John Howard "Johnny" Chester (born 26 December 1941) is an Australian singer-songwriter, who started his career in October 1959 singing rock'n'roll and in 1969 changed to country music. He has toured nationally with The Beatles, Roy Orbison, The Everly Brothers, Kenny Rogers, Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette and Charley Pride. During his career he has led various groups including Johnny Chester and The Chessmen, Johnny Chester and Jigsaw, Johnny Chester and Hotspur. With Jigsaw he had five top 30 hit singles, "Gwen (Congratulations)" (1971), "Shame and Scandal", "Midnight Bus" (both 1972), "World's Greatest Mum" (No. 9, 1973) and "She's My Kind of Woman" (1974).

Chester has hosted various TV series: Teen Time on Ten (GLV-10, Gippsland, 1963–64), Teen Scene (ABC TV, 1964–65) and Country Road (ABC TV, 1977–78). He has worked as a radio announcer on Melbourne radio station 3UZ and Radio Australia. He wrote a musical comedy, Rebound, that opened in Wagga Wagga. Chester has won Golden Guitars at the Country Music Awards of Australia for best selling track in 1975 and for Male Vocalist of the Year in 1981, 1982 and 1983. In 1994 he was awarded the Songmaker of the Year Award from the Tamworth Songwriters Association. According to Australian rock music historian, Ian McFarlane, he is "one of Melbourne's first and best rock'n'roll singers of the early 1960s". Music journalist, Ed Nimmervoll, acknowledges Chester's "essential inclusion on any major national rock package coming into Melbourne" and later he "helped bring Australian country music to pop respectability".

Contents Edit


  • 1 Biography
    • 1.1 Personal life
  • 2 Discography
    • 2.1 Albums
    • 2.2 EPs
    • 2.3 Singles
  • 3 References
  • 4 External links

Biography[edit] Edit

John Howard Chester was born on 26 December 1941 and grew up in Melbourne's suburb of Preston.[1][2][3] His father, Jack, was a mechanic with his garage in Carlton, and his mother was Norma.[4] He has a younger sister, Margaret (born ca. 1951).[5] Chester attended Bell Primary and followed with Preston Technical School.[4] At the age of 14, he left school and worked as a brake specialist for his father.[6] He had learned to play the drums, from the age of six,[7] and guitar.[1][6] In October 1959 Chester formed a band, The Jaywoods, and organised dances at a West Preston church hall, "I could play the guitar ... but I was pretty useless at it. So I started singing – and the kids seemed to like my voice ... We used to get about 200 kids to these dances ... We had an old amplifier that distorted everything, but we thought we were mighty".[4][6] His idols were Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and Johnny O'Keefe.[1] Music journalist, Ed Nimmervoll, noted "without really trying the Jaywoods' rehearsals were attracting a crowd to St. Cecilia's Hall in West Preston, which turned into regular Saturday night dance".[8] By 1960 The Jaywoods became Johnny Chester and The Chessmen with Chester on lead vocals, Jeff Cason on upright slap bass guitar, Huey Fryer on lead guitar, Bert Stacpool on piano, Les Stacpool on saxophone, and Len Woodhouse on drums.[9] The following year the line-up were Bert Stacpool, Les Stacpool (now on guitar), Frank McMahon on bass guitar and Graeme Trottman on drums.[9]

Chester was also backed by The Thunderbirds, which were an instrumental group formed in 1957 and, by the end of 1960, consisted of Henri Bource on saxophone and flute, Harold Frith on drums, Charles Gauld on guitar, Gordon Onley on bass guitar and Murray Robertson on piano.[10] Both backing bands maintained independent careers, released their own material and backed other artists.[9][10] In April 1961 Chester's first stadium performance was supporting Connie Francis and Johnny Burnette.[6] One of his early fans was radio DJ, Stan Rofe, who promoted the artist on the 3KZ program, Platter Parade.[1] Rofe was highly supportive and introduced Chester to W&G Record's Ron Tudor.[1][8] Chester signed with the label and issued his debut single, "Hokey Pokey", in May 1961 with backing by The Thunderbirds.[1][10] The track became a top 10 hit in Melbourne.[1] His second single, "Can Can Ladies", appeared in July and reached the local top 5 in July.[1] In January 1962 a third single backed by The Thunderbirds, "Shakin' All Over", reached No. 4.[1] Johnny Chester and The Chessmen toured to Brisbane and Hobart but had less popularity in Sydney.[8]

From 1962 to 1964 his next eight singles for W&G were all recorded with backing by The Chessmen.[1] Of these, the highest charting was a cover version of Cochran's "Summertime Blues", which appeared at No. 6 in December 1962.[1] He had also issued his debut album, Wild and Warm in 1963 and two extended plays, Johnny Chester's Hit Parade and My Blues and I, with W&G.[1] In February that year he took over as host of Teen Time on Ten, on regional Gippsland channel GLV-10.[11] Australian Women's Weekly '​s Ainslie Baker declared he had "proved himself an easy, friendly talker" and predicted this could lead to his "having Melbourne's first teenage TV show".[11] In July 1964 Chester supported the Australian tour by The Beatles with his backing by The Phantoms.[1][12] According to Chester "my only worry is that I mightn't live up to this honour and obligation to give the kids a good performance".[5] He was disappointed that The Chessmen were unavailable for the 19-gigs, through state capitals and to New Zealand, "As all the boys have day jobs ... they would not be able to get the time off".[5] The Phantoms were another instrumental group, which had formed in 1960, and by 1964 had the line-up of Alan Fenton on drums, Bob Garde on rhythm guitar, Dave Lincoln on lead guitar, and Pete Watson on bass guitar.[12] From October for two seasons, Chester was the host of Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC-TV) program, Teen Scene, with The Chessmen as the resident band.[1][9]

He recorded further material for W&G on their sub-label, In Records but none charted and by mid-1966 he parted with the W&G and The Chessmen.[1] Retaining Bert Stacpool, he formed the Johnny Chester Four with Johnny Marco on guitar and Tom Vigushin on bass guitar.[1] As well as maintaining his musical career, for eight years, Chester was a DJ on Melbourne's radio station, 3UZ.[1] In May 1968 Chester formed a new backing band, Jigsaw, with Fenton, Ray Eames on lead guitar (ex-Tony Worsley and the Fabulous Blue Jays), Ron Gilby on rhythm guitar, Dennis Tucker on bass guitar (both Merv Benton and the Tamlas).[1][13]Jigsaw also had an independent career.[13] His last pop single, "Heaven Help the Man", appeared in 1968 on Astor Records.[1] In 1969 his first two country music singles, "Green Green" and "Highway 31", were issued on Phillips Records.[1] Johnny Chester and Jigsaw signed to Fable Records, owned by Tudor (ex-W&G Records). Fenton died in a car accident and was replaced on drums by Eddie Chapel, at about that time Eames was replaced by Jon Calderwood.[13] In August 1970 Jigsaw, without Chester, had a number-one hit with a cover version of United Kingdom group, Christie's "Yellow River", it was co-credited with Sydney-based band Autumn which also covered the track.[13][14] With Chester, they had five hit singles on the Go-Set National Top 40: "Gwen (Congratulations)" (No. 26, October 1971), "Shame and Scandal" (No. 13, February 1972), "Midnight Bus" (No. 25, December), "The World's Greatest Mum" (No. 9, August 1973) and "She's My Kind of Woman" (No. 19, June 1974).[15]

Chester has won Golden Guitars at the Country Music Awards of Australia for best selling track in 1975[16] In 1977 Chester toured nationally, backed by the Blue Denim Country Band, and also compered Country Road for ABC-TV.[1] In 1979 he formed Hotspur and continued to issue country music singles and albums into the 1980s.[1] From 1981 to 1983, at three successive Tamworth Country Music Festivals, he won Male Vocalist of the Year.[1][8][17] In 1994 he was awarded the Songmaker of the Year Award from the Tamworth Songwriters Association. According to Australian rock music historian, Ian McFarlane, Chester is "one of Melbourne's first and best rock'n'roll singers of the early 1960s".[1] Nimmervoll felt that in the early 1960s Chester was an "essential inclusion on any major national rock package coming into Melbourne" and during the 1970s he "helped bring Australian country music to pop respectability".[8]

Personal life[edit] Edit

In October 1964 Johnny Chester married Larraine "Liz" Isbister (born ca. 1944), a stenographer.[18] Liz had attended the same primary school and their grandparents were neighbours.[4] The couple had begun dating in September 1959 – to the Royal Melbourne Show.[4] As from October 2012 they have three daughters, eight grandchildren and live in Rosebud.[4]

Discography[edit] Edit

Albums[edit] Edit

Title Label Year Notes
Wild And Warm W&G 1963
The Best Of Ches! W&G 1964
Johnny Chester's Greatest Hits W&G 1965
Johnny Chester And Jigsaw FABLE 1971 Re-Issued in 1975 on Summit
Going Places (Just For Fun) FABLE 1972
The Best Of Johnny Chester FABLE 1974
For The World's Greatest Mum FABLE 1974
Greensborough Music FABLE 1975
Into Country BULLET 1976 Gold - Re-issued in 1998 on Homespun
Johnny Chester IMAGE 1978
Country Salute RCA 1978
Johnny Chester And Hotspur WEA 1980 Gold
My Kinda Country VELVET 1980 AUS #52
Love In The Meantime WEA 1981
From Under The Influence WEA 1983
The Hits Of Johnny Chester J&B 1984 AUS #61
She's My Kind Of Woman AXIS 1984
Some Such Foolishness RCA 1985
Side By Side RCA 1985
There's A Shadow On The Moon Tonight RCA 1986
So Far So Good J&B 1987
Among My Souvenirs HOMESPUN 1988
Favourites Old And New HOMESPUN 1989
Portrait AXIS/EMI 1992
Waiting For The Lightning HOMESPUN 1992 Re-issued in 2001 on MRA
Johnny Chester Collection Vol One CASTLE 1995
Songmaker CASTLE 1995 Re-issued in 2001 on MRA
The Best Of Johnny Chester FABLE 1997
Listen MRA 1999
Rocker (Enhanced Cd With Vision) ScreenSound Australia 2002
Get A Little Dirt On Your Hands Shock Records 2005

EPs[edit] Edit

Title Label Year
My Blues And I W&G 1963
4 On 1 Super Disc In 1965
Johnny Chester FABLE 1973
My Ding A Ling FABLE 1974

Singles[edit] Edit

Year Title Peak chart positions


1961 "Hokey Pokey" 28
"Can Can Ladies" / "What a Night" 20
"California Sun"
1962 "Shakin' All Over" 25
"Shy Away" / "A Funny Little Feeling" 71
"Let's Dance" 44
"Summertime Blues" 30
1963 "Nick Nack Paddy Whack" / "Butterflies" 44
"Come on Everybody" / "The Old Copper Kettle" 44
"Teeny" 28
1964 "Bye Bye Johnny" / "Miss Ann" 93
"Unless You Care" 65
1965 "Your Cheatin' Heart"
"When Will I Be Loved"
"Something's Got a Hold on Me" 92
"Steppin' Out"
1968 "Heaven Help The Man"
1969 "Green Green"
"Highway 31" 57
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that country.
Year Title Peak chart positions




1970 "If Only I Could Leave You"
1971 "Glory Glory (I'll Be Back to See the Storey Bridge)" 46[21] 47
"Gwen (Congratulations)" 26[22] 19
"Shame and Scandal (in the Family)" 13[23] 13
1972 "Readymix Revenge" 37
"Midnight Bus" 25[24] 31
1973 "The World's Greatest Mum" 9[25] 8
"Let's Build a Love Together" 43
1974 "She's My Kind of Woman" 19[26] 14
"My Special Angel" 76
1975 "Sally on Sunday" 88
"The One in the Middle of Lonely"
1976 "She's Gone to Someone Else's Arms"
"My China Doll"
1977 "Lonely Women Make Good Lovers" 100
1978 "It'll Be Me"
1979 "Lord I'd Forgotten" 95
"I Love You So Rebecca" 33
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that country.
Year Title Peak chart positions


1980 "I Walked Out Of Blacktown"
"She's Been Gone Much Too Long"
"All on Your Own"
1981 "My Ding-a-Ling" 50
"Love in the Meantime"
1982 "Rough Around the Edges" 99
"You Bring out the Devil in Me"
"An Ad in The Weekly Times"
1983 "When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again"
"Country Girl"
1984 "('Til) I Kissed You"
"Let's Make Tomorrow's Memories Tonight"
1985 "Some Such Foolishness"
"Willie Sing One with Me"
1986 "My Sweet Janie"
"There's a Shadow on the Moon Tonight"
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that country.