A smoky farewell for Dawsons

HOW perfectly fitting was the weather for Saturday’s ceremony at Tamworth’s Oxley Lookout to lay to rest the ashes of Smoky and Dot Dawson?

Even MC Max Ellis couldn’t resist the urge to remark on the “smoky” conditions that prevailed high above Tamworth, the city that had become a second home to the much-loved and respected country music couple whose main abode was in Lane Cove, Sydney.

The Dawsons were no strangers to bushfires either, as the Smoky Dawson Ranch at Ingleside that was a refuge to many youngsters over the years, as well as the setting for rodeos, tele-movies and feature films, was completely destroyed by fire in 1979.

It was lovely to see and meet members of Dot’s family, including her little sister, 95-year-old Myrtle Johns. 

I think the ceremony represented closure to the family, as they were aware of the special affection Smoky and Dot had for Tamworth and how revered they were in the country music industry.

Father Tom Shanahan was there to say a few words, and he also spoke on behalf of the RSL movement, as Smoky was an ex-serviceman.

It was virtually full circle for the Dawsons, as a small committee, headed by Mary Chapman and Max Ellis, had worked tirelessly to fund the statue of Smoky that was unveiled in Peel St, outside council headquarters.

That same committee had also cut through a raft of red tape with Tamworth Regional Council, to gain permission for the ashes to be interred at the lookout. It was great to see Councillor Helen Tickle there, representing the mayor and deputy mayor, who were unable to attend.

Although they are greatly missed by those who knew and loved them, I, for one, feel a great deal of comfort knowing Smoky and Dot are resting in peace, high above Tamworth, in the homestead of their dreams. 

NEXT Friday night is a rare opportunity for music fans to catch up with a local musician who’s hardly ever home.

Ginger-ninja and guitar slinger 8 Ball Aitken will play a free show at the Courthouse Hotel from 8pm – his first local gig in more than seven months.

The free local gig is one of a series of shows on 8 Ball’s Biscuit Tin Guitar Tour, which has seen him travel around the country and across the world, playing his home-made, three-string hillbilly guitar, crafted from an Arnott’s biscuit tin.

He’s not long home from an extended tour of the USA and Canada, where his music is being heard by more and more people. Yellow Moon, an 8 Ball original, has been chosen for the soundtrack of the hit USA television series, Justified. This cowboy-drama can be seen in Australia on 

Foxtel. This is the second North American TV show to use 8 Ball’s music in recent times, after Parking Wars picked up his song, The Party, for its soundtrack. 

If you don’t get along to the Courthouse next Friday, there’s not much chance of seeing 8 Ball in action this side of the festival, as he has a busy dancecard planned for the next month or so in four states before he flies back to America next month.

“I am particularly excited about playing my 13-minute ‘crocodile-backpacker-attack’ anthem for the people of Tamworth,” 8 Ball said.

“After being inspired by my home country and the many stories about tourists not knowing where to swim, I have learnt more about crocodiles than I ever dreamed of. The song keeps getting longer as a result – and I have now invented a style of music called ‘crocabilly’.”

The now bare-faced musician is about to grow some more hair on his once bearded face for charity. He shaved off his trademark flame-red beard in January and raised more than $4000 for the World’s Greatest Shave in the process.

While the beard isn’t making a comeback, 8 Ball has set his sights on a handle-bar moustache – in the style of Yosemite Sam – for his Movember project – so jump online or catch him at a gig to donate to the worthy cause.

After 200-plus shows last year, 8 Ball is in mighty fine form, playing the songs from his new album, Alive In Tamworth – and some old favourites from his extensive repertoire. Catch him while you can.

THE next Country in the Courtyard event at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Tamworth is on Monday, November 19.

From 6.30pm to 9pm, for just a $5 entry fee, you can enjoy a night of easy-listening country music, and a light supper in some fine company.

This month’s featured guest is LBS recording artist Dale Duncan, and friends. 

The  Hall of Fame can be found at 93 Brisbane St, Tamworth. 

VENUE operators and artists have until November 14  to get their gigs listed for inclusion in the “bible” – The Official Guide to the 2013 Tamworth Country Music Festival.

Go to the website, www.tamworthcountrymusic.com.au and click on the gigs icon, then follow the prompts. If you have any problems uploading your listings, phone  Rural Press Events on 6768 5800. 

Chances are, if you miss out on going in the Official Guide, you may well miss out altogether as most programs are based on it.

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