Hollywood’s singing cowboys such as Gene Autry and Roy Rogers inspired fans around the world to dress up and dream. Many local country and western performers, such as Johnny Cooper and Rex Franklin, watched the romantic, stylish actors in “horse operas” (westerns) and wanted to emulate the films’ stars.
But New Zealand had the real thing: Johnny Granger, “the Yodelling Drover”. For most of his brief but busy career, he also worked as a dairy farmer on his parents’ farm at Whitford, south-east of Auckland. This made him especially qualified “to sing about cowboys,” wrote the Southland country journalist Garth Gibson. “His stage name was particularly apt, as he always felt most at home in the saddle behind a herd of cattle.”