Lost and Found
This year New Zealand lost two Blue Smoke identities, so it is great news that one was recently found. When researching early New Zealand country music, Johnny Granger “the Yodelling Drover” stood out for me. It was his life story – he was literally a dairy farmer, ie a cowboy, who left home and joined the circus – and it was his music. Recorded and released in the early 1950s by the fledgling Stebbing studios in Auckland, and produced by Julian Lee, Granger’s body of work stood up as sophisticated country pop.
I was disappointed not to find a photo of Granger suitable for use in the book, and ran out of time. But my friend Michael Colonna of the Variety Artists’ Club did some legwork and found that Granger was alive and well and still based just outside of Auckland. Recently David Steemson of Radio New Zealand made a Spectrum documentary, in which Granger describes his life working on the farm, driving into Auckland in a 1927 Rugby – with the great line, “most of my tom-cattin’ was kerosene driven” – joining Barton’s Follies, and his return to the farm. After 1953, and his stint with the army in Korea, he didn’t perform again professionally. These days, he says, he is better known as a whistler.