The advancement of aviation design and technology after WW1 opened up the world for civilian travel. Intrepid aviators making flights over very long distances from England and America to Australia were tremendously inspiring, as was the idea that we were less geographically isolated.
Australian Captain Bert Hinkler made an epic solo flight from England to Australia, leaving London on 7 February 1928, reaching Darwin 15 days later. At least six popular songs and dance tunes were written in his honour.
Jack’s contribution was to localise ‘Lucky Lindy’ (L. Wolfe Gilbert lyrics, Abel Baer music), an American song written in 1927 to commemorate Colonel Charles Lindbergh’s magnificent flight from the US to Paris. Publisher Leo Feist sent the song to Allan’s Music Publishing, where Jack was quick to spot an opportunity. He made a couple of minor alterations to the lyrics for a cash payment but was not credited. The song was a sensation, recorded by Fred Monument for Parlophone and Art Leonard (Len Maurice) for Columbia, selling 60,000 copies.
Aviators the world over were desperate to break records and assure themselves of fame and commercial fortune. On 31 May 1928 small Australian airline charter service operator and pilot Charles Kingsford Smith and Australian aviator Charles Ulm departed from Oakland, California with two American crew – navigator Harry Lyon and radio operator James Warner – and flew more than 83 hours in great physical discomfort with relentless engine noise in a small shaking cabin, through the weather of bright days and dark nights, over a vast stretches of lonely ocean, to arrive in Brisbane on 10 June. This brave flight captured the imagination of the Australian people. On arrival they were welcomed like pop stars by 15,000 people.
Jack’s top selling ‘Kingsford Smith, Aussie is Proud of You’ was released and performed at the Tivoli within a week. Len Maurice recorded it for Columbia and Jack O’Hagan for Vocalion. Both sold well. Jack considered ‘Smithy’ one of the major pilots of all time and was thrilled to be able to tell the great Australian in person that his flight was ‘one out of the box’ as they raised a glass.
The world needed heroes during the Great Depression and Australia was no exception. ‘Lone Girl Flyer’ was Jack’s heartfelt dedication to Amy Johnson, a marvellous British girl who flew solo to Australia. Jack was so confident that Johnson would succeed that he started writing the song before she had completed the most dangerous part of the journey. Leaving England from Croydon on 5 May 1930 in a £600 used DH Gypsy Moth (G-AAAH) with sandwiches and a flask of tea, the first woman to fly 11,000 miles alone to Australia landed three weeks later in Darwin on 24 May. ‘Lone Girl Flyer’ was published and ready for sale four days later. The song was as timely and brilliant as ‘Kingsford Smith’ and sold very well. Edna Ralston sang it at the Tivoli night after night. It was recorded by Len Maurice with Gil Tech and His Syncopaters for Columbia, released under the nom de plume Art Leonard on Regal, and by Bob Molyneux for Vocalion and Embassy. Another hit for Jack O’Hagan.
'Hustling Hinkler' recorded by both Len Maurice and Fred Monument
'Kingsford Smith, Aussie is Proud of You' recorded by Len Maurice