My Festival: Stories from the stars

Day 9:

The Tamworth country music festival has some wonderful memories for me. I have been fortunate to have been present at every one from the beginning.

I have memories of playing guitar for many of the great pioneers, many who aren’t with us today. The great musicians I have been blessed to play with include Norm Bodkin, Barry Thornton, Garry Brown, Paul Lester and so many others who have passed.

I have memories of the first awards night in the town hall, when unbeknown to me, Ross Murphy, of Opal Records, had nominated one of my first instrumentals.

 It didn’t win but I also have the memories of the 1977 awards night when I did.

 Tamworth is and always will be Australia’s Country Music Capital.

In all our travels, people may not know a lot about Tamworth but they all say “that’s the country music place” or “isn’t that where it’s all at?” 

Yes, for me, Tamworth is “where it’s all at!”.

Day 8: Melinda Schneider

How do I most eloquently describe the best part of the Tamworth Country Music Festival? 

Well, uh, I know... it’s the vibe! 

Just like that priceless Aussie film ‘The Castle’, Tamworth has it’s own kind of ‘serenity’. From the buskers on Peel Street to the 40 plus dry heat, to the guitars, banjos and fiddles spilling out from the numerous venues in town, to the sounds of noisy revellers returning home to their campsite tents at 3am screaming at the top of their lungs, ‘I will NOT have a hangover in the morning’, (tell ‘em they’re dreamin’) these all help to make Tamworth the most entertaining festival in the world.

Top all that off with the pride of couple of Golden Guitar wins at the big awards and you’ll be heading....straight to the pool room. 

Day 7: Doug Trevor

Way back, I had produced a gold-selling album for a group called the Hawking Brothers, which featured the single, One Day At A Time. 

I was told by the boys that I had to go up to Tamworth (where?) for the festival and the country music awards.

That was my first trip and I have been coming pretty well every year since. 

Back then it was pretty basic, the awards were in the town hall, and I never thought that I would be back later as MC for the awards, and a judge of Star Maker. 

The direction of my producer, and later management, career was decidedly set on a country path!

It is amazing how the whole thing has grown over the years and become so professional and successful – a credit to so many dedicated people.

One of my favourite and most dramatic memories is the year the awards were held in the tin shed out near the airport. 

It had rained for days, and on the night the rain pelted down so hard on the tin roof that you could hardly hear what was coming off stage.

And the rain didn’t let up – the river came up over the bridges and Tamworth was cut in half. 

I was staying with friends (as I still do – it just makes the experience so much better with all that country hospitality – it’s so special) and I was on the east side, and had to drive back to Sydney via the coast.

What a great memory!

Day 6: John Williamson:

That country feeling

The Tamworth festival for me is the start of the year (Actually I perform at Dural Country Club the week before to get my voice and memory back after a month off). 

But, it's Tamworth Town Hall on the Friday night that brings back the joy of entertaining and sharing my thoughts in song; especially about my love of the Australian bush. 

There is something about the people and the sound in that hall. Probably at the end of a hectic week the audience just wants to sit back and be entertained.

  I think of it as my only show for Tamworth residents even though there is someone from every state in the audience. 

The hall still has that 'country' feeling that is probably not in the TREC. I think it's a love/hate thing for us artists. 

As much as I try not to wish for a Golden Guitar, the angst is always there. 

But in the long run I am very happy to be nominated and am pleased to see one ones get the golden icon that is surely becoming more legendary as years go by.'

Day 5: Troy Cassar-Daley

'People love Disneyland but I love the Tamworth festival.'

What I love about Tamworth is that gathering of like-minded country music people, fans and artists. Since I was young and coming up as a fan, it has never lost its magical feel to me. Some people love Disneyland, I love the Tamworth Country Music Festival.

What I don’t like about the festival is driving out of town on the last Sunday heading home. I always have a heavy heart but I yarn to Laurel and the kids about the week and it cheers me up.

My advice to folks coming up is stay hydrated! It’s a dry heat up here and you must keep up your fluids (water or amber). And as performers we must always tune our guitars.

My first festival was back in 1982, so my memories are many but the late, great Jimmy Little invited me on stage when I was around 16 – it was unforgettable. Watching the awards in a huge tent down on the oval and a storm nearly blowing us all away is etched into my mind. 

And receiving my second Golden Guitar I will carry forever – the hug I got from Slim Dusty felt like one you would get from your dad.

To say this festival is special to me would be an understatement.

Thank you Tamworth for the  memories.

– Troy Cassar-Daley 

Day 4: John Elliott

Times have changed but feeling the same

I have many fond memories of my annual pilgrimage to the Tamworth festival but my first in 1978 is probably my favourite. 

I caught a Greyhound down from Brisbane and arrived at midnight on the Friday. 

Much to my amazement the town was rocking and full of country music even at that hour. 

Like a kid in a lolly shop I wandered from venue to venue peering in at the crowds lapping up the country tunes. 

There were all kinds of country from hardcore hillbilly to slick-sounding country rock and all kinds of fans from all over Australia. 

For a moment I thought I’d died and gone to hillbilly heaven.  It was a full weekend of music with hardly any sleep and I remember catching forty winks in the park before the awards show. 

Thirty-five years on my heart still skips a beat driving down the New England Highway to the Tamworth Festival.

Day 2: Bob Corbett

Tamworth - My Friend With Benefits.

I first arrived at the Tamworth Country Music Festival in a rock'n'roll band back in 1993. After we finished our show at The Imperial Hotel, the late-great Mort Fist introduced himself and proceeded to  show me around town. He introduced me for the first time to many of the venues and musicians that were to become a massive part of my 20 year love affair with the city. 

The moment I hold dearest from that night on the town with Mort was an Alby Pool & No City Limits gig at The Services Club. Alby's music was jaw-droppingly inspiring and almost single-handedly the reason why I have become the songwriter and musician that I am today.

However Tamworth has not only shaped me as a country music artist, the city has also blessed me with a beautiful wife Kirrily (nee Thom) and two precious children. Tamworth, you definitely are a friend with benefits. And long live the memory of Mort.

Day 1: Adam Harvey

It's funny to look back over the twenty odd years I have been coming to Tamworth, and to think about all the gigs I have done here...the good, the bad, and the ugly!

I was around 16 when I become friends with Stan Coster, who told me that I really needed to go up to the Tamworth Country Music Festival if I wanted to get my career started. 

A touring country music show had just been to our home town of Geelong, and Mum had kept the organiser/promoter's business card from that show. 

We gave him a call and asked if he could help me get a few gigs during the Tamworth festival which was coming up in a few months time.

"Absolutely" he said. "You guys just get yourselves up to Tamworth and organise somewhere to stay for the 10 days, and I'll take care of everything".

We loaded up the car that January, and made the 16 hour trip to Tamworth. Stan Coster had organised a motel room for us and we were in business...so we thought!

This same organiser/promoter told us to meet him at the RSL club at 9am on the first day of the festival to get an itinerary of when and where he had booked me to perform. Well we got there on time and waited, and waited... and waited. 

At 11am a nervous looking bus driver came over to us and asked if we had seen this very same promoter. 

"No" we said. "We have been waiting here for two hours for him, to find out where I'm playing during the festival". 

The bus driver replied "well I've just driven a bus load of people up from Sydney, and they've all paid him a deposit for a weeks holiday at the Tamworth Country Music festival.... now I've been told he has skipped town with all their money!"

Mum, Dad and I just looked at each other in shock...Welcome to Tamworth! 

With our dented pride, and our motel already paid for, Mum and Dad decided that since we had driven so far, it would be a shame not to stick around and check out the festival anyway.

This was when I learnt the true spirit of the Tamworth Country Music Festival, and the friendly community that really exists in the country music industry. 

Warren.H.Williams asked if I would like to sing a few songs with his band "Country Ebony"while they busked in the main street each night. 

Olive Bice was a wonderful lady who heard about our dilemma and offered some guest spots on her show. 

Then Ann Conway invited me to come along and sing on her showcase in Grace Bros each day. 

Laurie Muggleton asked if I would like to sing on his show in the shopping centre, and it went on and on.

After a disappointing first day in Tamworth, we left here feeling pretty good about the place, and we had made some friends for life. 

I have not missed another Tamworth Country Music Festival since, and I think the friendship between all of the artists, and the fans, is what make's country music really special.

Cheers....Adam Harvey

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