Lance James – Long black limousine

Lance James Liebenberg was a South African artist born on 18 July 1938 in Germiston. He won his first talent competition at the age of 9 in Margate. After completing school at Parktown Boys High, he joined the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) as an assistant presenter. From 1959 to 1961 he lived in London, England, to promote his singing career, and was a member of a quartet called Group 1.

With his return to South Africa he frequently sang with the orchestras of Dan Hill, Sam Sklair, Ralph Baleson and Werner Krupski, and released his first 7” single, “Hey Good Lookin'”, in 1963. In the middle of the 1970s he became the presenter of the television programme “Keep It Country” that was broadcast on Sunday evenings on SABC. It became so popular that he started arranging country concerts with other popular artists such as Bobby Angel, Barbara Ray, Billy Forrest, Sally Vaughn, Joanna Field and others. In 1981 he left the SABC to promote his music career on a full-time basis. He passed away on 2 March 2020, aged 81.

Gene Rockwell was a South African artist born on 27 December 1944 in Krugersdorp, near Johannesburg. When Gene was 18 months old, his parents moved to Durban. At the age of 15 he won his first talent competition at Durban’s “Little Top”. Still in his teens, he formed his first band, The Blue Angels, but in 1963 they changed their name to The Falcons. Gene played guitar and provided vocals for The Falcons.

In the late 1960s Gene decided to follow a solo career and became famous for the unique and emotional manner in which he interpreted songs, even the well-known ones. He had ten South African Top 20 hits:

1. Ciao – 1965, #4, 11 weeks
2. Love – 1965, #5, 7 weeks
3. Torture – 1965, #4, 5 weeks
4. I’ve got everything you need babe – 1966, #14, 7 weeks
5. Cold cold heart – 1967, #20, 2 weeks
6. Save the last dance for me – 1967, #12, 6 weeks
7. Wasted days and wasted nights – 1975, #16, 4 weeks
8. Shame on me – 1976, #10, 11 weeks
9. My life’s in good hands (Jesus sweet Jesus) – 1978, #8, 16 weeks
10. Rosie – 1978, #14, 5 weeks

The song for which he will always be remembered is “Heart”, which is one of the best selling songs in South African music history. It would undoubtedly have gone to the top of the South African charts, but was released early in 1965, some months before the official Top 20 was launched.

In 1983 Gene celebrated 21 years in the entertainment industry with an album that he recorded with many friends and colleagues that he had made during his time as an artist. This song is from this album, “The 21st Anniversary Album”. This is the only song on the album on which Gene does not sing, and is most probably an indication of the respect he had for Lance as the “Big Daddy” of South African country music.

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