Tex Morton


Bust of Tex Morton
Bust of Tex Morton

Tex Morton was a Kiwi country and western singer, also known as the ‘Yodelling Boundary Rider’. A prolific songwriter and recorder, as well as hypnotist and whip-cracker, his pioneering style eventually led him to Hollywood, and the Australasian Country Music Awards Hands of Fame.

Born Robert William Lane in Nelson, Morton left school early and started busking on street corners during the depression. In 1932 he recorded 20 songs, possibly the first country music to be recorded outside the United States. In 1933 he moved to Australia.

In Sydney, now known as Tex Morton, he began recording for Regal Zonophone, which made him the biggest music sensation either side of the Tasman. During this period, he added gun-slinging and whip-cracking to his repertoire, and began touring with his Wild West Rodeo Show. He was also composing and recording at a furious pace, mixing Australian ballads with American country music. It is said that, during his pre-war peak, his sales reached 10,000 records a month.

After the Second World War, during which he entertained Australian and New Zealand troops around the Pacific, he sold his live show and moved to North America. Here, he reinvented himself as ‘The Great Morton’, performing hypnotism and extrasensory perception, as well as his music, poetry and Wild West displays. During this period, he appeared as a cameo actor in Hollywood films and television.

In the late 1960s Morton toured New Zealand and hosted the ‘Country Touch’ TV series, and, in the 1970s, he featured in much Australian TV and film. In 1976 he was elevated to the Australasian Country Music Awards Roll of Renown.

Adapted by Patrick Whatman from the DNZB biography by Gordon Spittle

Read the full entry in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography.

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Highland 'n Island clearance refugee

Posted: 18 Dec 2022

Tex Morton was the man. I had seen his sideshow act at an easter show in Auckland when I was a kid, then he had that country touch gig & I didn't think of him again until I moved to Darwin in the '70's. The Vic Hotel was a favoured spot for us ne'er do wells and Tex's song "Darwin Jailhouse Window" was all true. Before the cyclone if you parked yerself in the Vic garden bar (which disappeared after Tracey), you looked right into the back of the police lock-up and the poor buggers held in there had to put up with us whoopin' hollerin and drinkin'.
When the pub reopened after the cyclone the new owners made a big deal of his song - simply because apart from it being a great song it was a piece of Territory Australiana which made it through the cyclone - when not a lot did and now that the town has been turned into just another Australian capital city Tex's song is even more important for those of us who remember when Darwin really was a frontier town.


Posted: 06 Jun 2022

I was one of the many who attended the Redwood concert. It was held outside with a small backing orchestra for Robin Gibb. For some reason the crowd didn't like the songs and became unruly, throwing cans etc. Both the singer and musicians quickly disappeared, then the announcement the concert was finished. From memory l don't think we paid as we knew one of the security guys. But we did have a hangover the following day, fixed with a swim in the harbour.