed the showground and talent quest circuit and soon established himself on radio as Tex Morton, the Yodelling Boundary Rider. He made many records for Regal Zonophone Co and toured with various well known-variety shows. He quickly became a household name and was outselling every other artist on record in Australia. By 1937, he was an established national identity loved for his cheery smile, battered guitar and honest songs. In 1937 he married Marjorie Brisbane and the marriage produced twin sons in 1941.

He formed his own Wild West Circus Rodeo, the biggest touring extravaganza ever seen in Australia. The war intervened and put the show off the road, so he toured and entertained the troops all around the country and the Pacific theatre. After the war he successfully reestablished the show and continued it until 1949 when he sold it. He then ventured to Canada and the USA, where he established himself as the Great Morton and gained huge success as a hypnotist, illusionist and through ESP demonstrations, along with his other entertainment talents. Hypnotism became his forte. He studied at Palo Alto University USA and McGill University in Montreal, where he passed his BA degree, obtained a Doctorate and became fluent in the French language. By now he was an internationally recognised authority on hypnosis and operated a hypnotherapy clinic in Toronto.

Unable to settle to the regular life style he returned to Australia in 1960. He toured Asia and the show circuits and began recording again. He came back to New Zealand and hosted the top-rated TV show Country Touch for four years. Until his death in Sydney in 1983, the Kiwi country singer who became an Australian legend worked mainly in Australia and won further page 34acclaim as a character actor in movies and TV features. Throughout his entire life his main hobby was amateur radio and, as a devout "ham", he had contacts all over the world.

In January 1976 he became the first person to be elevated to the Australian Country Music Roll of Renown at Tamworth and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame there in 1977. In 1991 a bronze memorial bust of Tex Morton was unveiled in Bi-Centennial Park. Tamworth – a gift from the Tex Morton Memorial Association to all people who admired and loved his many talents.

Tex Morton is buried beside his parents at Marsden Valley Cemetery in Nelson. On his plaque is the epitaph "A Millionaire in the Experience of Life".