Last week Eric Scott picked up the Tamworth Volunteer of The Year Award for his selfless service to country music, although his story is inextricably intertwined with the very character of the city itself.
Amazingly Mr Scott was one of four people in a small 2TM office, when the Country Music Capital tag, and henceforth the idea for an annual Country Music Festival was born, no small feat for a man that “grew up playing Mozart at Eisteddfods”, and continues to prefer “the classical genres and English orchestral music”.
On Thursday the president of the Australian Country Music Hall of Fame was honoured with the Volunteer Award, which he described as “overwhelming”, crediting the loyal and long-standing team of volunteers that continue to take the ACMHF from strength to strength.
What's this Faces of Tamworth all about?
Mr Scott’s country music journey began when he was working as a radio host, or disc jockey, in Launceston in the 1950’s.
“I was given a country music request program and back then I didn’t know beef from a bulls foot when it came to country music, but I soon found out that those fans are a special breed of person, and I became part of their life, ” he said.
“It was a real community, and as I listened to the music more I came to appreciate it – the rest is history.”
While he was in Launceston Mr Scott and his wife Hillary, began recording artists on to acetate discs, and soon opened his own label, Hadley Records, named after the small English village of Monken Hadley, where Mr Scott grew up.
After a few moves all over the eastern seaboard Mr Scott landed a job with 2TM in Tamworth, bringing Hadley Records with him in 1968, and just before Christmas that same year he found himself discussing an idea with the fellow founders of the Country Music Capital brand.
“It was a very hot day so Kevin Knapp and I went to the back office of the tin shed that 2TM was in where Max Ellis and John Minson were because the air-conditioning was good in that office,” he said.
“We got talking and decided that Tamworth needed a name – everyone knows that Music City is Nashville, so we wanted one for Tamworth.
“John was sitting opposite me and was almost embarrassed by the idea, and for once Kevin didn’t have an idea so we turned to Max, and he just straight away said Country Music Capital, just like that.
“I think we said ‘can’t we think of anything better than that’, but we couldn’t, and that’s what we went with.”
Warwick Higginbotham also played a critical role in the development of the brand.
Fifty years later that brand is stronger than ever, and Mr Scott and his cohorts remain as humble as ever.
“We were hoping to make some money out of it for the radio program, but it didn’t really turn out like that did it – it is just what we did at the time.”
While Mr Scott has enjoyed almost every one of those festivals since, he puts most of his time into preserving the history of the genre, and its place in the city, and Australia at the ACMHF.
“It is very important to preserve those artefacts and history if we value what country music is about, and we have been very lucky to have a team of dedicated volunteers that have stayed for a long time,” he said.
“To do that on a volunteer basis is magnificent really, so it is absolutely nice to be recognised.”