b. Robert William Lane, 8 August 1916, Nelson, New Zealand, d. 23 July 1983, Sydney, Australia. A Maori neighbour taught Morton his first guitar chords and he became so obsessed with music that, at the age of 15, he ran away from home and busked on the streets of Waihi. When asked one day by the town’s policemen if his name was Bobby Lane, he noticed a nearby garage sign that gave the name of ‘Morton’ and quickly informed the officer that his name was Bob Morton and that he was a street singer and entertainer.
Morton worked on various jobs, including one with a travelling troupe known as the Gaieties Of 1932. He made some aluminium disc recordings in Wellington (never commercially released), which proved very popular on local radio and may well be the first country music records made outside the USA. In 1932, he moved to Australia and worked with travelling shows, where, in addition to singing, he worked as a magician, a boxing booth fighter, with wild animals, as the stooge for others, and even rode as a Wall Of Death rider. In 1934, with a repertoire of Australian bush ballads as well as the early country songs that he had heard on record, he moved to Sydney. He undertook whatever jobs he could find, including going to sea as a stoker and electrician, and once worked as a labourer for the firm responsible for installing the lighting on Sydney Harbour Bridge.
After eventually winning a major talent show, he made his first recordings for Regal Zonophone Records in February 1936 when, among the four tracks recorded, two, ‘Happy Yodeller’ and ‘Swiss Sweetheart’, were his own compositions. The records sold well, further sessions soon followed and by 1937, Tex Morton the Yodelling Boundary Rider was a nationally known star. When he played his first concert in Brisbane, the crowd totalled 50, 000. He continued to record throughout the late 30s, the material ranging from known country songs and his own numbers to recitations of the works of famous Australian poets Henry Lawson and Banjo Patterson. He published his Tex Morton songbook and a newspaper even ran a comic strip of his adventures. In 1939, a major star, he had established his own travelling circus/rodeo, where apart from singing, he entertained with trick shooting, fancy riding, a memory act and magic. World War II forced him to close his show and he invested heavily in a dude ranch, losing all his money when the project failed. After the war, he re-formed his rodeo, linked it with another major touring zoo and circus and toured all over Australia.
In 1949, Morton decided to move to the USA and, having by then learned an act using hypnotism as well as his other talents, he moved to Los Angeles. After spending two years working as a singer and acting on radio and in some films, he began to appear as The Great Doctor Robert Morton - the World’s Greatest Hypnotist. In 1951, he toured the USA and Canada with his one-man show on which he sang, did recitations, trick shooting, mind reading and hypnotism. He proved so popular that he set attendance records in many cities, including St. Louis, Boston and Vancouver and in Toronto his show outranSouth Pacific. Ever the showman, he used many gimmicks to attract the crowd, including stunts such as walking blindfold on the parapet of the tallest building in the town. In the early 60s, with many similar acts now performing, he gave up the hypnotism and, for a time, he worked on the stage and in films as Robert Morton. He briefly and unsuccessfully resurrected The Great Morton upon his return to Australia in 1965. He toured for a while with a small rodeo show but soon found that television had made such entertainment no longer viable. He continued to record and in 1973, he scored a major Australian hit with his song ‘The Goodiwindi Grey’ (a tribute to a famous racehorse), recorded at what turned out to be his last recording session. Throughout the 70s, he appeared on television and in Australian films and although he often tried to leave out the old hillbilly and yodelling songs, the public would not let him. It is estimated that during his long career he recorded over 1, 000 songs and had many major national hits with numbers such as ‘Beautiful Queensland’, ‘The Black Sheep’ (his bestselling song) and ‘Good Old Droving Days’. In 1976 Morton was the first artist to be inducted into the Australian Country Music Roll of Renown. He died from pneumonia in July 1983.