Meet John Hanley – MND and Me Foundation

Meet John Hanley

I was born in Brisbane, November 1968. One of 5 children to Patricia and Phil, my siblings are Anthony, Donna, Paul and Louise. We grew up on a quiet street in Geebung.

I attended St Dympna’s primary school at Aspley until Grade 4, then moved to St Columban’s Christian Brothers College at Albion from Grade 5 until Senior in 1985. I played rugby league up until I started at Columban’s, then made the switch to Rugby Union. I stopped playing Rugby when I was 29, finishing up at the Everton Park Roosters.

I briefly met Lisa in 1985, when we were both in Senior. We were married five years later at St Dympna’s and have been together for nearly 30 years.

We built our Albany Creek home in 1991 and have lived here since then. We have 2 sons. They are both pretty musical, playing quite a few instruments between them. Some with formal training but many self-taught. Jackson is a Cabinet Maker and Maclean is studying Secondary Education.

I didn’t go to Uni, preferring to work straight out of school. Study wasn’t really my thing. I sort of fell into the Liquor Industry 20 years ago and never really escaped. I worked for the same company the entire time, until my illness forced my retirement 5 years ago.

Singing for me began at a young age, when I tried out and joined the school choir in Grade 5. I sang with them until the end of Grade 10. My first choir performance was ‘You can’t Stop the Music’ by The Village People. I can always remember singing. Whether it was at church on Sundays, in the car on long trips, mowing the grass (and being louder than the mower) or just around the house. I always remember there being music in the house growing up and playing Mum and Dad’s records on the turntable. One of my earliest music memories is singing along to Sherbet’s ‘Summer Love’ in the early 70s. I loved listening to an eclectic mix of music from Kamahl to Willie Nelson to my idol, Bruce Springsteen. His ‘Born to Run’ album was the first record I ever bought with my own money, in 1984. I have only learned in the last 5 years that the little bit of vocal talent I have, came from my Dad and his Dad, who were both great singers. Until we lost Dad in 2014, he was still singing at Church and in the Parish’s musical productions.

After school, and up until a couple of years ago, my singing was limited to impromptu concerts for family and friends, usually on big nights out. I ended up on stage at pubs many times with bands singing Bruce, Cold Chisel or Billy Joel tunes. I even ended up singing with a busker in the Queen Street Mall once and apparently made quite a bit of money for him. I think it was the old favourite ‘Khe-Sanh’. I can’t read sheet music and have never had any lessons. Lisa has told me from the day we met that I should be doing something with my singing, but life always just got in the way.

Appearing on ‘The Recording Studio’ TV show came about as a direct result of attending Pub Choir. We started going to their events in March 2017 and haven’t really missed any since then. I’m sure that Pub Choir is one of the few reasons I can still sing. We’ve ended up great friends with the whole team and very much look forward to our monthly fix of belting out some cracker songs.

In my situation, I’m a big believer in ‘If I have air in my lungs, I should be using it’. If you believe the averages and see what has happened to so many other great people with this disease, then I probably shouldn’t be here, let alone still singing. The vocal chords don’t get much of a rest these days and that’s just fine with me. I’m just going to keep singing, with the support of the MND and Me Foundation. But most importantly with the help of Marty, Chris, Jason and the boys.

I also strongly believe that we can all put our stamp on the world somehow. Maybe this is mine?