Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Little Boy Lost - Johnny Ashcroft

Johnny Ashcroft
(J. Ashcroft, T. Withers) Columbia 45-DO 4128


Chart Entry: 26th March, 1960
Highest Position: #3
Points: 102,722
From the album "Mostly Folk".


In February 1960, Australia was at a stand still as the biggest land and air search took place to find four year old Steven Walls who went missing in the New England Ranges of New South Wales. Some five thousand people and seven aircraft took part in the operation lead by Aboriginal tracker, William Stanley. He quickly became known as the "little boy lost", losing the tag four days later when he was found alive and well.

Johnny Ashcroft had been active in the music industry for a few years by the time news of the missing boy came to light, and soon his composition detailing the event and honouring the help made its way towards the top of the charts, eventually landing at #3. It became one of the biggest Australian hits of the time, and made waves worldwide via a TV performance that was distributed as the songs film clip. At a time when singles went unaccompanied by their visual counterpart, Johnny Ashcroft became an unlikely pioneer of the format, continuing to provide clips for his music.

With a lengthy run in the Australian top ten, "Little Boy Lost" was awarded the first Australian Gold Record accreditation, a feat repeated in New Zealand, all without the aid of hitting the top of the charts. Its worldwide appeal saw many artists cover the track including Jimmy Dean, Michael Holliday, Jimmy Little and Slim Dusty. Johnny re-recorded the track himself in 1978 as part of the soundtrack for the film version of the incident. Little Boy Lost premiered in Armidale close to the area where Steven was lost and received a German Catholic Award for decency.

The connotations associated with "Little Boy Lost" didn't work well for Johnny later in 1960 when a Sydney schoolboy, Graham Thorne, was kidnapped, later found murdered. It was a little too close to home for family and friends involved, so Johnny personally moved to have all airplay of his hit abandoned in what would the only such incidence where an artist stopped their own singles' success.

Johnny Ashcroft continued to record and perform for years after the success of "Little Boy Lost", but unfortunately he found it hard to keep his chart success alive. After a couple of minor hits, "The Girl Behind The Bar" would be the best he could do when it hit #31 in 1962, another track accompanied by a film clip. But Johnny was indeed a legend and pioneer of Australian music and awarded the Medal of the Order Of Australia in 1990.


Chart Run: (28 weeks in Top 100)
(Kent Top 20)

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