1951 Tex Morton: Hypnotizing Yellowknife

In July 1951 residents of Yellowknife (see map) were treated to their very first professional stage show. In town was Tex Morton, hypnotist, sharpshooter, whip cracker and memory expert, and, if that’s not enough, he was Australia’s ‘father of country music’ who also claimed to have a PhD in Psychology.

Tex Morton was his stage name, he was born Robert Lane in Nelson, New Zealand in 1918. At the age of 16 he ran away from home travelling to Australia where he lived as a busker, playing his guitar for spare change on street corners. In 1936 he recorded some of his music and it was an instant hit. His records outsold, in Australia, tunes by both Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. His songs were popular because he sang about the Australian experience with titles like “Yodelling Bagman” and “Wrap Me Up in my Stockwhip and Blanket”.

During the Second World War he toured and performed for Australian troops but after the war found his music wasn’t as popular as it used to be so, in 1949, Tex Morton moved to the United States. His North American career was going very well until the US immigration picked him up by for not having a proper work permit. He was given 24 hours to get out of the States. What happened next is little fuzzy; he claims to have then attended McGill University in Montreal earning a BA then a PhD in Psychology.

By the early 1950s ‘Dr’ Tex Morton was touring Canada with his one-man hypnotism show. After a very successful run in Toronto he toured western Canada making a brief jaunt north to Yellowknife during the third week of July 1951.

During his Canadian shows Tex Morton would always perform a pre-show publicity stunt. For his Yellowknife show he asked for a resident to volunteer to be hypnotized, over the radio, and to spend 24 hours in a hypnotic state in the window of a downtown store.

A young lady named Valeta Bevan stepped forward and Tex Morton got on the local radio station and, as described in the newspaper, put Valeta to sleep “by singing into the ‘mike’ and suggesting slumber to her”. After 24 hours in a hypnotic state – and on display in a store window – Valeta was taken by taxi to Tex Morton’s first performance and brought out of her hypnotic state while on stage.

T. By 1953 he was back in the United States touring and recording in Nashville. In 1959 he returned to Australia where, after a few years of recording country and western tunes, became a TV show host and an actor on Australian television dramas.

By the early 70’s Morton was back in the recording studio and in 1973 released Goondiwindi Grey, a song about a famous Australian racehorse. This tune became his most popular song and, riding on this wave of popularity, many of his early songs were re-released resulting in Tex Morton becoming the first person elected to the Australian Country Music Roll of Renown.

Tex Morton, after a brief illness, died in 1983 at the age of 67.