My ountry Music Connection

my news Scrapbook contd

My original embossed business card on my scrapbook,. I would write a msg in the space and ask for it to be given to my potential interviewee

Ive been going through my scrapbook of local news items from the late 1970’s into the 80’s that were published inThe Singleton Argus, Hunter Valley News, The Newcastle Herald and Capital News.

II had a phase of covering country music events which fitted in with my other work.

-This was just before and after my divorce while my boys were with their Dad at he weekends. He had weekend custody and was taking the boys to their soccer matches while I filled in my time either working or covering local events since I had plenty of spare time to fill. (In Australia ‘local’ can cover a couple of hundred kilometres!)

I even joined the local Country Music Association and used to go to meetings at the Band Hall in Singleton where we were encouraged to get up and sing 3 songs with the band from Awaba.

It was great fun -long before karioke -to get up and sing, unrehearsed, with these great guys. Two on amplified acoustic and electric guitar, plus Denis the Demon Drummer who had the loudest drum kit you ever heard! Every line of ‘Your Cheatin Heart’ (Hank Williams) was ended by a drum roll ( diddely diddely dddelydiddely dum) while each verse ended with the above plus ‘crash!’ on the cymbals. It was great!

After being cajoled into doing my ‘3 Greatest hits’ in front of the public in the new open-air Bicenterary Sungleton Band Shell -and finding out nobody had bothered to turn up my mike, I decided performing was not for me. 

But it did give me a great respect and understanding for those who do, which worked well when it came to interviewing the Australian country music artists who toured trough the Hunter Valley.

All this was just before Entertainment Centres and large venues. No huge Concerts On The Green as we have today, when even Chris Isaaks will fly in from US to perform.

Jean Stfford was one of the first big names I saw perform on asmaller  black open-air sound stage. I had previously heard her on the radio in UK.

Unfortunately a huge electrical storm hit just after Jean Stafford began singing, and flooded all the wiring and equipment. But that gave me time to interview her. Very nice lady.

My Dad was a big fan of hers. She had a lovely warm  voice.

Slim Dusty, Johnny Chester and Alan Caswell were all successful recording stars of the time that I interviewed. They could compete with Nashville and its American influence. No backing tracks here. We had proper bands. Backing tracks these days allow artists to put on a one-person show, but it is a different experience.

I would send my Journalist card backstage, watch the show, then hang around after till say, Slim Dusty, was winding down and ready to chat. I liked to get past the stage persona to the real person. 

Johnny Chester also did a radio show here that I used to tape record and send to my Dad in England. He was very pleased to hear that his records often featured on the UK’s prestige ABC Radio Country Music  Hour, where my Dad heard them. My Dad in return was delighted to hear, on his next tape from Aus, country star Johnny Chester announce, “And this is for Tom English, in England” as he put on one of his own tracks.

The late Jim Humbersone was known for his monologues, and at that time was probably the oldest singer around. He was a good mentor.

Some performers are still friends. I first wrote about Mitchell Shadlow, a Singeton local who went on to have success overseas, especially in Ireland.Mitchell became well known after winning the Golden Guitar at the annual Country Music Festival inTamworth. H e went to America and performed in Nashville. Mitchell was 14, and just learning the guitar when I first met him. A few years later he was touring with Slim Dusty.

His first CD, featuring his own songs and produced by the ABC, was a sellout, and he was doing what he loved.

Laid-back as ever Mitch still takes his music on the road to please his fans. He pictured left at Bulga Barn, NSW aged 15.

Set inland (in the bush) in the hot dusty countryside of New South Wales, Tamworth is to Australian country music what Nashville is elsewhere.
The Country Music festival is held atTamworth, home of the Golden Guitar, during the hottest part of the year.It is regarded as a Mecca for country music followers and, believe me it is not an event -it is a total experience.

I was fortunate to cover one year’s event as a freelance for the Newcastle Herald and Tamworth-based Capital News,* see footnote and was issued a Press Pass.There were events happening non-stop for days. It was full-on and I seemed to be the only one not encased in denim, wearing cowboy boots and cowboy hat. I had only emigrated to Australia a few years before, and at first I thought that living 87km from the coast was in the Wild West, but Tamworth was a total culture shock. And great fun!

Technology has changed everything from music to Journalism. I went on to cover many human interest stories but most journalism is now done mainly in-house. I still keep my hand in, contributing to the Topics column in The Newcastle Herald but as a Quirky Senior Citizen (though I refer to myself by the long-defunct title of ‘Ace Roving Reporter’).

‘* Coincidence and good news! A retrospective cover for the newest issue of Capital News. It has survived the Pandemic! Yeehar!

Go to Capital News Page

Currently I have been following the career of local country music singer Adam Price, who has Indigenous heritage. Visit my story about Adam Price


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