His mod or “proto-metrosexual” style angered many of his contemporaries, who learnt male etiquette from Barry Crump. But younger music fans – I was 13 years old – were not competing with Mr Lee Grant for the affections of the young women of the nation, so we had no reason to be annoyed that the style icon was setting the standard too high for the more mature young man.
I like statistics that I make up myself: if 40,000 girls loved Mr Lee Grant, that means 39,000 jealous young guys did not like him. Meanwhile the other 1,000 potential suitors tried to dress in his style and dazzle his female fans.
What was the view in the gay corner of entertainment fraternity? They were none too happy either. They were peeved that a young man could wear a mink coat and not be gay.
Underachieving young New Zealand men used their cognitive powers to come up with daunting nicknames for the dashing singer, like “flea grunt”. But guys weren’t the primary threat to Grant’s physical wellbeing, it was his fanatical female fans that mobbed him and knocked him unconscious. Being floored by schoolgirls did not look manly, but the girls took down Larry Morris too – and he was a tough guy.
In 1967 Mr Lee Grant brought joy and mayhem to the local music scene, making a massive impact on pop culture and pop commerce.
Mr Lee Grant needs a revisionist music history, especially for his legions of teen and pre-teen fans of 1967. He needs to be reinstated in our memories, and where too little is written in the history books, many more words are needed. So this AudioCulture story is in two parts; it is written by a fan who was too young at the time to be jealous of Mr Lee Grant's virility, talent, mod style or generosity of spirit.
An important figure in Grant’s story was his feisty manager, Dianne Cadwallader, who guided his early career. When the going got tough, she kept going: pushing her protégé to the top. Once they got there, life was impossible.
Babs Baker, a writer for Shake! music magazine in the 1980s, was the daughter of C’mon arranger Tony Baker. She recalls that in the 1960s, “I was maybe four, and Mr Lee Grant came round to our house to see Dad. He knocked at the door, I opened it and cried, “Oh! It’s MR LEE GRANT!” – and promptly shut the door in his face.”
Grant Fell, of Headless Chickens and Black fashion magazine, was young and impressionable at the time: “I thought he was a real dude even though I was knee-high to a grasshopper.” Fell had to talk his mother into a fashionable purchase: “Black Awon Thoroughbreds, skinny black jeans with a slight flare. Ah the late ’60s!”
In 1967 Mr Lee Grant brought joy and mayhem to the local music scene, making a massive impact on pop culture and pop commerce. It was quite a contribution from a young man who arrived in New Zealand in 1949 as a four year-old war refugee.
Grant was pictured in the Sunday News (19 March 1967) doing a seven-up hula-hoop performance. He was keeping seven hula-hoops airborne! The newspaper reported that “Go-Go dancing with that gyrating action makes every ‘with it’ teenager a natural for twirling a hula-hoop.”
Bogdan Kominowski has appeared in film and television, including a role in the 1985 James Bond film A View To A Kill, Reilly Ace of Spies and Flash Gordon.
In London, Lee Grant recorded his first single ‘A Little Love And Understanding’ on the Decca label with several backing vocalists including Kiki Dee and Reggie Dwight, who was soon to become famous as Elton John.