You wooden believe the old girl is just 25 (Tamworth's big Golden Guitar)

The Big Golden Guitar actually celebrates its silver birthday this year but a digital makeover has just turned it into a big wooden wonder. 

A commercial promotion yesterday announced by the leading green group Planet Ark turned the 12-metre, gold-painted fibreglass icon into a wooden instrument – but it’s only a one-hit wonder.

As part of a creative transformation of about 25 Aussie icons and landmarks, the company showed us just what Tamworth’s most famous landmark might look like if it was built out of the more environmentally-friendly wooden panels.

It is supposed to encourage Australians to consider building more sustainable homes from good wood that protects native forests, uses recycled stuff and lessens our carbon footprint.

It was an eye-opening campaign but Big Golden Guitar owner Tom Coultan and store manager Caroline Singleton, a woman who’s supervised the tourist attraction for nine years, agreed with most pundits – it looked pretty crappy and nowhere near as good as the real deal.

The true-blue icon was actually opened to the public 25 years ago this year and since then has become one of the most photographed bits of Tamworth and the north.

It’s certainly the most famous image of the country music industry.

“I’ve been told that it’s photographed about 170,000 times a year,” Mr Coultan said yesterday.

“So all I would need is about 20 per cent of those to come through the shop and spend a dollar and I’d be much happier.”

He and manager Caroline Singleton say it’s a huge hit with travellers, especially grey nomads and music fans.

And it’s a definite come-on for naked photo shoots, too.

“People have shot it from all angles,” Mrs Singleton said.

“They’ve driven trucks and utes up to it, backed them in and captured photos of them with it on top of them. It’s been the setting for wedding photos and any regular visiting country artists come and have their picture taken with it.”

They’ve spotted some real interesting specimens too, like naked bodies, even blokes who rush up, take off their shirts and even don top hats to get a snap in front of the big monument.

Mr Coultan says it’s an annual hotspot for student treasure hunts, most famously the muck-up days and nights.

“I caught three young girls walking around it in high-heeled shoes one night,” Mr Coultan said.

“No, nothing else on. Only shoes. I scared them off and told them go home and get some clothes on, but it’s a top favorite for students.”

Mr Coultan bought it three years ago from Noel and Wendy Bennet. 

The BIG GOLDEN GUITAR

The Big Golden Guitar was launched into our landscape with the grand opening of what was then known as the Tamworth Country Centre at the Longyard in January 1988.

It was a $1.5million project announced just six months prior to that, incorporating what was then the Country Collection, containing a world-class collection of rocks, gems and minerals mixed in with the Gallery of Stars, a stunning display of 20 wax figures of country music greats, alongside a new boutique brewery, and an ice creamery.

They followed the signature opening on St Patrick’s Day three years before of the Longyard Hotel, the centrepiece to the grand plans of a tourist precinct which included a golf course, opened in October 1987, and a planned new motel complex, since completed and also once operated by the Bennets.

The striking signpost to the complex, the fibreglass creation of round-the- country sailor Len 

Surtees, then a fibreglass products producer, was a perfect replica of the golden guitar trophy.

It was unveiled on January 22 by Slim Dusty – pretty fitting as he was the bloke who had more Golden Guitars than anyone else. 

Former mayor Warwick Bennet, a brother to Noel, and festival co-founder Max Ellis, conceived the idea as a major tourist attraction.

They said then it wouldn’t be tacky, but the centrepiece of a tourism complex and cost about $750,000. Six wax figures have been added and it houses a significant cricketing collection that features Don Bradman memorabilia.

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