THE iconic Golden Guitar Awards have again been plunged into controversy after Aussie country music legend John Williamson sensationally stood down as president of the organising body.
His shock resignation comes as former Tamworth mayor James Treloar expressed “serious concern” about the integrity of the country music festival’s showcase event, following a series of embarrassing blunders in recent weeks.
Cr Treloar has lodged an urgent notice of motion for tonight’s council meeting, raising the spectre of council playing a far greater role in the running of the CMAA Country Music Awards of Australia.
But it is Williamson’s resignation after more than a decade as CMAA president that has stunned country music fans, with the famed True Blue balladeer taking a parting shot at the “Americanisation” of Aussie country music.
“This is not just over the obvious mistakes this year ... the current turmoil was bound to happen,” Williamson said in a letter to CMAA chairman Jeff Chandler.
“It is impossible to run serious Golden Guitar Awards using volunteers.
“It’s as though the Golden Guitar Awards are the American Country Music Awards of Australia.
“It seems the industry is hell-bent on producing more Keith Urbans.
“If we are not respected as a legitimate organisation to promote original
Australian country music, I cannot be associated with it any longer.”
The credibility of the awards has copped a hiding in recent weeks after two artists announced as 2014 finalists were discovered to be ineligible.
Williamson said it was crucial Tamworth played a role in revitalising the awards.
“It’s got to that stage that we’re no longer capable of running the awards the way it should be run and things are bound to go wrong,” he said.
“I said to [mayor Col Murray] that awards like this should always belong to a classic country town like Tamworth. Tamworth owns the Golden Guitars, so it needs to take more responsibility for it.”
He said the most damning indictment on the awards was the fact “an album with 90 per cent American covers can get in”.
“We should be nurturing what Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson started,” he said.
Just over a month out from the start of the 2014 festival, Cr Treloar said it was timely for council to “look at its options”.
“There have been a couple of errors in last few years and perhaps we should look at playing a bigger role in the presentation and judging (of the awards),” Cr Treloar said. “The awards, for many years, have been a pinnacle event and I don’t want to see that diluted.”
Williamson’s role has been filled by Bushwackers frontman Dobe Newton.
CMAA chairman Jeff Chandler thanked Williamson for his service to the CMAA.
“John was one of the founders of the organisation and we will be forever indebted to him for his vision and commitment to the growth and future development of country music in Australia,” he said.