Born in Auckland, New Zealand, on 24 May 1950, Allison Anne Durbin joined New Zealand’s popular Uncle Tom’s Friendly Road Children’s Choir (a radio and concert choir made up of kids aged between 5 and 21) at the age of five. She stayed with the choir for four years.
At the age of 13, Allison sang a guest spot with a rock band at a venue called the Shiralee Club, impressing the club manager so much that he offered her a residency to sing at the club three night’s a week. She performed at the club for 12 months, with her mother accompanying her to and from the club each night.
During her time at the club, she was spotted by a record company talent scout who arranged for her to record her first single. By the time she left school at the age of 15, Allison had five singles top her credit – the most successful being Can’t You Hear My Heart Beat?
Travelling to Australia with the 8-piece Mike Perjanik Show Band, Allison left the band in Sydney shortly after her 17th birthday and returned to New Zealand.
Her biggest break came the following year when she supported Gene Pitney on his New Zealand tour. Soon after, she recorded Don’t Come Any Closer, which not only did well for her at home but was her first record released in Australia.
As a result, Allison was taken to Melbourne in March 1969 as a special guest artist on the Myer Music Bowl concert staged as part of Melbourne’s Moomba festival. She returned home for just two months before lucrative offers enticed her back to Australia in mid-1969.
Allison developed into one of Australia’s leading female singers, regularly performing at all major hotels and clubs, making frequent television appearances and releasing numerous hit records. She also won a string of press and television awards in the early 1970s as Australia’s best female pop singer.
By 1976 she had moved from pop to country music, where she enjoyed equivalent success in sales and popularity, with seven charting albums between then and 1983.
As her career waned, Durbin began using heroin and, in 1985, she publicly acknowledged her battle with drugs and sought treatment at a drug rehabilitation centre. Shortly after her release from the centre, she was struck by a car which left her with serious injuries including a broken jaw.
After she recovered, she worked as a country music singer but, although she made a couple of comeback attempts – including a 30th-anniversary tour of Australia in 1998 – Allison Durbin faded from popular view.
On 1 June 2007, under her married name Allison Giles, she was sentenced to 12 months’ jail for cannabis trafficking.