For a time in the mid-sixties life was a fairytale come true for a young woman from Morrinsville named Marina Devcich. One minute there she was the second youngest of twelve children working as a hairdresser in her home town. Eighteen months later she had won the Loxene Golden Disc Award with her first record, and had just returned from four months in the USA, recording with Chet Atkins and appearing on the Grand Ole Opry.
It all started in 1964 when Marina and Isabel Leigh won a Johnny Cooper talent quest in Morrinsville. Further solo performances with the Lew Manson Band around the Waikato area followed. One night in 1965 she was booked to appear in a Morrinsville hotel with Howard Morrison and Auckland bandleader Mike Perjanik. Mike went straight back to Auckland to tell Viking Records' chief Ron Dalton that he'd found his next star in the Waikato. Almost overnight the girl with the power packed voice was in an Auckland recording studio, recording Jay Epae's "Tumblin' Down". Ron Dalton decided to rename her Maria Dallas.
Maria receiving her Golden Disc Award in 1966.
"Tumblin' Down" backed with "When I Get Through With You" was a very infectious number. Released in 1966, the song made it to number 11 on the national charts and was entered into the Loxene Golden Disc Awards, where it took first place. Despite this success, Maria never felt at home as a pop singer and soon returned to her country music roots.
Viking released six albums during 1966 and 1967.
Also during that period were also six EP's.
After the first single, "Tumblin' Down", the following singles were also released during 1966 and 1967. "Rustle Your Bustle"/"Puddin'-And-Tame" with Howard Morrison, "I Don't Have A Penny"/"Changing All Those Changes", "Tonight I'm Coming Home"/"Too Many Tears", "The Music Turns Me On"/"Tumblin' Down" (US Version), "Handyman"/"Pop Goes A Lifetime", and "Ambush"/"Lonely For You". None of the singles faired as well as the first.
Another artist in the Viking stable was Ken Lemon. In 1967 Viking released the album "Face To Face", which consisted of 6 songs by Maria and 6 by Ken.
Australian EP from 1968.
Later in 1967 she moved to Australia, before venturing to Nashville, where she did a considerable amount of recording. While in the USA, Maria appeared on the nationwide television programme, "The Merv Griffin Show" and also on the radio show, "The Grand Ole Opry". Singles were still released during her absence.
New Zealanders had almost forgotten about her until she returned in 1970 with a song called "Pinocchio" which went all the way to number 1 on the national charts.
Again she couldn't reproduce her success after that, but Viking capitalised by releasing the album "Pinocchio" in 1971 and a follow up, "Town and Country" in 1972.
Maria married an Australian, Barry Kairl, while she was performing in Brisbane, and he became her manager. They married in 1968, and had a daughter in May 1969. The relationship ended in 1983.
A couple of singles were released on the Kontact label in 1973 and 1981.
1987 saw two album releases, the first is basically the "Maria Dallas In Nashville" album with songs in a different order. The second has a few new songs. And for some reason Viking was still trying to capitalize on her two big hits by releasing a single in 1987 that contained both of them.
In 2017 Sony Music released "The Best Of Maria Dallas" CD. This is a comprehensive collection of Maria's songs. It contains both the NZ and USA versions of "Tumblin' Down".
Maria Dallas can also be found on the following compilations.
New Zealand Music