Fred Dagg

aka John Clarke

If you asked a random group of people the trivia question – “Who was born in Palmerston North, had a top-10 single in 1976, a debut album that sold over 100,000 copies and went on to great success in Australia?” – how many would correctly answer John Clarke, aka Fred Dagg?

A beloved comedian in New Zealand long after he chose exile in Melbourne, Clarke was also the country's biggest-selling recording star. He died unexpectedly, of natural causes, on 9 April 2017, while tramping in the Grampian national park in Victoria, Australia. A family member said he died “doing one of the things he loved the most in the world, taking photos of birds in beautiful bushland with his wife and friends.” He was 68. 

Outside the Ace of Clubs, Cook Street, Auckland, 1976. Diamond Lil and Fred Dagg were briefly a double-act after their success recording 'Gumboots' 
Photo credit: Phil Warren collection
Fred Dagg Live - 1977 TV special, with John Grenell and the Big Dagg Band.
Fred Dagg's Greatest Hits, "Behind"
Fred Dagg's Greatest Hits
Fun Times Here are Not Forgotten: Diamond Lil (Marcus Craig) and John Clarke tread the boards at Phil Warren's Ace of Clubs, Auckland, 1976
We Don't Know How Lucky We Are
Fred Dagg's Big Single, a 33rpm EP produced (and co-written) by Alan Galbraith in 1977.
The Gumboot Song
Fred Dagg aka John Clarke signs his EMI recording contract, with producer Rick White who remembers "some in the committee thought there was no money in comedy albums".
Photo credit: Rick White collection
The poster for Fred Dagg's sell-out national tour, 1976. The promoter was Ian Magan. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, Eph-D-Variety-1976-01
Face To Face with Kim Hill (NZ On Screen)

'The Gumboot Song' was adapted from the song 'If It Wasnae for Your Wellies' by Scottish comedian Billy Connolly.

Simon Morris (Tamburlaine) on the writing of ‘We Don’t Know How Lucky We Are’: “I popped in to the EMI studio where John was finishing his first album (at pace). He had about an hour to go, and some lyrics. I tuned up his guitar, slapped some chords together and we recorded it. With 15 minutes to go I then overdubbed three backing vocals. Job done. Ten bucks? Thank you very much. Many years later, John got in touch and insisted on giving me some royalties, though I think ‘song composition’ was slightly over-stating it! He personally gave me credit (and a nice cheque), but I imagine the formal credit remains his. After all, the lyrics and his performance were 99 percent of the number.”




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