Ronnie Burns’ initial claim to fame was as a member of Melbourne band The Flies (usually billed as ‘Victoria’s top Beatles group’). They were Australia’s longest-haired band and supported many major overseas acts, including The Rolling Stones.
Melbourne born and bred, Ronnie Burns bought his first guitar aged eight, and by the time he was 14 he had formed a rock & roll band with his brother Frank.
In August 1965, Burns left the band to go solo. Over the next five years, he had nine hit singles in Melbourne, starting with The Very Last Day and True, True Lovin’.
Ronnie’s big break came in 1966 when he released his third single, Coalman, backed by The Bee Gees. It was a deserved national hit and was followed up with a Bee Gees double, In The Morning b/w Exit Stage Right.
The following year was the big one for Burns, culminating in being named Australia’s most popular male singer in the Go-Set poll. He was a genuine pop star, pursued wherever he appeared.
Ten days at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show saw daily riots, with audience hysteria a regular sight at his live shows. His popularity was acknowledged by the ABC who filmed a special documentary, The Life Of Ronnie Burns.
He showed no signs of flagging in 1969 either, when he produced his biggest hit ever, Smiley – one of the few Australian anti-Vietnam War songs – penned by Johnny Young who would go on to fame with the national kids’ TV talent show, Young Talent Time.
Ronnie married dancer Maggie Stewart in 1970. Maggie went on to become a choreographer on Young Talent Time and Ronnie became a regular judge on the show.
In 1971, Ronnie was banned from performing the track Virgin from his Virgo album on the television show Happening ’71. His November 1972 album (We’ve Only Just Begun) featured a cover photo of Ronnie naked except for a fur draped over him.
By the mid-70s, Burns had ditched the pop trappings for a more middle-of-the-road sound and a new nightclub image. He became a regular on the Australian Leagues Club circuit, and on television variety shows, and appeared in the 90s on the rock & roll revival circuit.