Hands on deck for reunion

DURING the festival there are several things that are absolute traditions – and the annual Hired Hands Reunion is one of them.

This year, more than 30 years since their first gig, Lawrie Minson’s band of brothers moves to a new venue, the Courthouse Hotel. 

DURING the festival there are several things that are absolute traditions – and the annual Hired Hands Reunion is one of them.

The Hands’ unique brand of rockin’ country will be heard in the marquee out back of the hotel, on Friday, January 18.

Usually the reunion has been held on the final weekend, but this earlier time means the festival can kick off in mighty fine style.

The Hired Hands got their name in 1980, after Lawrie pulled together a bunch of local hired guns to provide backing for visiting artists during the festival.

After a week playing for various artists at the Hands of Fame Park, the name just kinda stuck. 

With multiple line-up changes, as musicians came and went from Tamworth, in 1984, The Hands were awarded the Golden Guitar Instrumental of the Year for Lawrie’s composition Moonjbah Mull.

The band finished regular touring the following year as its members scattered to all parts of Australia. 

Previous Hands have included Pixie Jenkins, Randall Wilson, Warren Gordon, Ken Mackay, Kirk Steel, Paul Henderson, Ted Tilbrook, Russell Adams, Ken Ramsay and the late Steve Williams. 

While the band itself never really achieved the kind of huge commercial success people aim for these days, individually its members have worked with some of the biggest names in the business, including Jimmy Barnes, John Williamson and Lee Kernaghan, to name just a few. 

They have a legion of fans who appreciate great live music and always support their once-a-year reunion. 

That’s what it’s like at a Hired Hands Reunion – it’s as much a reunion for the audience members, who see the same familiar faces year after year, as it is for the band. 

The 2013 line-up of Hired Hands will be Lawrie, Kirk Steel, Garry Steel, Randall Wilson, Russell Adams and Ted Tilbrook. 

If you want to hear cool rockin’ country played by some of the best in the business, head on down to the Court House on day one of the festival from 8.30pm.

ANOTHER event Lawrie and his dad John have ensured has become a festival institution is the Hohner Golden Harmonica Championships. 

An absolute festival favourite, it’s also one of the festival’s longest-

running events, up there with Toyota Star Maker but not quite as long as the CCMA National Talent Quest. 

It all began back in 1980 when John Minson, then known as the much-loved Mr Hoedown on Radio 2TM, convinced Peter Harkins to host the event outside his Cheapa Music store, which was then located in the original Southgate Shopping Centre.

“The list of past winners reads like a who’s-who of harmonica in Australia,” Lawrie said.

“It includes legends such Christian Marsh (who can be found playing at the festival with the Robert Paul Burton Trio), and Ian Collard. 

“Last year’s winner was a young man named Chris Saunders, who caught the train from Melbourne and slept on a park bench the night before.

“He just bowled up to the competition and blew the place away!

“It’s stories like these that make the comp such an exciting and unpredictable event for players and fans.”

It will be a 1pm start on January 26 in Doms Room at the Family Hotel. 

Lawrie Minson will also host an informal get-together from 11am for players to discuss anything from playing tips and techniques to new products.

Anyone wishing to find out more information can call Lawrie on 0418 523 490.

To obtain tickets for this must-see event on your festival agenda, visit www.thepub.com.au and follow the links.

You can also purchase tickets at the door on the day, but it’s advisable to get in early to avoid disappointment.

AN EVENT that happened for the first time last year and has all the hallmarks of a festival institution in the making is the Howard Family Show.

Little would you suspect the wealth of talent on this simply named event on the program if you didn’t know better – but that’s why I’m here, to give you the good oil and help you wade through the maze.

I was fortunate to get front-row seats last festival – couldn’t believe my luck in that crowded room.

On the show were the amazing Shane Howard (Goanna), Damian Howard (The Ploughboys) and their gorgeous sister, Marcia (Goanna/ Pearl).

For the Howards it’s a special concert, as it’s the only time of the year they can get together. But even when organising last year’s show, Damian said he had no idea they would get the response they did.

“I was a bit unsure whether anyone would come along,” Damian said.

“It was great to see the room so full of people – and the good thing is, they loved it.

“From the audience reaction last year, it’s given us a bit of a focus on what they liked – and they loved the harmony side, which, to us, is second nature.

“We grew up singing – in church, at weddings, parties, you name it. And this concert is a reflection of those formative years. Plus all three of us are drawing on a whole catalogue of material each.”

This intimate, up-close-and-personal concert will not only feature the Howards, but a fabulous band and some very special guests.

Last year’s guest list included Troy Cassar-Daley, Dobe Newton, Sara and Greg Storer and Pete Denahy – and their January guest list will be just as sparkling, you can bet your cowboy boots!

“We haven’t played together since Tamworth last year, so for us it’s a special show,” Damian said.

“It’s the one and only time in our busy schedules we can catch up.

“I’m in Melbourne, Marcia is in Warrnambool and Shane lives just out of Warrnambool.

“At any given time any one of us will be in the States, in Europe, anywhere around the world, so that’s what is so important about Tamworth for us. It’s family time.

“It’s traditionally the time we all take off, and we get to sit and play music together, which is what we were raised on.” 

Tickets for this special event are available from Destination Tamworth at www.tcmf.com.au/tickets

BY THE way – it’s only 50 more sleeps – and 43 until the Countdown.

Yee-haa!

What a great Christmas present – tickets to the Howard Family Show.

The music fan in your life is going to love you for it.

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