What artists' careers have encompassed the Countrypolitan style, either substantially or "On The Fringe?"
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Diana Trask was one of a trio of Australian female artists to impact on the U.S. Music scene in the 1960's and 70's. Her arrival in the USA predated both Helen Reddy and Olivia Newton-John by at least a decade. Diana has been described as an Australian jazz singer, pop singer and country singer; a regular songstress with both `Sing Along With Mitch' and `The Grand Ole Opry'. Much of Diana's success, however, was achieved by medium of Nashville country music of which `countrypolitan' was the dominant genre of the time.
Diana was born in Warburton, a small town just outside Melbourne, Australia on 23rd. June 1940. At age 16, Diana won a talent contest which led to her appearance on several Australian television shows, initially in Melbourne. This included several guest spots on Graeme Kennedy's top rating `In Melbourne Tonight'.
Diana's talents resulted in her being signed as a recording artist on the local music scene. In 1958, she recorded `Going Steady'/ `Comes Love' with W&G Records, Melbourne, and in 1959 moved to Sydney where she recorded `Soldier, Won't You Marry Me'/ `Lover Is Another Name For Fool' with the Leedon label . Leedon was a new record label established by U.S. expatriate, Lee Gordon, in Sydney. One of the label's major local stars was pioneer Rock 'n Roller Johnny O'Keefe, who leant his support to Diana as well as Olivia Newton-John and many other local artists of the day. Diana's `Soldier, Won't You Marry Me' was a minor hit on the local charts.
Diana's inspiration came from Sammy Davis Jnr. who was touring Australia at the time. Diana and the Australian Jazz Quintet were the support acts. Sammy thought that Diana would be a success in the USA so he suggested she move there. Sammy's close friend and cohort, Frank Sinatra, was also an advocate of this opinion.
Diana's talents were initially unnoticed in the USA. That is, until she was signed to appear on the TV show `Don McNeill's Breakfast Club'. After several guest appearances, Diana was signed by Columbia Records, with whom she recorded two pop albums in the early 60's. The album `Diana Trask On TV', recorded in 1961, is understood to be still available at various outlets.
Other TV performances followed. Diana appeared on The Jack Benny Show and became a core member of the popular TV show `Sing Along With Mitch'. `Sing Along With Mitch' was headed by bandleader, Mitch Miller, and featured Leslie Uggams and The Brothers Four, as well as Diana and several other artists. Mitch and the gang led a chorus of 25 middle-aged men delivering old favorites to the viewing public. These appearances led to Diana being offered a movie contract with 20th. Century Fox.
Diana continued to record. Her 1963 version of `Long Ago Last Summer', written in 1960 by Hal David and Burt Bacharach, was chosen for inclusion in the Hal David Songbook.
However, Diana was married in the early 60's and returned to Australia to raise a family. Whilst in Australia, Diana recorded two local singles for CBS: `Jabbin Jabbin'/`Too Young' (1964) and `The Overlanders'/`The Road To Gundagai' (1965). Nevertheless, Diana knew that she needed to return to the USA to further her career, so she traveled to New York in 1966. Diana had intended to focus on pop music, however her attendance at a Country Music Association DJ Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, resulted in a change of direction.
In 1968, Dial Records signed Diana, but not for long. Dot Records heard Diana, liked her, and signed her for themselves. Dot was a major label of that era whose stable comprised such noted artists as Pat Boone and Billy Vaughn as well as country artists: Roy Clark, Hank Thompson, Justin Tubb, the Anita Kerr Singers, Don Williams, Donna Fargo, Eddie Raven, Barbara Mandrell, Billy `Crash' Craddock, The Oak Ridge Boys and Ray Price.
Diana had two records make the country charts in 1968: `Lock , Stock and Teardrops' and `Hold What You've Got'. The latter climbed almost half way up the charts. Diana's jazz and soul background gave her country music presentation its own distinctive flavor.
In 1969, Diana toured the USA with Hank Williams Jnr., and guest starred on the Johnny Cash Show, singing a duet with Johnny: `The Last Thing On My Mind'. That year, Dot Records also released Diana's debut album: `Miss Country Soul'.
In the ensuing years Diana had several minor hits including a version of Patsy Cline's `I Fall To Pieces' in 1969 and `Beneath Still Waters' in 1970. However it was not until 1972 that Diana really began to make an impact. She reached the Top 30 on the charts with `We've Got To Work It Out Between Us', following up the very next year with two Top 20 hits, `It's A Man's World, If You Had A Man Like Mine' and `Say When'.
No doubt Diana's live performances contributed to this success. In 1971, Howard Hughes had decided to stage a `Country Music USA' series at his Landmark Theater, Las Vegas. Diana was invited to appear, along with The Grand Ole Opry and artists which included Ferlin Husky, Waylon Jennings, The Oak Ridge Boys, George Jones, Merle Kilgore, Bob Luman, Buck Owens, Patti Page, Tammy Wynette and many more. In 1973, Hughes once again invited Diana to play his night spots. This time it was `The Frontier Music Hall' in Las Vegas, where Diana appeared along with such talents as Wayne Newton, Patti Page, Bobby Gentry, Roy Clark, Harry James, Frank Sinatra Jnr. and others.
In 1974, Diana's music kept climbing the charts. Her crossover hit, `Lean It All On Me', reached No.15 and the following year she recorded her biggest hit - `Oh, Boy!' `Oh, Boy!' is rated No.80 on Jon Merrill's All Time Top 500 Popular Songs. A splendid achievement.
In all, Diana Trask recorded 16 singles for Dot which made the Billboard Country Chart. This included nine which made the Top 40. It is interesting to note that Diana's recorded repertoire even included a version of Tammy Wynette's `Stand By Your Man'. Diana also recorded several albums for the Dot label, as well as recording several tracks for country compilation albums. Diana's albums on the Dot label included:
`From The Heart' (1969)
Other albums recorded by Diana include:
`Diana's Country' (1971)
`Diana Trask Sings About Loving' (1972)
`Diana Trask's Greatest Hits (1974)
`I'm In The Mood' (1975)
`Diana On TV' (1961) - Columbia
Furthermore, Diana's works are compiled on the CD `Diana Trask/ Oh Boy! The Collection' which comprises 28 of Diana's hits and recordings.
`The ABC Collection' (1977) - ABC Australia
`Diana Trask's Greatest Hits' (1974) - also recorded on ABC/Dot.
Diana returned to Australia in 1975, where she was lauded for her achievements. She continued to record - including `Waltzing Matilda' in 1976 - and was awarded several gold records for her work. Furthermore, in 1979, Diana was invited to be a participant in the Australian Country Music Federation - Country Music Association of Australia Hands of Fame. This honor is reserved for top local country music acts; current country music star Keith Urban was afforded the same honor in 1997. The Roll of Renown is the associate award.
Diana returned to the USA in 1981, where she recorded two minor hits for Kari Records. However, Diana then entered retirement but did perform at the 1985 Australian Football Grand Final. She cut short her retirement in the early 90's and, in 1996, once again performed at the AFL Grand Final. This time she sang `Waltzing Matilda' at half-time with other Australian artists John Farnham, Slim Dusty, Daryl Somers and Normie Rowe.
At a time when `countrypolitan' music was king, Diana Trask was certainly one of the courtiers. A `star' in her own right, Diana Trask was a real trail blazer for Australian country music talent to Nashville. Olivia Newton-John, Tommy Emmanuel, Keith Urban, Kasey Chambers, even the born not bred Jamie O'Neal, and others all owe a debt of gratitude to this talented pioneer. Countrypolitan.com thanks Diana Trask for her contribution to our favorite genre.
Written by Michael D'Arcy. March 2002, Countrypolitan.com.
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