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Grantley was born at Windsor (Australia) on 2 January 1946 to Mary and John De Zoete. His parents managed hotels in Albert Park and Essendon and in 1958 bought the newsagency in Belmore Road Balwyn. Mary returned to teaching and was soon promoted to principal at St. Theresa's at Essendon.

Grantley attended kindergarten and school at the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind (RVIB) in Melbourne until he was ten and then he attended St Paul's School for the Blind at Kew. He was then a student at St Edmund's boarding school for the Blind in Sydney until he was sixteen.

Since kindergarten his principle goal was to be a radio announcer. He was fascinated by the radio and popular music. These two interests led Grantley in to an intertwining career as a radio announcer and a popular vocalist.

The RVIB initially recognised Grantley's vocal ability as he participated in their choir. St. Paul's further developed this ability with vocal tuition. Brother Connell of St. Paul's provided additional personalised tuition for singing, poetry and public speaking. This involved four additional lessons each week with practice seven days a week. Connell entered Grantley in many Eisteddfods. Connell also entered Grantley in to Australia's Amateur Hour. Grantley won the Amateur Hour and many Eisteddfod trophies.

Grantley had been performing as a classically trained boy soprano. Overnight his voice changed. Connell further developed his voice as a tenor in Eisteddfods.

When Grantley was sixteen Connell recommended he return to Melbourne for further studies at the Conservatorium of Music. However, as his heart was in popular music, he commenced tuition with Jack White at the Suttons Building in Elizabeth Street Melbourne. These weekly lessons had him singing "Moon river", "September in the rain" and other standards. In 1958 he performed a phantom race call on Christie's Radio Auditions on 3UZ. He won the award for the act of the night and was invited to be a regular guest tipster on Bert Bryant's Turf Talk. This was the start of the career as a radio announcer.

At about this time his mother approached the RVIB seeking assistance in having Grantley trained for radio work. The RVIB attitude was that he should join the others making baskets. Mary strongly rejected the RVIB view and went about identifying opportunities for her son who regularly listened to Stan Rofe on 3KZ.

John Mc Mahon, who was heavily involved with Christie's Radio Auditions, contacted Lee Murray and Clark Sinclair for radio tuition. Murray taught radio skills to many successful radio personalities such as Stan Rofe, Phil Gibbs, Paul Jennings, Bob Taylor, Lionel Yorke and Mike Walsh. To compliment the voice skills being acquired Grantley commenced learning Braille, shorthand and typewriting. These skills were required to help with radio commercials.

While performing at the Lions Sportsman Starmaker Breakfast at the Southern Cross hotel Grantley was heard by a Sun journalist. An article was published and caught the eye of 3AK manager, David Joseph. With the help of Stan Rofe, who he had met at various gigs around Melbourne and was often in the studio during braodcasts, an audition tape was prepared on 27 January 1963 and submitted to 3AK.

At about the same time Grantley started to attend Zigfields in Hawthorn to dance and was entered in the Beat the Champ vocalist contest. He won for sixteen consecutive weeks and it was announced he would retire as undefeated champion and become a featured artist. This was the start of his career as a popular vocalist.

Frankie Davidson, who was the compere at Zigfields, offered Grantley gigs at Mentone Town Hall. He was then performing on shows with Colin Cook, Merv Benton and the Sapphires. It was the compere, Brian De Courcey, who suggested his name be shortened to Dee, as it would be easier to introduce him on stage. Performances followed at the Hyway Klub with Beverley Dick and the Planets, Preston Town Hall and many other venues.

On hearing the audition tape David Joseph wanted to immediately interview Grantley. On arrival at GTV9 in Richmond, which was where the 3AK studios were then located, Grantley was interviewed by Nigel Dick, Colin Bendall, Henry Gay and David Joseph. The focus of the interview was on his ability to read scripts, make time calls and identifying records to be played. The 3AK ratings were rock bottom and they wanted to engage Grantley from a novelty perspective. He would be the youngest blind DJ in the world. Grantley accepted their offer and considered this to be a massive challenge.

The first record Grantley played on 3AK was the Cascades' "Rhythm of the Rain". He was on-air three hours each Sundays on Turntable 63. The audience reaction was fantastic and resulted in more on-air shifts and eventually he was competing with his radio idol Stan Rofe in the drive-time slot, as well with Don Lunn, Mike Walsh and Alan Lappan. He soon had his own show, the Grantley Dee Show, and provided very strong competition for the ratings.

In late 1963 the 3AK Good Guys concept was introduced by David Joseph. This concept involved Grantley, Lionel Yorke, Malcolm Searle, Bill Howie, Geoff Hiscock, Peter C, and Robert B. One day while broadcasting at 3AK the studio door opened and Graham Kennedy introduced himself to Grantley. Kennedy said he respected Grantley's work and was mesmerised by what Grantley was doing and, if at any time he needed a sounding board, to contact him. Regular performances on In Melbourne Tonight commenced soon after this meeting.

A highlight of his career at 3AK was to co-host on radio the Beatles tour in Melbourne. He attended the concerts and their suite in the Southern Cross to conduct interviews. After a long night John Lennon even cooked him a marinated steak.

By seventeen Grantley was being broadcast seven days a week. This was achieved by pre-recording the shows so they would be released to air by a panel operator. Ratings were very close between the stations as they presented top 40, flashbacks, predictions and interviews. Grantley was earning well in excess of twice the then average male wage.

Grantley received Everybody's Magazine top DJ award for 1965 and 1967. In 1964 he was runner up in a similar poll conducted by Listener-in TV.

With the potential of a format change to Beautiful Music Grantley departed 3AK for 7EX in Launceston where he remained for about nine months.

Grantley had a seeing eye dog from the Lady Nel Seeing Eye Dog school. It took four weeks of training for Grantley and Penny, the golden Labrador, to become a very tight duo. Together they would attend radio school, shorthand classes, typing lessons and do it all on public transport to maintain their independence.

Penny was regularly with Grantley when he performed at venues such as Festival Hall, Gordon Grove Glenroy, the Plaza Essendon and even the special edition of Bandstand at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. Penny was unperturbed by the locations or the volume of the music. Some nights Grantley would perform at four different venues in the same night.

Grantley's business arrangements were handled by his father who was known as the oldest rocker in the business. In the mid sixties Chris Weekes took over his management.

Grantley toured with Mark Wynter, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Dusty Springfield, Brain Poole and Gene Pitney. He also shared the stage with Johnny O'Keefe, the Bee Gees, Oliver Newton-John and Johnny Chester to mention a few.

Grantley had known Johnny O'Keefe for some years and occasionally stayed with O'Keefe when in Sydney. In 1966 O'Keefe arrived at the 3AK studio and informed Grantley that he had arranged a recording session for him the next day. At Armstrong's studios, with the Strangers, Grantley recorded his biggest hit Let the Little Girl Dance. The female backing on the track is John Farrer and Grantley singing falsetto. The flip side was Answer Me, which was selected from a PJ Proby recording by David Joseph.

The competition broadcaster 3UZ made Grantley's record the Very Important Platter of the week. This meant it received hourly airplay for a week, certainly contributing to its popularity. Let the Little Girl Dance entered the charts on 14 May 1966 and initially sold just 250 copies short of a Gold record. Subsequently it has been on many compilation albums. This recording success led to a substantial increase in on-stage performances and he appeared on Kommotion, Bandstand, In Melbourne Tonight, Six O'clock Rock and later the Graham Kennedy Show.

The next release was Wild One, which made the charts on 16 September 1966. This recording was Johnny Hawker's arrangement and featured his band. The vocal backing was by the Strangers and Ken Sparks. The recording, which was produced by David Mc Kay and Grantley, was less successful than his initial release. When Grantley met Bobby Rydell some years later he was flattered by Grantley's recording of the Rydell hit.

Wild One was followed by You're Sixteen, initially recorded by Johnny Burnette. This recording made the charts on 7 January 1967 and was followed by We Must be Doing Something Right (1967), Stop Where You Are (1967) and Love is a Happy Thing (1968), a duo with Little Pattie. Some years later Grantley reflected that he would have preferred to have released recordings more frequently. Also, he didn't particularly like the recordings and preferred tracks that he recorded many years later, particularly Corinna Corinna, An American Trilogy, Wild One and It hurts me.

In 1967 Grantley self titled album was released. It was released on EMI Records with cover notes by Stan Rofe, who described Grantley,
"as a DJ (he) has succeeded beyond his wildest dreamsŠ.his achievements are not just great but spectacular ... as the accomplished young teenage vocalist (he) was causing a stampede on every occasion he sang".


Grantley performing at the Melbourne Concert Hall



Under the management of Chris Weekes Grantley initially formed the Hurricanes and later Taurus, groups that provided personal backing for Grantley for some years. Grantley was performing every night of the week at hotels, clubs and the Winston Charles at Toorak, as well as keeping his radio commitments. His management changed to Col Jones, who had a strong involvement at the Winston Charles.

During the mid seventies on-stage performances reduced. Grantley attributed the reduction to the introduction of discos and a general economic downturn.

During the eighties Grantley commenced performing with the Allstars. This relationship resulted in many performances and the release of four albums; the Allstars featuring Grantley Dee, Rock Rock Rock, Still Rockin' On and Let the Little Girl Dance. Grantley's performance of An American Trilogy became a hit with all audiences and his performance often ended in a standing ovation.

In 1991 Grantley was featured in Rockin' Back the Clock at the Melbourne Concert Hall. This show which, was produced by Ian B Allen, featured Stan Rofe, Normie Rowe, Marcie Jones, Merv Benton and the Allstars. It was the first concert involving performers who all commenced their careers in Melbourne rock-n-roll, to be presented at this prestigious venue. Grantley and the Allstars also performed at the Last Great Sixties Show at Festival Hall and many festivals. During this period he shared the stage with the Platters, Chubby Checker and Buddy Holly's Crickets.

The frequency of Grantley's performances progressively reduced as his health deteriorated. He passed away on 7 February 2005 and is survived by his sister Julie and three children.
"the handicap that Grantley has carried with him all his life was never easy to overcome but Grantley did it, and has since inspired other sightless young people to have the courage needed to make a success of their lives"
Stan Rofe
Hall of Fame Inductee




Discography

  • SINGLES
    Let the little girl dance/Answer me - HMV 4762 (1966)
    Wild one/You thrill me - HMV 4798 (1966)
    You're sixteen/Every breath I take - HMV 4823 (1967)
    We must be doing something right/Lonely one - HMV 4853 (1967)
    It hurts me/Stop where you are - HMV 4875 (1967)
    Love is a happy thing/Nothing you can do but cry - Columbia 8476 (1968)

  • EXTENDED PLAY
    Let the little girl dance - HMV 7EGO 70076 (1966)

  • ALBUMS
    Grantley Dee - EMB 10510 (1967)
    the Allstars featuring Grantley Dee - ASR 2000 (1987)
    Rock Rock Rock! - ASR 3000 (1989)
    Still Rockin' On - ASR 5000 (1991)
    Let the Little Girl Dance - NEW1034.2 (1993)


    Posted February, 2005




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