The song was written by Helene Grover, then aged about sixteen (see below). After the success of Barefoot Boy Helene eventually moved away from the music industry. She has worked as a theatrical agent and is now a leading laughter therapist and trainer, based in Sydney: her website, Laughter Strategies, is at www.laughterstrategies.com. In the late 70s she directed Flashback, a Happy Days-era stage production which included Barefoot Boy.
Other Helene Grover compositions include Ice Cream Man by Noeleen Batley (Festival, 1961), and Alice (In Wonderland) by Dig Richards (Rex, 1961).
Helene Grover recalls:
I wrote Barefoot Boy when I was about 16, sitting on top of a ladder in my hallway,where I used to love singing up there, somehow the accoustics or the feeling of being on stage I’m not sure which. A friend took me to a talent quest in the city. It was run by Festival Records looking for new talent. We sang Barefoot Boy as a duo because originally I really wanted to sing.
The song won the talent quest. I also remember John Laws being there and he was keen to record it as well.
The record company told me that it would be recorded by a young and talented upcoming singer called Noeleen Batley. They didn’t want me to sing it. Actually, her voice was better than mine. It took a year until it was recorded and released and slowly worked its way up the charts. Noeleen and I appeared on National Bandstand with Brian Henderson and Johnny O’Keefe’s ‘Six O’Clock Rock’ on Channel 2. It became a number one hit across the country.
Noeleen then recorded my next song Ice Cream Man, cute, but only went about halfway up the charts and never really got to be known. I wrote more material which I presented to Festival Records and ultimately had Alice in Wonderland accepted and was recorded by Dig Richards. Interestingly, the A & R man for Festival was Ken Taylor who reorganised the music and put his non-de-plume as Kay Thomas as Co-writer.
We struck some copyright problems with Barefoot Boy and Buddy Holly’s Everyday so the music was altered a little for re-recording for the States. I don’t know how it went there, but certainly did not hit the height of the charts…
The period when it was written and recorded was one of early rock music in Australia and local composers were fairly sparse, so part of the popularity was the
fact that I was a young Australian (actually born in France and came here when I was 9) and so was Noeleen, a year or two older. I spent quite some time with the
music and its people during that time, people like Col Joye, Johnny Devlin, Patsy Noble, the Delltones and so many more. My publisher… had lots of big parties in his
home in Collaroy and we would get together and socialise and talk rock and roll.
(Helene Grover, email to PopArchives, May 2005.)
Thanks to Helene Grover.
Further reading: Noeleen Batley page at Milesago.
Suggestion from Terry Stacey.
On 1986 jazz album Woman Of Mystery, on Larrikin label, music director Serge Ermoll (composer Helene Grover’s then partner), with the participation of trumpeter James Morrison.
The album includes Money Man, also written by Helene Grover, a sequel to Barefoot Boy.
Same title but not the same song as ‘Barefoot Boy’ by Noeleen Batley.
On 1967 album on Decca, Another Side of Rick. Also on Decca single, B-side of Don’t Make Promises (1968).
Single on His Master's Voice (NZ), "with accompaniment by The Blockbusters", B-side of I Can't Hold Your Letters (In My Arms) by pop singer busy around Wellington live venues from the early 60s.
Further reading: Jill Thomas page by Bruce Sergent.
Version alert from Terry Stacey.