Les Andrews grew up in Timaru. While soldiering in the African desert during World War II, Andrews began arranging and singing in variety concerts.
After the war, Andrews got a bursary to study singing at the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music, and his prizewinning tenor voice helped him win a place at the Royal College of Music in London. Andrews had begun singing on the radio in Sydney, and now the radio work stepped up. The BBC also invited him to join the house band on TV shows, This is Showbusiness and Music for You, the later band performed at the 1954 Royal Command Performance.
After 12 years overseas, Andrews returned to New Zealand. In the late 50s he began announcing for Auckland's Radio 1YA. Andrews would continue to work for the state broadcaster for over a decade, hosting classical concerts that were broadcast across the nation, and doing 12 years on a weekend children's show for 1ZB. One night in June 1959 he was announcing for 1YA at the state broadcaster's studio in Shortland Street, when a producer told him to put on an LP, so that he could go and make some announcements during a test transmission for television. He did further on-camera tests, and when television officially launched the following year, he sang on one of New Zealand's first variety programmes.
Andrews submitted the idea for the show, Music in 3D, which featured a band he was playing in at the time, and sang on the musical request show, Play it By Ear. He also compeered the short lived quiz show, Tinker Tailor. More successful was the true or false themed Personality Squares, which ran for four years, two of them nationwide. Asked to come up with a memorable catchphrase, Andrews began mentioning "my dear old Aunt Freda" in many of his one-liners. The popular catchphrase soon became a song. Long active in arts circles, Andrews was a founding member of the Variety Artists Club of NZ, and spent more than six years campaigning to save Aucklandís harbourside Customhouse building, and turn it into an arts centre. He succeeded in the former, but failed in the later. With his second wife Sonia, he established a cultural foundation which sponsored many artists. They also organised 37 concerts for charity, most of them sell-outs. Both were awarded Queens Service Medals.
Les Andrews passed away on 28 February 2014. He published an autobiography, What a Laugh in 1999.
On the recording side, he produced many singles, EP's and albums between 1965 and 1971. He had a very diverse range of recordings from serious hymns, classic standards, to light comedy and entertainment. One of his most famous recordings was his ditty about the Auckland Harbour Bridge in 1965, "Click Go the Toll Gates". Below are many of his recordings on Stebbing, Ozark, Evergreen and Allied International.
New Zealand Music