FOR near on 50 years, Nev Parnell has been a pillar of the local country music scene, a classic pick-and-strummer with a heart as big as the Golden Guitar.
So when an old friend heard he was battling inoperable bowel cancer, he did what old musos do and organised a tribute show.
The result – the Nev Parnell Appreciation concert at Wests earlier this month – was part-fundraiser, part-reunion and all-rockin’.
More than 500 guests, many who had played in Mr Parnell’s Country Gold dance band over the years, helped raise more than $6000 for the North West Cancer Centre in an afternoon and evening of revelry and reflection.
“It was absolutely fantastic; I couldn’t believe it,” an emotional Mr Parnell told The Leader.
“To get so many of the old band together, and for them to come from all over Australia was very humbling.
“It was a hard night to get through. It was pretty emotional – but it was very special.”
The cascade of goodwill towards Mr Parnell was hardly a surprise.
The country music veteran, who came to Tamworth in 1963, has given countless young musos a leg-up in the industry.
“A lot of us simply wouldn’t have survived without Neville,” event organiser Stephen Bunz said. “When I was told he was crook, I put a call out on Facebook to organise a tribute show and within 24 hours I had 30 acts organised.”
New Zealand-born “Bunzie” – as he is affectionately known – won a trip to Tamworth as part of his first prize in the 1981
New Zealand Country Music Entertainer of the Year.
He forged a career for himself in Tamworth but said Mr Parnell had been a stagecraft mentor.
“He has good communication skills and is a great reader of a crowd,” Mr Bunz said. “We all learned so much from him.”
Included in the tribute event’s line-up were Lindsay Butler, Lynette Guest, Peggy Gilchrist, Shaza Leigh, Bobby Howson, Sally-Anne Whitten and many, many more.