|Birth Day:||February 1, 1947|
|Birth Place:||Melbourne, Australia|
Also known for his role as Doug Morrell on the Australian soap opera Sons and Daughters, Normie Rowe is most famous for his pop music career, during which he recorded the hit 1960s singles "Que Sera Sera" / "Shakin' All Over," "Tell Him I'm Not Home," "The Breaking Point," and "Pride & Joy."
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After beginning his entertainment career on the Australian television programs The Go!! Show and Teen Scene, Normie Rowe released his debut single, a hit cover version of the Gershwin standard "It Ain't Necessarily So."
After leaving high school at the end of 1962, Rowe had joined the Postmaster-General's Department (PMG) on 14 January 1963 (later split in 1975 into Telecom Australia and Australia Post). He worked as a trainee technician, but in late 1964 his long hair became an issue with his employers and, in the face of a "cut it or quit" ultimatum, he left the PMG to become a professional entertainer. Working on the Melbourne dance circuit, he became a popular attraction and it was not long before he was picked to become a regular on Melbourne pop TV shows like Teen Scene and The Go!! Show. According to music historian Ed Nimmervoll, EMI apparently had the chance to sign him but turned him down, claiming that he could not sing. He was signed to a recording deal with the independent label Sunshine which included a management deal with the Ivan Dayman organisation.
Rowe's first single, released in April 1965, was a brooding "beat" arrangement of Gershwin's "It Ain't Necessarily So" (from Porgy & Bess) a choice suggested by Stan Rofe. It was a Number 1 hit in Melbourne and a Top Ten hit in most other capitals cities (No. 6 in Sydney, No. 5 in Adelaide, No. 3 in Brisbane), even though Sydney pop station 2SM (then owned by the Catholic Church) banned it because of its supposedly sacrilegious lyrics. The inspiration for Rowe's version was apparently a 1963 version by the United Kingdom band Ian and the Zodiacs. Some references cite the course as a version by The Merseybeats, but that band never recorded "It Ain't Necessarily So". The name of the Ian & The Zodiacs' album This Is Merseybeat has apparently been confused with the name of the band The Merseybeats.
Rowe's first LP was released in July 1965. His second single (also apparently discovered while trawling through Rofe's vast record collection), released in August, was a cover of Ben E. King's "I (Who Have Nothing)". It became his second Top 10 hit (No. 10 in Sydney, No. 6 in Adelaide, No. 4 in Melbourne) (and a Number 23 in Brisbane).
"Pride & Joy" (June 1966) was also Top Ten in most state capitals. This single is also notable for its B-side, a cover of "The Stones That I Throw", written by Robbie Robertson, a song originally recorded in 1965 by Levon & the Hawks, later known as The Band. He appeared in the 1966 musical comedy film Don't Let It Get You. Mid-year he joined The Easybeats, Bobby & Laurie and MPD Ltd on "The Big Four" national tour that played to huge crowds around the country.
Rowe was by this time the most popular solo performer in Australia, so in August 1966 he left to try his luck in the UK. In preparation, he revamped the line-up his backing band "the Playboys". Several members opted to stay in Australia for family reasons, so Rowe replaced them with bassist Brian Peacock and guitarist Rod Stone, both from the ex-New Zealand band The Librettos, which had recently split.
Up to this time there was no national pop chart in Australia, with most pop radio stations and newspapers in state capitals and major cities publishing their own competing charts. However, on 5 October 1966 Go-Set magazine, which had been launched in February, began publishing its first weekly national Top 40, compiled by Ed Nimmervoll. "Ooh La La" / "Mary, Mary" debuted at #6 on the new Go-Set chart on 7 December 1966, and reached #1 in the 21 December chart, hence becoming Rowe's first official national #1 hit. It stayed at #1 for two weeks before being briefly supplanted by The Easybeats' "Friday on My Mind" on 4 January, but returned to the top for the next two weeks.
The Go-Set Pop Poll was coordinated by teen-oriented pop music newspaper, Go-Set and was established in February 1966 and conducted an annual poll during 1966 to 1972 of its readers to determine the most popular personalities.
The new Playboys lineup arrived in London in December; Normie flew home for Christmas, which coincided with the release of "It's Not Easy" / "Mary Mary", and he returned to England in January. In March 1967 the group embarked on a tour of the UK supporting The Troggs, Gene Pitney and Sounds Incorporated. The same month, Phil Blackmore left the group for family reasons and returned to Australia; he was replaced by English organist Trevor Griffin. Rod Stone left in mid-1967 (returning to Australia, after which he joined band The Groove) and he was replaced by former Adam Faith sideman Mick Rogers. At the end of 1966, Normie Rowe was voted Australia's best male singer in the inaugural Go-Set Pop Poll.
Rowe had more national chart success in late 1967 with the Graham Gouldman song "Going Home" (b/w "I Don't Care") -- assumed to be about the Vietnam War, but really about a migrant's return to Australia from Britain—which debuted at #22 in the Go-Set chart in late April and stayed in the national Top Ten until the end of May, peaking at #7 in the second week of May. "Sunshine Secret" / "But I Know", and another single, "Turn Down Day" charted in Melbourne. But in September 1967 any questions about his career future were dramatically stalled when he received his call-up notice for national service.
The King of Pop Awards were voted by the readers of TV Week. The King of Pop award started in 1967 and ran through to 1978.
Rowe was inducted into the army in February 1968, although he continued to perform part-time (albeit with a regulation short-back-and-sides army style haircut). At least one TV appearance has survived of Normie with the army "do", performing "It's Not Easy" and "Penelope" on the 19 October edition of music program Uptight. He also began working with a new backing band, Nature's Own, who also regularly backed Johnny Farnham and other members of the Sunshine roster. His only charting record during this period was the ballad "Penelope", written by former Playboys member Brian Peacock.
Every move of Rowe's basic training at Puckapunyal took place in the full glare of the media spotlight. He was shipped off to Vietnam in January 1969, and he served his tour of duty there with distinction, rising to the rank of Corporal and was Crew Commander of an armoured personnel carrier. He was discharged from the army in February 1970. His Vietnam experiences left a deep impression on him, and since that time he has worked extensively on behalf of other Vietnam veterans.
Rowe had one last minor hit in May 1970 with the song "Hello", written by Johnny Young, and he released an album of the same name. (It was revealed many years later that Young's song "Smiley", a major hit for Ronnie Burns in 1969, was written about Normie). The Hello album marked the end of his Sunshine contract, although the label had been taken over by Festival several years earlier after it got into financial problems. Normie signed to Festival in 1971, for whom he cut three singles. "Que Sera Sera" was re-released in January 1971 and on 6 March he married his girlfriend Sue Powlesland.
Although his pop career was now effectively over, Rowe was able to fall back on the training from his dance hall days and he began to concentrate on a varied career playing the club and hotel circuit as well as making TV performances, where he became a popular attraction on variety programs like The Don Lane Show and The Mike Walsh Show. He continued to record through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. He switched to the Astor Records label in 1975 and had considerable success with the single "Elisabeth", which won the "Best Song" category at that year's Tokyo Music Festival.
Rowe has also had to endure other public hardships, including family problems involving his teenage daughter, which resulted in a great deal of intrusive and unwelcome publicity and the end of his marriage to his first wife, Sue. In October 1979 Normie's son, Adam John Rowe, died after being accidentally knocked down by a motorist while he was riding his bicycle home from his school fete when he was 8 years old. Unknown to many, Normie also has another son who was born in November 1965 in Melbourne who has remained anonymous to this day.
In the 1980s Rowe began to expand his career into acting and musical theatre. He studied at the Sydney's famous Ensemble Theatre and took roles on stage and TV, including an extended role in the TV soapie Sons & Daughters. In 1987 he won great acclaim in his central role of Jean Valjean in Cameron Mackintosh's Sydney production of the musical Les Misérables.
The ARIA Music Awards is an annual awards ceremony that recognises excellence, innovation, and achievement across all genres of Australian music. They commenced in 1987. Rowe was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.
Rowe remained a popular attraction at clubs, corporate functions and on the "rock-&-roll revival" circuit in the 1990s. He also kept up regular appearances on TV variety shows. This led to one infamous incident in 1991 that briefly took him back into the headlines. During a forum on republicanism on the Midday Show with Ray Martin he was involved in an on-air melée with Sydney journalist and talkback-radio host Ron Casey. Notorious for his highly controversial comments on immigration and other issues, Casey enraged Normie with his remarks about his service in Vietnam and Normie confronted Casey by shoving him. Casey flew out of his chair and punched Rowe hard enough to knock Rowe backwards. In 1998, Casey and Rowe re-united, filming a TV commercial for Bushell's tea where the Midday incident was reflected upon.
In 2002, Rowe received national acclaim for his performance in the Long Way to the Top concert tour, Rowe's most recent album, Missing in Action, includes his own version of Ronnie Burns hit "Smiley".
Rowe portrayed former Prime Minister, Harold Holt, in the telemovie The Prime Minister is Missing, which was first broadcast on ABC TV on 23 October 2008.
In 2009 Rowe participated in a video interview that is on display in "The Shrine of Memories World War II memorial" in ANZAC Square, Brisbane as part of an installation art titled Enshrining the Vestiges - Speaking Stones by artist Natalie Billing. In October 2010, Rowe's 1965 album, Ain't Necessarily So, was listed in the book, 100 Best Australian Albums.
In 2009, Rowe became a Patron of Kidney Health Australia, the not-for-profit peak body promoting good kidney health through education, advocacy, research and support.
In 2011 (2 April) Rowe was a guest on episode 115 of SBS show RocKwiz where he performed Shakin' All Over and a duet with Georgia Fields of The Beatles song All I've Got to Do.
In January 2012, Normie appeared in a television advertisement for Coles Supermarkets promoting their products to the reworked tune of "Shakin All Over".
In 2015, he told Noise11.com about his being drafted as a political ruse to help the popularity of Harold Holt, the Australian Prime Minister whose death by drowning in December 1967 was never confirmed. Apparently, he was contacted by the son of a military officer who was at the time the military attache to Prime Minister Harold Holt. The officer told this story just before he died to his son who, in turn, told Normie that his dad was in Harold Holt's office when the PM was struggling with popularity and the anti-war movement. So the officer said to Harold Holt "what you need is an Elvis Presley, so get Normie Rowe called up"..
In June 2017, Normie wrapped filming for a short film titled 'Holt' in June 2017 where he, ironically, played the titular Harold Holt for the third time. Filming took place in Queensland around Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast.
Currently, Normie Rowe is 75 years, 4 months and 27 days old. Normie Rowe will celebrate 76th birthday on a Wednesday 1st of February 2023.
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