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January 2008


Report false – awards to stay in Tamworth

Country Music Association of Australia (CMAA) Secretary Lee Kernaghan has today been quoted as saying the report published in Tuesday’s "The Australian" newspaper alleging the CMAA wanted to move their country music awards out of Tamworth was filled with untruths, hearsay and speculation.

"The Northern Daily Leader" reports that Lee had phoned Tamworth Mayor James Treloar late yesterday to reaffirm his support for keeping the awards in Tamworth.

He reportedly told James the CMAA did hope to raise the profile of the awards and to attract enhanced television coverage and sponsorship. The two men had set a date to discuss ways the awards could be made "even bigger and better".

Lee told The Leader he loved Tamworth to "the core of his soul" and was certainly not pushing to have the awards staged anywhere else. "Tamworth has so many memories for me," he said. "Tamworth is the spirit of country music and it always will be. Tamworth has been a huge part of my career."

"The Leader" said CMAA Chairman Rod Laing had told The Leader yesterday the organisation had not told "The Australian" the awards should leave the city. "This is a beat-up and a storm in a tea cup," he said. "There is no discussion with the CMAA board to pull up stumps and go somewhere else. That’s not being discussed and it never will be."

Lee confirmed to "The Leader" that he did say Saturday’s live broadcast of the awards on Channel 10 was the way of the future. "We aspire to bigger and better things in the coming years and that requires infrastructure support to take it to the next level," he told the paper.

The report also correctly quoted him as saying: "We have the talent but we don’t have the infrastructure to take it to the next level."

The key difference, however, was that these remarks were made in the context of keeping the awards in Tamworth. Rod Laing told "The Leader" attracting improved television coverage – including sponsorship – had always been on the agenda. The awards cost $600,000 to stage and the CMAA met with Premier Morris Iemma on Saturday to discuss possible State Government funding.

Member for New England Tony Windsor has sourced Federal funds in the past.

Tamworth Regional Council (TRC), "The Leader" reported, in addition to its significant investment in staging the Festival, had discounted the hire charge for the Tamworth Regional Entertainment & Conference Centre since the CMAA lost Toyota as a major sponsor.

James Treloar did not rule out the TRC doing more to help the CMAA further improve its night of nights yesterday.

On its website, the CMAA says: "In response to recent media speculation, the CMAA would like to be very clear that it has no intention, no plan and no desire to take the... Country Music Awards of Australia out of Tamworth."


Controversy erupts around Golden Guitar awards

A controversy surrounding the Golden Guitar awards has erupted following a media report that awards organisers the Country Music Association of Australia (CMAA) was looking at moving the presentation out of Tamworth.

In yesterday's "The Australian", Association Secretary Lee Kernaghan was quoted as saying that he and some of his colleagues were unhappy with Tamworth City Council for not making a greater contribution to the production of the awards ceremony and to the artists who perform there.

At the heart of the matter, the paper said, was the CMAA's long-held desire to make the Golden Guitars appealing to national television networks: to make the show "sexy" enough to go out live to air in peak viewing time in the way the ARIA Awards did or the way the Country Music Awards in America had done for many years. This in turn, the CMAA believed, might just lead to the holy grail of making local country a much more commercially successful proposition for its practitioners.

"We aspire to bigger and better things in the coming years," Lee was quoted as saying, "and that requires infrastructure support to take it to the next level. We have the talent, but we don't have the infrastructure to compete with other areas of the music business."

Tamworth Mayor James Treloar was quoted as saying he had yet to be approached by the CMAA about funding the awards. He was happy to work with them on the issue but stressed, however, that the awards night was only one event in 2000 held in the city during the 10-day festival.

"We can't sponsor and support every one of those events," he says. "We inject more than $1.5million into the festival in terms of road closures, promotion, marketing and staff. We've given (the CMAA) a fairly significant discount on the rental of the Entertainment Centre. It's the highlight event, but we're not a Council that has a bottomless pit of funds.


No Holds Barred Fiddle comp winner

Samara Redman won this year’s No Holds Barred Fiddle Competition, held at the Regent Theatre, Tamworth, on Australia Day.

Sixteen-year-old Samara, captivated the audience with her playing, according to organisers, and was presented the first prize of a gold Epoch violin by competition judge Tom Fitzgerald.

The competition, sponsored by Epoch Strings, is held every year throughout the Tamworth Country Music Festival with heats at Andrew Clermont’s Supper Club. Previous winners have included Lachlan O’Donnell, Jess Randall and Willow Stahlut.

The sell-out crowd on Saturday was treated to a performance from the award-winning group Fiddlers Feast who continue their Tamworth festivities with a post Festival performance at The Basement in Sydney tomorrow night Thursday (January 31).

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Slim Dusty family album announced

In the years following the passing of Slim Dusty, rumours emerged that the family would create a musical tribute. As the pressure grew, so did the expectations. And during the just concluded Tamworth Country Music Festival, it was announced that production on the album – titled Reunion – had finished and the work would be released in March.

Rather than putting together an album of covers or unreleased material, the family members – Joy McKean, David Kirkpatrick, Anne Kirkpatrick and their children, James and Kate (Anne) and Hannah and Daniel (David) – decided to use their own words with additions by Eric Bogle, Peter Denahy and Paul Kelly, to chronicle their feelings about Slim and celebrate the life, times and music of the most famous of all Aussie country performers.

The album includes three previously un-released recordings by Slim and will be officially released on March 1 with a bonus DVD – Behind The Reunion featuring interviews and behind-the-scenes footage – included for a limited time.

It was also announced that the family would perform a series of concerts in July this year.


Amos becomes youngest ever to win the Bush Ballad Golden Guitar

Amos Morris became the youngest artist ever to win the Bush Ballad Golden Guitar in Tamworth at the weekend.

The 19-year-old bush balladeer from Kempsey won the award with the title track to his debut album on the Nulla Records label Sign Of The Times.

The win was also special for Nulla's Joy McKean. Even though Joy and Slim Dusty have between them won more than 40 Golden Guitars, this was the first for the family label. The recently re-established Nulla Records represents a new joint venture between the Slim Dusty family and EMI Music Australia and was set up for the sole purpose of providing support to new and talented Australian traditional country music artists.

Amos was discovered by Joy in 2003 at a Slim Dusty tribute night in Kempsey and after several years of mentoring, she signed him to Nulla.

Sign Of the Times was produced by multi Golden Guitar award winner Anne Kirkpatrick and recorded in Slim Dusty’s own Columbia Lane Studios.

Another track from the Sign Of The Times album is gaining attention – the video for the Frustrated Truckie track has entered the CMC Top 50 video chart at number 37.

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Festival winds down

Although yesterday was the official last day of the 2008 Tamworth Country Music Festival, because of the Australia Day long weekend holiday quite a few shows are still featured on the official program today following yesterday's bigger than usual crowds remaining in the Country Music Capital.

Weather conditions for this year's festival were some of the best ever and patrons were obviously staying to enjoy their time for one more day. Temporary camping grounds on the city's Riverside and at Scully Park, to name just two, were still being well patronised last night.

In a statement issued yesterday, Tamworth Mayor James Treloar said: "Our thanks to all involved in the Festival, the staff, the volunteers and to the local community for their support and for welcoming our guests. There are so many people and organisations involved in the Festival and I think that’s what makes it so unique and diverse."

Here at the Bulletin, we're catching up with results of a few remaining events and competitions held during the last week or so but not yet announced.


National Fiddle Awards for 2008
Jazz fiddle legend George Washingmachine (pictured) was named Soloist of the Year at the 2008 Golden Fiddle Awards announced in Tamworth on Thursday.

Well-known for his brilliant playing both in Australasia and Europe, George, also a singer, guitarist, actor and comedian, took out the award amid intense competition from Shenton Gregory, Adrian Keating and Nigel Maclean.

George joins a prestigious line up of winners, classical player Asmira Woodward-Page who won the first solo award in 2005, top jazz violinist Ian Cooper (2006) and Marcela Taylor who was last year’s Soloist of the Year.

Young Victorian bluegrass sensations the Davidson Brothers (pictured) walked away with two awards this year against a strong field in the Best Band category as well as Best Fiddle Composition with Tipsy Gypsy. Hamish and Lachlan had previously won the Best Band award in 2006.

Mike Kerin, long time member of Slim Dusty’s Travelling Country Band, fiddler, consummate guitarist, singer and award-winning producer, won the award for Best Solo CD with his Dining Room Sessions, where most the instruments were played by Mike with assistance from bassist Michael Vidale.

The Award for Best CD By A Band went to Melbourne jazz outfit Blue Drag with their CD I’ll See You There. Blue Drag is led by Nigel Maclean and features the talents of Joe Cindamo, Martin Elepans, David Herschfelder and jazz singers Kate Cebrano and Chantal Mitvalsky. Nigel is well-known for his work on Oscar Winning movies such as "Elizabeth" and "Shine".

Judges also recognised gypsy rockers Crooked Fiddle Band with a Commendation for their self-titled CD.

Sydney based Suzuki system pioneer Jan Cooper was presented with the Best Teacher award for her 35 years of devotion to teaching violin. Her name will be familiar as she is the mother of multi GFA winner Ian Cooper.

The Youth Achievement Award went to Gold Coast family band The Bostocks for their outstanding popular appearances around South East Queensland and the rest of the country.

The 2008 Golden Fiddle Awards were presented in a violin studded music spectacle at the height of the Tamworth Country Music Festival attracting an enthusiastic audience and hosted by two of the funniest fiddlers around, Pixie Jenkins and George Washingmachine.

Among the entertainers were Andrew Clermont, Melbourne all-girl fiddle band Devlish Mary, Shenton Gregory, Marcus Holden, Michael Kerin, Clare O’Meara and Jess Randall.

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Simply Bushed win again

Simply Bushed followed up their double win at this year's People's Choice Awards on Thursday by taking out "The Northern Daily Leader" Battle of the Bands at West Tamworth League Club yesterday afternoon.

The band played its last gig for the Festival (they had a total of 14 or more) to a packed audience last night at Maguire's Pub.

Photo: Simply Bushed with their two People's Choice Awards.


Tiffney and Paige win Cutting Edge Music Talent Search

The 2008 Cutting Edge Music Talent Search has been won by Tiffney Stroh (pictured) and Paige Jeffrey.

Tiffney won the open section in a tight contest with runner-up Haelwen Sian and third place-getter Lance Coassin.

Paige took out the youth section with Bree De Rome in second place and Tiah Guillot third.



Rachel wins Star Quest

Rachel Richards from Brisbane has won the 2008 Australian Bush Balladeers Association Star Quest.

Held during this year's Tamworth Country Music Festival, Star Quest is now in its eighth year.

Rachel won the title from fellow competitors Evan Platschinda from Victoria, Dean Richardson from Tasmania and Sharon Smith from Queensland.

The mother of two by under two, Rachel told Country Music Capital's "The Northern Daily Leader" she had been performing bush ballads for five years but singing for 10 or 12.

"I just like the stories of bush ballads," she said. "I like to write them and tell the audience a story because maybe someone will hear something they they didn't know before about our heritage."

Rachel released her debut album – I'm A Country Girl – during the Festival with seven original tracks out of 12 in total.

Her Star Quest prize includes recording time and a number of pre-arranged appearances at major events.

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2008 Cavalcade winners

Tamworth based line dancing troupe Dare 2 Dance was judged winner of the Best Overall Float (and Best Non-Commercial) in the 2008 Toyota Country Music Cavalcade on Saturday.

The Cavalcade again attracted a huge crowd to Country Music Capital's main street with 70 floats and more than 250 stars and celebrities riding in the procession.

Among those heading up the star cast were newly announced Australian of the Year Lee Kernaghan, Country Music Roll of Renown 2008 inductee Geoff Mack and Australia Day honours Order of Australia winner Lindsay Butler.

A total of more than 200 vehicles, ranging from motorhomes to buses and trucks, utes, trikes, golf carts and motorbikes – as well as a very-Ocker motorized esky – took part.

NSW Premier Morris Iemma led off the parade with Lee.

This year for the first time in its 29 year history there were no horses in the parade because of the equine influenza outbreak, but a couple of fibreglass models, other four legged animals and even some chooks filled the gaps.

Other 2008 Cavalcade winners were Frank Turton The Chookman from South Australia (winner of Best Visitor Float), Norco Milk Fonterra Brands (Best Commercial Float), Cadbury Schweppes (second in Commercial), the W R Kids Learning Centre (third), Tamworth Regional Council’s Don’t Waste Tamworth entry (second, Non-Commercial).

Photo: Roll of Renown inductee Geoff Mack and wife Tabbi "ride a motorbike" in the 2008 Toyota Tamworth Country Music Cavalcade.


Steve hangs on to CMC number one

Steve Forde hang on to the top spot on the CMC (Country Music Channel) Top 50 playlist this week with the clip of his latest single, Summer's Little Angel.

Troy Cassar-Daley edges up one place to two with Last Mile Home while Catherine Britt is at three with Little Wildflower, Adam Brand is steady at four with Get On Down The Road and The McClymonts are down to five with My Life Again.

Amber Lawrence is at eight with Gonna Fly, Gina Jeffreys jumps to 11 with The Truth About Lies and the clip of Keith Urban's new single Everybody debuts at 12.

Bullet performers this week include Kirsty Lee Akers with Goin' To The Beach (19 to 15), The Sunny Cowgirls with Dry Land Crop (22 to 17), Jetty Road with I Wanna Go Home (23 to 19), Buddy Good with Dutchy In The Morning (25 to 22), Jayne Denham with Cousin Jude (29 to 26), Sara Storer with Long Live The Girls (new at 29), Peter Denahy with Sort Of Dunno Nothing (new at 32), The BobKatz with The Man In The Picture (40 to 33), Tamara Stewart with Drive (39 to 36), Amos Morris with Frustrated Truckie (41 to 37) and Rose Carleo with Til I Find Me Again (48 to 43).

Other new entries to the playlist this week include Jackie Bristow (pictured) with The World Is Turning (new at 49).

CMC's Country Pick for the week is Adam Harvey's latest single, the title track to his Golden Guitar winning Album of the Year, I'm Doin' Alright.

The full list can be viewed at



2008 Golden Guitar winners

The 2008 Country Music Awards of Australia (or Golden Guitar Awards), presented by Jayco, were announced in Tamworth, Australia's Country Music Capital, last night.

Newly annointed Australian of the year Lee Kernaghan joined with Adam Brand and Steve Forde to take home three trophies each for their hit song Spirit Of The Bush – in Vocal Collaboration, Single of the Year and Video Clip (directed by Ross Wood). This brings Lee's tally of the famous trophy to 27, Adam's to 11 and Steve Forde his first three.

Sara Storer added two more Golden Guitars to her collection (also now 11) with Song and Heritage Song of the Year for Land Cries Out.

Lee, Adam & Steve
The McClymonts

Troy Cassar-Daley took out the Male Artist award with Everything's Going To Be Alright (Troy now has 14 Golden Guitars) while Dianna Corcoran won the Female Artist award with Then There's Me (her second Golden Guitar).

Adam Harvey was successful in the key Album of the Year category with his work I'm Doin' Alright (Adam now has seven Golden Guitars), produced by Rod McCormack (up to three) while Melinda Schneider won Top Selling Album of the Year with Stronger (Melinda now has five Golden Guitars to here credit).

The McClymonts (Brookie, Mollie and Samantha) added a third Golden Guitar to their collection for Save Yourself which took out Group of the Year.

Three other first time Golden Guitar winners last night (Steve Forde was also a first time winner) were Kirsty Lee Akers who won the New Talent award with the title track to her Toyota Star Maker winning album Little Things, Amos Morris who snared Bush Ballad of the Year with Sign Of The Times, the title track to his debut album with Nulla Records, and Steve Passfield who won the Instrumental award with stump Jumpin'.



Lee named Australian of the Year

Lee Kernaghan has been named Australian of the Year 2008.

The announcement was made yesterday at a ceremony in front of Parliament House in Canberra.

Micro-finance entrepreneur David Bussau was announced as Senior Australian of the Year 2008; 22 year old World MotoGP Champion Casey Stoner was announced as Young Australian of the Year 2008; and Jonathon Welch of "Choir Of Hard Knocks" fame was announced as Australia's "Local Hero" 2008.

The recipients were presented with their awards by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who acknowledged the achievements and contributions of all the award finalists.

"This year's award recipients are great examples of passion and commitment," he said. "They are all proud Australians who have earned our respect and our admiration."

He paid tribute to Lee for his dedication to helping others. "Lee Kernaghan's music resonates with every Australian by connecting us all to the spirit of the bush, but more importantly he gives hope and pride to those on the land when they need inspiration most.

"He has rolled up his sleeves to make a real difference for those in need in rural Australia. Lee is truly an Australian to make us all proud, you would have to travel a long way to find a better, more genuine bloke then Lee."

Forty-three year old Lee was recognised for his support of country communities across Australia and described the award as the proudest moment of his life.

"In all my dreams, I could never have imagined that I'd receive an award like this – it's been a huge surprise and, without doubt, it's the greatest honour I have ever been given in my entire life," he said. "I don't think it's really totally sunk in yet, but it's a humbling experience because I know there is at least a list a mile long of more worthy recipients for the award than myself.

"But now that I have been given the honour, I also feel I have a responsibility to do my very best by my fellow Australians and that's what I am going to be doing."

Lee's tally of Golden Guitar awards is 24, second only to the legendary Slim Dusty. While his music represents the very essence of the spirit and values of contemporary rural Australia, it is his personal commitment to supporting the people of the land which has made a real difference, said a spokesman for the Australian of the Year organisation.

"In the past 10 years, his 'Pass the Hat Around' tours have raised more than a million dollars for communities in need and his participation in the 'Spirit of the Bush' tours has brightened the lives of farming families doing it tough in the drought."

Lee said he aimed to use his time as Australian of the Year 2008 to bring focus to the plight of families on the land who were struggling against the drought and to also encourage people to support home-grown industries.

"Australia is just coming through the worst drought on record and there are families out there still experiencing extreme hardship," he said. "What I'd like to do is look at ways that, individually and as a nation, we can assist those people – that we can support them and help them get back on their feet again.

"One way we can do that is to buy Australian made and Australian grown – we're securing Australian jobs and we're keeping Australia strong."

Ralph Norris, CEO of Australian of the Year major sponsor Commonwealth Bank, added his congratulations to the Prime Minister's.

"Lee is a larger than life character of the Australian country music scene, but it's the behind the scenes work which he does for rural Australia which sets him apart," he said. "With the country suffering the worst drought in the past hundred years, Lee has been a significant contributor to raising not only the morale of country Australia, but also significant funds to help those in need."

Lee, who played a giant free open-air concert (again raising money for drought relief) in Country Music Capital's Bicentennial Park on Thursday evening, returns to Tamworth today where he is up for more Golden Guitar awards.


Lindsay awarded OAM

Meanwhile, country guitar legend and one of last year's Roll of Renown inductees, Lindsay Butler, has been awarded an Order of Australia Medal in today's Australia Day honours.

Lindsay's citation reads "for service to country music as a performer, recording artist and producer".

Nick Hampton, formerly with APRA (the Australasian Performing Right Association) until he retired recently, has been awarded an Order of Australia Medal "for service to the community through a range of charitable organisations supporting people with physical, intellectual and emotional disabilities, and to the music industry".

Another Tamworthian with a link to country music honoured today is Bill Gleeson, an Order of Australia Medal "for service to the community through music". Though not a country act, Bill dabbles in the genre, including some country songwriting.

Queensland's Hugo Fitz-Herbet also gained a nod with an Order of Australia Medal "for service to country music and to the community".


Busking finalists announced

The grand final line-up for the Bisley Busking Championship in Tamworth today has been announced.

They are Bryan Browne, The China Connection, Don Costa, Tony Hunt, The Huntsmen, Jabaru, Christie Lamb, Tom Maxwell, The Nobodies and Juzzie Smith.

The final will be conducted in Bicentennial Park this afternoon from 5.30. Winner of the competition will take home a cash prize of $1400 with $500 for second and $300 for third.

Tamworth Regional Council, co-ordinators of the Championship, said busking registrations hit 540 yesterday with more weekend musicians set to hit "the Boulevard of Dreams" for the Festival finale.

Busking boss Deniese Morrison said the grand final lineup represented a cross section of the most diverse selection of music tastes ever seen at a Tamworth festival.

Deniese said she was still to confirm some acts but there had been "an amazing variety of talent" on Peel Street this week with "one man bands to spooky street theatre and guys-and-gals cowboy outfits".

“I went out looking for acts that were uniquely themselves and what I found was much better than I’ve ever seen at a Festival.," she said. "There was an amazing variety from traditional country to rock 'n’ roll, folk and roots music. There’s a little bit of everything in the finalist lineup and that reflects what we see on the street.

"The busking is amazing for all sorts of reasons. It’s wonderful street theatre and it just makes the Festival the wonderful event that it is."

Buskers can still register at Festival HQ today to play on Festival streets this weekend.

Photo: last year's winner Juzzie Smith.


Warnings on weekend traffic snarls in Tamworth

Motorists are warned to avoid some major traffic hotspots today (Saturday, Januay 26) as the Tamworth Country Music Festival moves up a gear for its big weekend schedule.

Tamworth Regional Council said the city would be jam packed and motorists, Festival workers and fans should take into account some major events that will have a big impact on transport routes and parking near the central business district (CBD).

There will be major disruptions to festival traffic from about 8am until 11.30am Saturday because of the Peel Street Cavalcade and access to the CBD and parking areas for Cavalcade crowds will be affected.

Traffic heading towards the Festival centre spots around Peel Street from south Tamworth can use Scott Road all morning, but there will be limited access into Peel Street. Peel Street at the Murray Street intersection – that's from the roundabout near Red Rooster – is closed between 8am and 11.30am – but traffic heading into town can still use Murray Street and turn into Marius Street to access CBD cross streets like Hill and White. Motorists looking to get into the CBD from Scott Road should use the Murray/Marius access if they want to get to the White and Roderick streets blocks of Peel Street before 9.30am.

Traffic message boards will be erected along major transport routes to indicate the CBD closures.

The cavalcade begins from 10am at Roderick Street and is expected to take about 75 minutes to move along Peel Street to Jewry Street. It will finish at the Tanworth Racecourse. As it moves along the route, there will be rolling block closures.

Traffic coming across the bridges (along Bridge St) into the city centre will also have disruptions. Bridge Sreett at Carter Street (near the Caltex service station) will be closed for at least an hour from about 10.10am. "If you're trying to get into the CBD along that route you'll have to do a U-turn and go back," the Council spokesman said.

The intersection for that period, and will not allow traffic into the Kable-Darling block because of the Cavalcade snarl they will confront. Motorists are also advised to avoid using the Jewry St access into town between 10.15am and 11.30am - where they will also confront the cavalcade.

Festival HQ advises festival traffic using private transport into the CBD to look for alternative parking spots because parking will be at a premium. Try carparks at Gipps Street, Riverside, the Council carpark at the rear of Bourke Streets and Darling Street, along Peel SParadise, along Marius St, and above the railway line in East Tamworth.


Cavalcade a star player for Festival

The 2008 Toyota Country Music Festival Cavalcade is shaping up as a monster parade of everything that runs on four wheels – and more, according to co-ordinators Tamworth Regional Council.

The biggest crowd puller of the Festival starts at 10am Saturday with a fly past by Tamworth air college pilots and planes.

And there are 67 floats entered comprising something like 100 vehicles ranging from motorhomes to buses and trucks, utes, trikes, golf carts and motorbikes. More than 80 festival acts are already signed to step up for the Cavalcade Peel Steet parade which will be led by more than a dozen vehicles from the sponsor, Toyota's, fleet, including the fastest Toyota drag racing vehicle in the world.

NSW Premier Iemma returns to Tamworth for the second year running to lead the cavalcade with Lee Kernaghan. And 2008 Roll of Renown inductee Geoff Mack will ride with his wife Tabbi on a motorcycle in the parade.

This year for the first time there will not be any horses in the parade except for the mounted police – because of the equine influenza outbreak. But there will be a couple of fibreglass models and some other four legged animals to fill the gaps.


Entertainers deploy to Timor-Leste

While Australians are enjoying the Australia Day holiday, some Aussie entertainers will provide a rare opportunity for our troops to enjoy some home-grown talent when Tour de Force deploys to Timor-Leste this weekend.

As reported previously, rising country star Paul Costa (pictured) will join Krystal Forscutt, of Big Brother fame, comedian Fred Lang and the all-female punk rock band Legless to perform in a number of locations throughout Timor-Leste for soldiers and Defence personnel who are far from home, helping to establish peace and stability to the world's newest democracy.

There will also be a special show at one of the local orphanages.

The enthusiastic group of entertainers joins a long list of stars, including Angry Anderson, Carl Barron, Beccy Cole, Cat Southern and Felicity Urquhart who have volunteered their time free of charge to entertain Australian Defence Force personnel deployed on operations.

Paul Costa said it was a great honour to be invited to perform for the troops in Timor-Leste. "I expect it be an unforgettable experience."

The ADF (Australian Defence Force) has deployed to Timor-Leste with a mission to assist the Government and the United Nations to bring stability, security and confidence to the Timorese to allow them to resolve their differences democratically and peacefully.


Two new Tamworth ambassadors

Tamworth has two new ambassadors who admit they can't sing a note but love a huge variety of music and think the Tamworth Country Music Festival is the best party going.

The Telstra Queen of Country Music quest on Thursday night revealed its new ambassadors with the naming of the Queen and Princess at a gala festival event at the Tamworth Racecourse.

Tamworth born and bred health and fitness proponent Renae Sweeney (left) is the 2008 Queen and 18-year-old Monty Maguire, who has just finished high school and plans a career in hospitality management, is the new Princess.

Neither can play a musical instrument nor sing outside the shower and car but they share a passion for some outdoors sports. Renae's a former swimming champion who ran her own personal trainer business. She's sponsored by the Tony Ferguson Weightloss and Wellness Centre where she works now as a healthy living practitioner. She's also studying part time for her Bachelor of Education and plans to teach primary school physical education when she finishes the degree.

Renae is the baby of a family of five brothers and a sister and one of four of the Sweeney siblings still living in Tamworth.

The new Princess is sponsored by the Quality Hotel Powerhouse where she's a food and beverage attendant with plans to follow her dad, the hotel owner and Tourism Tamworth Deputy Chairman Greg Maguire, into the business of hospitality and hotel management.

Monty – short for Montana – is an avid horse rider and equestrian who competes in showjumping around the state. But she also happens to be a crack shot as a rifle shooter and the captain and coach of her Armidale boarding school shooting team.

The two have assumed their official duties from the outgoing Telstra Queen and Princess Leanne Coddington and Kate Alchin.

One of their first functions was this morning's Toyota Country Music Cavalcade. They're excited about the new year and some 200 civic functions ahead – and looking forward to perfecting their line dancing steps, meeting the stars and learning the words of a thousand new country music songs.



2008 People’s Choice Awards winners

Winners in the 2008 Australian Country Music People’s Choice Awards were announced in Tamworth yesterday afternoon.

Beccy Cole won the award for Best Female Vocal while Adam Harvey took out the Male Vocal title.

Simply Bushed won two awards for Best Group and Best Bush Ballad with Cangai Bridge.

Steve Passfield was named Most Promising Future Star.

Cat Southern won the Best Song award with Little Miss Understood (together with fellow writers Jasper Somerville & Jay Collie).

Steve Eales (pictured at right) won Best Album for his first solo outing, The Battler.

Dan Rennie of radio 98.9 FM in Brisbane won Most Popular Country Music DJ while the Victorian and southern NSW based “Truckin’ With Tim” was named winner of the Most Popular Country Music Radio Program award (photo above left shows fellow Awards finalist Jayne Denham accepting the trophy on behalf of Tim following the presentation by Merelyn Carter).

A number of special awards were announced during the ceremony, including a Career Achievement Award to Greg Champion and Musician of the Year to Phil Emmanuel.


Organisers of the Awards were delighted with results and attendance at today’s gala presentation and acknowledged the support of sponsors Attitude Productions-Films, Ayers Guitars, Blade Guitars, Country Music Bulletin, Drayton’s Family Wines, Electro-Voice, KV2 Audio and Red Rebel Music.

The gala Awards concert featured performances from Rose Carleo, Beccy Cole, Travis Collins, Steve Eales, Lee Forster, Jetty Road, Jonah’s Road, Amber Lawrence, Graham Rodger and "surprise guests" Greg Champion and Steve Passfield.

The 2009 Australian Country Music People’s Choice Awards will be staged in Tamworth, Australia’s Country Music Capital, next January during the annual country music festival.

Voting is expected to get underway mid year.

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Graham wins four TSAs

Graham Rodger was the biggest winner at Wednesday night's Tamworth Songwriters' Association (TSA) Songwriters' Salute Awards taking home four trophies.

His song Woman On The Land took out Country Song of the Year and Country Ballad of the Year while his A Saddle For A Throne won the professional section of TSA's National Songwriting Contest and he won Comedy/Novelty Song of the Year with co-writer Deirdre Willmington with There's A Whole In The Mozzie Net.

Carter & Carter won Contemporary Song of the Year with their hit The Best Things In Life Are Free while David and Merelyn teamed with Brendon Walmsley to win Gospel Song of the Year with When God Takes A Photograph.

Trevor Day took out Bush Ballad of the Year for An Empty Plate while Children's Song of the Year went to Rita Schneider for Why Does A Cow Go Moo?

Dianne Lindsay was named winner of the Capital News New Songwriter Award with her song Old Brown Guitar Case, Wave Jackson won the Songmaker Award and retiring President and Secretary of the TSA Bev and Ron Daniel (pictured at right, photo by June Underwood) were presented with the Association's Tex Morton Award together with well-known South Australian based photographer Robyn McIntosh.

Other winners in the TSA National Songwriting Contest were Haelwen Sian with (Voice Of) The Bush Balladeer (winner of the amateur section), Christie Lamb with Rip It Up (winner of the junior section) and Manfred Vijars with The Saddle By The Door (winner of the lyrics only section).

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Tamworth pays tribute to Kasey

The Tamworth community yesterday morning recognised Kasey Chambers for her fundraising efforts through her concerts in the park in the city over six years and her support of local charities.

Tamworth Regional Council Mayor James Treloar presented Kasey with a replica Golden Guitar sculpted in wood to honour her fundraising efforts fand on-going support of the Festival.

More than $120,000 has been raised through the concerts and given to Tamworth regional charities during the past six Tamworth Country Music Festivals.

Tonight (January 25), the seven-time-ARIA-winner will perform at her seventh annual Live & Free in the Park concert at Bicentennial Park in Country Music Capital with proceeds going towards the building of a Ronald McDonald House in the city, the first for the New England North West area.

The proceeds of tonight's concert will kick start fundraising for the facility which will cost about $550,000 and be built in the grounds of the Tamworth Rural Referral Hospital.

Each year, Kasey asks her fans in the audience – which hit a record 20,000 in 2007 – to make a donation to a nominated local charity. Local volunteers from Rotary, Apex and Lions clubs pass around buckets during her free concert.

James Treloar said Kasey was a worthy recipient of the special token of appreciation which is a miniature replica of Tamworth's major icon. The special presentation to Kasey was a thank you from the Tamworth regional community in recognition of her contribution to the Festival and in donating more than $120,000 to local causes, he said.

"Our Bicentennial Park prepares for full capacity when it comes to a Kasey Chambers concert."

Ronald McDonald House Tamworth Chairman Greg Upton said there had been a need for the facility for some time to provide overnight accommodation for sick children receiving medical treatment, their parents and their carers. "Coupled with Kasey's wonderful gesture and the support of Ronald McDonald Charities, construction on the new Tamworth House is expected to start soon,'' he said.

Kasey is a longtime supporter of Ronald McDonald House Charities.


Industry day at Tamworth

Music Know How – Know How it Works, the Tamworth Festival Musician's Headquarters industry day taking the place of the usually extended facility, is on today from 12noon.

"Planned and co-ordinated to deliver a maximum amount of music industry information in one day, the seminar/workshop series features a diverse range of topics for the professional and amateur muso and performer," said co-ordinator Jim Guider.

The intensive program will be held in the city's Small Business Centre, upstairs in Peel Street opposite the Central Hotel.

Workshops being offered are Music Managers' Forum at 12, Oz Country Radio Singles at 2pm, Blue Tongue Beginners Harmonica Workshop at 3pm, the Voice Makeover and Tune-up Protective Vocal Techniques session with Connie Kis Andersen (pictured) at 4pm and "Looking Good with Attitude" (video production) at 6pm.

Registrations open at 10am. Enquiries can be ditrected to Jim on 0409 795 492.

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Hometown award for Rod

Rod McCormack won an award presented by his Gosford home town last week... a Gosford City Australia Day Community Award for his contribution to arts, culture and entertainment.

During the presentation, Rod was described as "a man of integrity with exceptional talent, yet he remains a modest and most unassuming gentleman''.

In the past few years, he has produced award-winning albums for many artists including Beccy Cole, Adam Harvey, Paul Kelly and his wife Gina Jeffreys, at his Erina Heights studio.

Rod was one of nine category winners while 99 district residents received certificates for their achievements in various fields.

He is the producer of three albums in the running for the Album of the Year Golden Guitar on Saturday night – Beccy Cole's Live @ Lizotte's, Gina Jeffreys' Walks Of Life and Adam Harvey's I'm Doin' Alright.


Dan’s "the guitar man"

Tamworth Country Music Festival 2008 has seen the continuation of the Blade Guitars Guitar  Unleashed : Long Live the Lead Break on the Cutting Edge Stage upstairs at The Tudor Hotel with Dan Ebbels of The Aaron Daniels Band taking out the competition.

Following two heats, the final was held last night and featured, in organiser Jim Guider's words, "an awesome lineup" – in addition to dan, 8 Ball Aitken, Jon King, Terry Mandryk and "Smokin'" Joe Robinson. Special guest for the final was "slick guitar chick" Julz Parker, a member of Hussy Hicks and a Blade guitar endorsee.

"The margins between the top finalists were extremely close," Jim said, "and the top two players even closer. However, a pumped up crowd saw Dan Ebbels walk away with the Levinson Blade Delta electric guitar." Dan also received a guest spot on the Blade  Guitars Showcase which followed the final of Guitar Unleashed : Long Live the Lead Break."

Players taking part in the showcase by invitation were 8 Ball Aitken, Phil Emmanuel, Steve Flack, Colin Fox and Julz.

"Guitar Unleashed : Long Live the Lead Break is such a hit with guitarists and the punters, major sponsor Cutting Edge Music and Blade Guitars are enthusiastically looking forward to doing it all again in 2009 at the Tamworth festival," Jim said.


Chart update – Harmony holds on to number one

Harmony James is at number one for the second week in a row on the coming week's Country Tracks Top 30 singles chart with her song Somebody Stole My Horse.

Amber Lawrence jumps another two places to second place with Gonna Fly while America's Kenny Chesney is at three with Don't Blink and Adam Harvey's Someone Else's Dream slips to four.

Beccy Cole's Lifeboat is up another two to five, as is Gina Jeffreys to six with The Truth About Lies while Sara Storer's former number one Land Cries Out drops to seven.

Jetty Road's I Wanna Go Home is down to eight, Travis Sinclair's Carry The Country debuts in the top 10 at nine, as does Lee Kernaghan's Sassafras Gap at 10.

Bullet performers for the week include Travis Collins' Don't Win Enough (15 to 11), Troy Cassar-Daley's Last Mile Home (19 to 14) and All I Ever Need Is You by Stuie French & Camille Te Nahu.

New entries in the chart for the coming week... Keith Urban (pictured) with his latest Got It Right This Time (in at 29) and Kirsty Lee Akers with Goin' To The Beach (in at 30).

The Top 30 Countdown goes to air Sunday nights on CMR (Country Music Radio) on the Super Radio Network. The full chart can be viewed at



Jasmine wins Telstra Road to Tamworth

Jasmine Rae from Fawkner in Melbourne has won the 2008 Telstra Road to Tamworth competition with a prize package including a trip to Nashville to record an album.

Jasmine follows in the footsteps of 2007 winner Morgan Evans who has enjoyed outstanding success following his win in January last year.

Mark Wells from Merewether in Newcastle will also head to Nashville after being named winner of the Telstra Road to Tamworth Songwriters Award. "Winning over the judges with his confident and energetic performance," according to competition organisers. Mark sang two original songs, Playing With Fire and When It All Boils Down.

Jasmine also performed two original songs, Country Singer and Ain't The Same Girl.

As she accepted her award, Jasmine said it was an honour to work with "such a fantastic group of people" and thanked Telstra for their support. "I've never been out of the country before, so I'm thrilled to be going to Nashville."

The judges recognised Wells' songwriting skills in awarding him the highly sought after prize package which includes appointments with top American country music songwriters.

Almost 1,000 singers from across the nation entered the competition vying for a total prize package of $140,000. Jasmine and Mark came up against six other grand finalists who qualified for the finals series after initially winning their hometown heat.

The Grand Final was webcast live to thousands of country music enthusiasts across Australia and overseas.

Three US-based record company executive judges on-line were joined by a panel of local industry officials including Tim Daley from the Country Music Channel, Tim Holland of ABC Music, Gayle Madill from Country Update magazine and Rob Potts of Rob Potts Entertainment Edge.

Brett Riley, Executive Director, Telstra Country Wide Eastern Region, said the competition provided a way for aspiring country music artists to live out their musical dreams.

"The competition continues to grow each year and the strength of talent being uncovered is a credit to the Australian country music scene. We are so thrilled to be able to offer such a wonderful opportunity to help launch Jasmine and Mark's career through an unprecedented association with a national and global network of industry partners and experts," he said.

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Photo by Paul Spencer.


Ruckus wins Country Music Challenge: Band Search 2008

Melbourne based Ruckus has taken out the Country Music Challenge: Band Search 2008 held at Country Music Capital's Longyard Hotel during the January country music festival on Monday night.

Six bands lined up to present their best original material as well as entertain the substantial fan turnout for this second "country music band friendly event," according to organiser Jim Guider.

"A huge crowd saw a huge lineup of great talent performing and projecting diverse styles, from country rock to bluegrass to  bayou country to country pop."

Competing with Ruckus were Rob Cass and The Cosmic Cowboys, Cold, Hard Truth, Rod Dowsett, Craig Morrison & The Little Cowboys, Mudrats and Bryen Willems & The Bayou Boogie Boys.

"All bands set a high standard in both originality and entertainment value," Jim said.

The prize packto the winner included $1500 cash courtesy of Toohey’s New and the Longyard, Enrec Studio Recording Package, Oz Country Radio Singles package, Country Music Bulletin Print and On-line Promo Package and Enhancement Profiles on the Musician’s Headquarters website.

Second to Ruckus, "on a close margin", was Craig Morrison & The Little Cowboys who "played up a storm". The band received a prize pack including $500 cash courtesy of Toohey’s New and the Longyard plus an EV Cobalt Mike Band Pack from Electro-Voice.

"With the great outcome of the Toohey’s New Country Music Challenge: Band Search 2008, the event is well and truly cemented into the Tamworth Country Music Festival calendar as a major band profiling event," Jim said.


Country Queen decided tonight

The winner of the 2008 Telstra Queen of Country Music Quest will be announced at a gala function in Tamworth tonight.

Twenty young women are vying for the title, or the runner-up Princess title.

In alphabetical order, they are... Any Asbury (sponsored by Wests Entertainment Group), Kirby Birks (Tamworth Base Hospital), Sarah Bolitho (James R Hayes & Associates), Jodie Boyd (Mahony's Robert Street Pharmacy), Monique Cromb (AM Printing/Monogram It), Sarah Dane Garden (Dean Tapp Maintenance), Emma Harris (Target Tamworth), Megan Lott (Century 21 Property Centre), Jenna Maughan (Mahony's Southgate Pharmacy), Monty Maguire (Quality Hotel Powerhouse), Rebecca O'Shea (Colliers International Tamworth), Jessica Purkisss (Harvey Norman), Kimberley Robinson (Prime Television), Kirstie Sayer (Harvey World Travel Tamworth), Alicia Simpson (Tamworth Shoppingworld), Luci Smith (Tamwell Pharmacy), Brooke Spokes (Tamworth Regional Council), Angela Steadman (Kootingal Hotel), Maddie Steer (Katies Tamworth) and Renae Sweeney (Tony Ferguson Weightloss and Wellness Centre).

Winner of the competition takes home a prize pack which includes a trip to New Zealand.


2008 Galaxy of Stars unveiling

Two new Australian country music icons will be added to Tamworth's Galaxy of Stars at 11.30 this morning.

The Galaxy of Stars is located in the forecourt of the Tamworth Regional Entertainment & Conference Centre.


Adam fronts for Fred

Adam Harvey has been made an ambassador for the Fred Hollows Foundation after the success of his hit tribute single Someone Else's Dream.

Sydney's "Daily Telegraph" reported Adam would be one of the public faces of the Foundation using his celebrity status to raise awareness of its mission to cure sight problems among indigenous people.

He said he would also be liaising with the media and staging concerts to raise funds for the Foundation's projects.

"It's powerful the way music can take you somewhere," Adam said. "Sometimes you have no idea where you are going. You just hang on for the ride."

Adam wrote his tribute song after being inspired by a television documentary about the Foundation's work in Australia and third world nations.

He said he was most concerned about problems young Australians have in Australia. "I like the idea of looking after our own backyard," he said. "A lot of the sight problems can be fixed for as little as $25. I'll be spending time helping to raise money for kids in remote areas."

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Vale – Tex Williams

Australian country music pioneer Tex Williams has died at the age of 83.

Born William James Walker in Port Melbourne on July 26, 1924, Tex died in his sleep at St John of God Hospital, Ballarat, Victoria, during the early hours of Tuesday (January 22).

After a stint in the Navy (he put up his age to join), Tex became involved in the 1940s Melbourne country music scene activities. He had been playing banjo prior to the second world war then took up guitar.

A member of the Victorian Banjo Club, Tex bought a guitar for five pounds and learned to "pick and strum". He won a number of talent quests at the time, working day jobs including as a bread carter with a horse and cart, on the railway, and as a horsebreaker.

After "hitting the road" with a mate, Tex worked in a variety of locations from Trangie to Narromine where he entertained at one of the local pubs. There he was earning three or four pounds per afternoon compared with 10 shillings a week in the shearing sheds.

After arriving in Sydney, Tex worked a number of venues inluding clubs and the Tivoli Theatre.

In the mid 1950s, he recorded with Regal Zonophone, two singles, Want To Be A Cowboy and Smokin' My Last Cigarette although he was not sure if these were released.

During this time, he met his future wife, Paula; the couple eventually marrying in 1960.

In 1962, Tex joined the Royal Victorian Blind Show (RVIB) where he stayed for a year and ultimately became manager of the show.

Involved in rodeo for much of his life, Tex suffered serious injuries in the late 1950s.

In the '60s, Tex recorded with Festival Records through Slim Dusty, with whom he travelled visiting 195 towns for 230 shows. "They don't know what a tour is these days," he said.

He signed a five year contract with Festival in 1969, releasing three albums including Lonesome Yodeller in 1970.

Tex's recording career included Country Music Capital's Hadley Records, M7 Records (including An Australian Way To Sing A Country Song) and EMS Records where he released a "most requested" album of 20 tracks.



TIARA winners announced

The 2008 Blue Dog TIARAs – Tamworth Independent Artist Recognition Awards – were announced and presented in Country Music Capital last night.

Leanda O'Brien won the Female Vocal award with Fields Of Gold while Rob Wilson (pictured) took out the Male Vocal award with Real Deal and Jetty Road (pictured) won the Group award with Real Smooth Cowboy.

The Duo award went to Jaxonville with Ready For Us, Rose Carleo & Drew McAllister won the Vocal Collaboration category with Sometimes You Just Know and Gail Smith took home the Michael Cowdroy Memorial Songwriting Award with Storybook.

Sarah McMonagle won the Stan Coster Memorial Bush Ballad Award with Our Old Queenslander, David Delle-Vergin took out the "Gentleman" Geoff Brown Award with Waiting Here while Steve Passfield was successful in the Barry Thornton Memorial Instrumental Award with Stump Jumpin'.

Harmony James won the Recording Time award while Tom Curtain was named winner of Album of the Year with Heatwave.

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Australian Bush Laureate Awards – 2008 winners

Winners in the 2008 Australian Bush Laureate awards were announced before a capacity audience in the Tamworth Town Hall this afternoon.

In Book of the Year, for the best original Australian work in book form, the winner was "Touching Tales" by Carol Heuchan. From the NSW Hunter Valley, Carol’s first book “Horseplay” led her to the world of bush poetry and success followed success, to the point where now she has won numerous awards and is acknowledged as one of the foremost writers and performers of bush poetry in Australia.

In Album of the Year, the winner was Cowpokes And Indians by Marco Gliori. For 10 years, Marco has travelled Australia with his original poetry and comedy performances. He is a record four times winner of the Tamworth Country Music Festival Poetry Performance Award and has completed more than 2000 shows for young Australians by courtesy of both the Queensland and Victorian Arts Councils Artists in Education Program.

For Single Recorded Performance of the Year , the winner was Rain From Nowhere by Murray Hartin. For years, Murray has been making audiences laugh, cry and visualise the spoken word with his unique style of Australian storytelling Through his extensive travels around Australia, he has met a vast and varied collection of remarkable Australians who are the inspiration for his stories. “Rain From Nowhere” addresses the issue of rural suicide and has touched the hearts of people Australia-wide. It is already being spoken of as one of the most significant pieces of Australian verse in recent memory.

In the new category for Children's Book or Album of the Year, the winner was "You've Gotta Be Kidding" by Kym Eitel. Describing herself as a typical horse-crazy female, Kym spent most of her youth on horseback. Following a bout with cancer, she wrote “Wild Horse Rain” and has since won many awards for her work.

Winner of the Judith Hosier Heritage Award, for outstanding achievement in nurturing Australia’s heritage of verse, went to Frank Daniel, for his many years of work and dedication to the bush poetry cause. Frank is recognised as one of Australia’s greatest exponents of bush poetry. He has appeared at all the major festivals nationally and has also won many awards and accolades.

The Australian Bush Laureate Awards were first staged in 1997 to recognise excellence in published and recorded Australian bush poetry.

The 14th Australian Bush laureate Awards will be held in Tamworth on Tuesday 20th January, 2009.

Winners' photo (from left): Carol Heuchan, Marco Gliori, Frank Daniel and Murray Hartin. Kym Eitel was not able to be present. Her award was accepted on her behalf by John Magor.


Telstra Road to Tamworth grand finalists named

The eight finalists have been announced for tonight’s Telstra Road to Tamworth Grand Final following two finals shows yesterday at the Tamworth Regional Entertainment & Conference Centre which have been described as "spectacular".

They are... Liam Brew (pictured, from Caloundra, Qld), Caitlin Harnett (Richmond, NSW), Kane Harrison (Wodonga, Vic), Michelle Murphy (Alice Springs, NT), Jasmine Rae (Fawkner, Vic), Taryn Trautsch (pictured, Greendale, NSW), Mark Wells (Merewether, NSW) and Chad Woods (Meckering, WA).

Competition judge and Chief Executive of Entertainment Edge Rob Potts said the talent displayed by the 20 finalists, selected from heats held nationally throughout last year, was outstanding.

"We had a very strong talent pool this year," he said, "so choosing the final eight was a seriously hard task - the Grand Final is going to be extraordinary."

The Telstra Road to Tamworth competition is a national program that aims to unearth Australia’s aspiring country music artists and launch their professional careers. It is widely regarded as the premier program of its kind in Australia and sees artists vying for a total prize package worth $140,000. This year, almost 1,000 country music hopefuls from across the nation competed for the 20 spots at the finals series.

Three American-based record company executives – Kent Earls, Vice President of Creative, Universal Music Publishing group Nashville, Mark Moffatt, award winning expatriate producer based in Nashville and Arthur Buenahora, Senior Director Artist & Repertoire, Capitol Nashville, will join local industry officials via live webcast at to judge the Telstra Road to Tamworth Grand Final tomorrow night from 7.30.

The 2008 Grand Final winner will receive a full album deal, including the opportunity to record in Nashville with ABC Music and distributed by Warner Music Australia.
A second prize, the Telstra Road to Tamworth Songwriters Award, is also on offer, with the winner receiving a return trip to Nashville to work with Universal Music Publishing.

Previous Grand Final winners include Jessica Mauboy, the inaugural competition winner in 2004 and runner up in the 2006 Australian Idol competition, Tamworth local Aleyce Simmonds in 2005, Nick Kingswell in 2006 and Morgan Evans last year.

Morgan will take to the stage tonight for a guest performance along with 2008 Telstra Road to Tamworth Ambassador Adam Harvey and Australian country songstress Catherine Britt.


Melinda goes gold... again

Melinda Schneider has achieved yet another career milestone with her album Happy Tears pronounced "gold" (for sales of 35,000 or more).

This is the second of Melinda’s albums to go "gold" and confirms her place in the elite ranks of Australian country music artists. Family Tree, for which she won two Golden Guitar awards in 2005 including Album Of The Year, has also achieved "gold" status.

The "gold record" was presented to the songstress at the first of her two Tamworth festival shows at the Toyota Country Theatre on Saturday by fellow artists Deborah Conway and her mother Mary Schneider (pictured).

Melinda was delighted when she invited Mary and Deborah on stage during her encore for a special trio performance and they surprised her with the "gold record" award.

"I am really thrilled to receive another 'gold record' and to have Mum and Deborah present it to me is a moment I’ll never forget," Melinda said.

"The 'gold' album is a terrific start to the year for Melinda," said a spokesman for the artist who is set to release a new album – Be Yourself – this year "featuring 14 superb new songs".

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Adam's Doin' Alright

The second single and title track – I’m Doin’ Alright – from Adam Harvey's new album could not be more appropriate at this moment for the winner of six Golden Guitar awards, according to a spokesman for the artist's record label.

Adam is a finalist for for three more Golden Guitars this year and two Australian Country Music People's Choice Awards, and "is doin’ alright!"
The song, produced by Rod McCormack, "showcases Adam’s smooth, rich and instantly recognisable baritone voice," the spokesman said, and follows on from Someone Else’s Dream which is currently nominated for Single of the Year in Tamworth this month.

Following the number one debut on the ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) Country Albums Chart, Adam has had "quite the ride".

Also nominated for Male Artist and Album of the Year, Adam’s talents were also recognised internationally when he received the American Country Music Association Global Artist Award for 2007.

Further developments have seen Adam announced as a vocalist on Network 7’s hit series "It Takes Two" which goes to air from February 12.

After Tamworth, Adam will undertake a joint tour with Catherine Britt and special guests The Noll Brothers, also in February. He then heads to Brisbane to support American country music legends Brooks & Dunn on their first Australian tour.

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Colin's Tamworth shows

Up and coming country artist Colin Fox will be performing five shows at Tamworth this year.

Colin will be playing at the Tudor Hotel with Buddha & The Disciples playing songs from his forthcoming album which, he says, will be released later this year.

"He has been asked by Blade Guitars to be the featured artist with the band, not only showcasing his own guitar finesse but his strong vocal range and showmanship," said a spokesman for his management.

Colin's upcoming single – Workin' In The Cane Fields – will be performed nightly and some of the footage from these shows will be used for the accompanying video clip.

Colin is still being played frequently on CMC (Country Music Channel) with the song Looking For You, a duet with Col Finley.

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Buttercup Open House

Every year, the Tamworth Country Music Festival program features many free events and two of the free events with the most popular appeal are the famous Buttercup Open House concerts in the Tamworth Town Hall.

Since 1979, Buttercup Open Houses have boasted a variety of artists ranging from superstars to rising stars, from young talent to the tried and true. Many stars, including Golden Guitar winners James Blundell, Carter & Carter, Troy Cassar-Daley and others, have appeared as guests.

This year, stars of the two concerts – on Wednesday and Thursday nights (January 23 and 24) will be supported by the Alwyn Aurisch Band, “a superb professional backing band, who for some years now have been playing to enthusiastic packed houses,” said a spokesman for concert organisers Rural Press Events (RPE).

"In 2008, we introduce a new compere, Darren Carr, who is set to leave you laughing in the aisles, completing what will be a memorable Festival highlight."

Wednesday night's Open House features... Alan Kash, Anthony Classen, Casey Watt, Connie Kis Andersen, David Delle-Vergin, Grant Richardson, Jessie Fairweather, Kelly Llewellyn, Liam Brew, Lonnie Lee, Matt Scullion & Lawrie Minson, The Naked Poets, Neil Murray, The Noll Brothers, Rob Black, Shaz Lane, Sinead Burgess, Steve Graham and Tiffney Stroh.

Thursday night's... 2008 Toyota Star Maker winner Talia Wittmann, 2007 Tamworth Camerata “Slim Group”, Cowpoke, Harmony James, Jonah’s Road, Katrina Burgoyne & Michael Muchow, Kaylee Bell, Kelly Cain, Lance Coassin, Lee Forster, Lynne & Rick Carey, Mark Tempany & Alison Hams, Markus Meier, Matt Frost, Melissa Bajric, Merilyn Steele, Roger Knox, Steve Eales, Tom Curtain and Tracy Killeen.

"This year, to eliminate congestion and aid in the safety of all patrons lining up for the concerts, free tickets will be issued to enable concert-goers to gain easy access to the non-reserved seating," said the RPE spokesman. "The tickets will be available from the Tamworth Town Hall at 5pm with a limit of two free tickets per person.

"Doors to the event will be open at 7pm and, with your ticket in hand, you will be able to gain immediate access to the Hall."


Slim Dusty Foundation at Tamworth

During this year's Tamworth Country Music Festival, the Slim Dusty Foundation will take an exhibition stand to the Tamworth Regional Entertainment and Conference Centre (TRECC), known in January as the Toyota Country Theatre, "to bring its many supporters and friends up to date with the huge level of progress made since this time last year".

The stand will show visitors the exciting new design for the Slim Dusty Centre which has received development approval from Kempsey Shire Council. The development now enters the Construction Certificate stage.

As Joy McKean says: "The design is visionary yet practical... entirely workable while remaining true to the feeling of country and heritage in Slim's songs."

Funding support from the Government is currently at $7.5 million with more being needed. The Foundation has also applied to the State Government for $1.5 million and is continuing discussions with other potential major donors. The recent Federal Government announcement of funding means that the Slim Dusty Centre will be able to start construction towards the end of this year.

Visitors to the Foundation's exhibition will also be able discuss how they can best support the Slim Dusty Centre, either through donations, merchandise or services in kind.

"Other support options include the Paver Program: the perfect way for donors to have their name or message engraved on to a paver as a permanent part of the Centre for as little as a tax-deductible $50 donation," said a spokesman for the Foundation. "The pavers will create a supporters' pathway or courtyard," with a special section for "Truckie Pavers" also proposed.

The Centre will be constructed entirely from Australian materials (many of them recycled) and will be "for all Australians – from the bush or the city – as well as our many visitors".

"It will continue to introduce Slim's timeless music to new generations and give new storytellers a chance to commemorate the real Australia. Its museum, dedicated to Slim's achievements, will house an incredible collection of memorabilia amassed by Slim and Joy during their lifetime on the road."

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Reports of my passing are greatly exaggerated (Mark Twain)...

No, I'm not dead! screamed the headline in the Queensland Sunshine Coast's "Sunshine Coast Daily Online".

When Chad Morgan’s sister Helen was informed of an announcement on radio station 4GY yesterday morning that "The Sheik from Scrubby Creek" was dead, she was devastated, reported Mark Chapman in the paper.

"She nearly had a heart attack," said the very much alive Chad from Tamworth where he is currently performing.

"Talk about a scare, alright," said 82-year-old Helen. "My heart was going thump, thump, thump. I got a terrible shock."

Chad, renowned for his over-the-top style of comic country songs, assured that he was in no way dead, but was very unhappy about the announcement. Relatives have heard of the news all the way from Hervey Bay down to Brisbane, and worried calls have started flooding through.

"Something like this gets the family all upset," said the Caboolture singer who was annoyed at the undue stress placed on loved ones, as well as worry caused to fans and potential impact on his bookings. "People might have wanted to book me for a show but then think, 'Oh, he’s dead'."

Chad and family members had contacted 4GY Classic Hits, based in Cooloola, after hearing the news to inform the radio station of the mistake.

According to his daughter Wendy, a station representative had blamed the error on misinformation from the internet, but Chad was told that it was a "bad faux pas", while Mrs Berry was told that a source from Tamworth had confused the station by making mention of a Chad Morgan tribute.

"The damage is done," said the country singer. "Word of mouth spreads bad news quickly."

Despite being furious at the broadcast of his death, the comedian still managed to make light of the situation to calm his worried sister.

"This is the ghost of Chad Morgan," he cheerfully announced down the phone to Helen who was incredibly relieved to hear his voice and responded: "I’d always expected you to come and haunt me". ("We always joke," she told 'thedaily'.)

Chad, who turns 75 this February, said the radio station had promised to formally apologise to him live, on air this morning, Tuesday, January 21. 4GY was unavailable for comment when contacted.

Fans concerned by the news of Chad's demise need not worry. He will be performing shows around Caboolture and Brisbane on his return from Tamworth, so you’ll still get to catch him – guitar, teeth, hat and all – definitely LIVE on stage.

In the words of his own song, "There’s life in the old dog yet".



Talia wins Toyota Star Maker 2008

South Australia's Talia Wittmann has taken the crown as winner of Toyota Star Maker 2008.

Twenty finalists took to the stage in Tamworth, Country Music Capital, yesterday, reducing to a grand final six last night.

"It’s an amazing feeling to be awarded a prize that has started the careers of some of the biggest names in country music," she said. "It’s a huge opportunity and I intend to make the most of it."

The only South Australian finalist of the contest, Talia graduated in 2007 from the Australian College of Country Music. She beat fellow grand finalists 8 Ball Aitken, Victoria Baillie, Kimberley Bowden, Adam James and Michael Muchow to take the main prize.

Toyota Star Maker has been a major stepping stone in the careers of many successful country music artists including James Blundell, Beccy Cole, Gina Jeffreys, Lee Kernaghan and Keith Urban.

General Manager of Rural Press Events Barry Harley said the quality of performers in Toyota Star Maker continued to grow, in line with interest in the event.

"It’s difficult to believe that Star Maker is heading into its 30th year and still continually manages to take country music to new heights.

"Last year’s winner, Kirsty Lee Akers, has made fantastic use of this opportunity and I have no doubt that Talia will do the same."

Toyota’s Manager of Promotions and Event Management Wayne Gabriel said the finalists were of an extremely high standard and were all to be congratulated."

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Deniese co-ordinates Festival busking comp

Three time winner of Female Vocalist of the Year and one time compere of the Golden Guitar Awards Deniese Morrison has taken on the role of Co-ordinator of the Bisley Busking Championships in Tamworth this January.

Deniese takes on the role of directing the 600-plus musicians who are expected to take to Peel Street and the city centre streets as part of the buskers lineup for this year’s titles and on Friday took to the streets herself as part of her new gig.

Registrations for performances opened on Friday and Deniese is already up to her ears in musical notes and management decisions.

The singer’s newest festival star spot comes after a couple of years as a judge for the Festival’s cavalcade of stars. Deniese says she’s a bit of a Festival outlaw when it comes to her musical preferences. She’s just looking to find some colorful characters with an exciting or fresh act that entertains festival fans.

"I'm basically looking for an act that is uniquely themselves – and it would be wonderful to find another Troy, Keith, Kasey, Beccy or Lee from our busking boulevard," Deniese said.

Festival Director Steve Bartlett says busking registrations had opened strongly with more than 180 musicians signed up for street appearances before 2pm Friday. This year’s titles also include a new acoustic busking zone in Fitzroy Street.

Last year’s festival attracted 610 buskers.

Buskers can apply for a spot at Festival HQ in the Tamworth Regional Council building in Peel Street between 8.30am and 5pm each day.

Registration is free but buskers need to find themselves a spot first. Most shopkeepers are happy to assist but buskers need to ask permission and organise access to power. Business houses in most instances are happy to provide power.

This year’s Championships are supported again by the Northern Daily Leader. First prize is $1400 with $500 for second and $300 for third.

Deniese will hand pick 10 finalists who will compete in the grand final concert from 5pm in Bicentennial Park on Saturday January 26. The winner also gets a star spot on the Festival’s Last Roundup and closing concert at the Tamworth Regional Entertainment & Conference Centre (TRECC) on Sunday January 27.

Contact number for more information, 0488 209 831.


Steve moves to number one on CMC

Steve Forde (pictured) has taken over the top spot on the CMC (Country Music Channel) Top 50 playlist this week with the clip of his latest single, Summer's Little Angel.

The McClymonts number one from the last two weeks – My Life Again – slips to number two while Troy Cassar-Daley is steady at three with Last Mile Home and Adam Brand edges up one to four with Get On Down The Road.

Catherine Britt jumps to five with Little Wildflower as does Amber Lawrence to seven with Gonna Fly.

Bullet performers this week include Gina Jeffreys with The Truth About Lies (19 to 16), Kirsty Lee Akers with Goin' To The Beach (new at 19), Buddy Goode with Dutchy In The Morning (30 to 25), Jayne Denham with Cousin Jude (32 to 29), Nicki Gillis with Remember Me (38 to 32), Tamara Stewart with Drive (45 to 39), The Bobkatz with The Man In The Picture (48 to 40) and Amos Morris with Frustrated Truckie (46 to 41).

CMC's Country Pick for the week is Keith Urban's latest single, Everybody.

The full list can be viewed at



Geoff Mack and Jean Stafford elevated to the Country Music Roll of Renown

Australian country music legends Geoff Mack and Jean Stafford were elevated to the Country Music Roll of Renown in Tamworth yesterday afternoon.

Renowned as one of Australia’s most successful country comedy and variety entertainers, Geoff Mack’s thousands of appearances over some six decades have endeared him to generations of Australians.

In 1959, Geoff wrote I’ve Been Everywhere which was recorded in 1962 by Lucky Starr and quickly became one of Australia’s biggest selling songs of all time. It has been recorded by numerous artists in dozens of languages around the world including America.

Affectionately known as “Tangle Tongue”, Geoff’s performing career, together with his spectacular songwriting ability, have confirmed him as one of our nation’s most loved and respected entertainers.

Coming to prominence during the 1970s and ‘80s, Jean Stafford learnt her craft singing at hotels, country halls and dances. Recording initially with Dusty Rankin in 1965, she released her debut solo album in 1974, the song What Kind Of A Girl Do You Think I Am? winning the first of her three Golden Guitars.

From Northern Tasmania to Tamworth and Nashville, it has been a triumphant journey for the silver voiced girl who made her first public appearance at the age of 12.

Geoff and Jean are the 36th and 37th inductees to Australia’s highest country music honour.

They join Tex Morton, Buddy Williams, Smoky Dawson, Slim Dusty, Shirley Thoms, Tim McNamara, Gordon Parsons, The McKean Sisters, Reg Lindsay, Rick & Thel Carey, Johnny Ashcroft, Chad Morgan, John Minson, The Hawking Bros, Stan Coster, Barry Thornton, Nev Nicholls, Shorty Ranger, Jimmy Little, Ted Egan, Dusty Rankin, John Williamson, Rocky Page, Brian Young, Rex Dallas, Arthur Blanch, The Schneider Sisters, Frank Ifield, The Webb Bros, Kenny Kitching, The Singing Kettles, Athol McCoy, Reg Poole, Lindsay Butler and Kevin King on the Roll of Renown located in front of the Tamworth Regional Entertainment & Conference Centre in Country Music Capital.

Their plaques will be unveiled this Tuesday morning (January 21) at 10.20am.

The Roll of Renown honour is presented annually to those artists who have made a lasting and significant contribution to Australian country music.

Photo (top): Geoff Mack with his wife Tabbi after yesterday's Roll of Renown presentation.

Photo (right, fromn left): Eric Scott responding on behalf of Jean following yesterday's announcement with last year's Roll of Renown inductees Lindsay Butler and Kevin King and special concert guest Adam Brand.

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Six more for Hands of Fame

Six more famous country music hands are to be immortalised in concrete in Country Music Capital’s Hands of Fame.

Mick Antonio, Kevin Knapp, Karen Lynne, Jim Muir, Wally Sparrow and Warren H Williams were announced as the 2008 inductees at the annual Roll of Renown Concert in the Tamworth Town Hall yesterday afternoon.

Mick Antonio is a popular yodelling country singer from Ballarat, Victoria, who recorded for Planet, W&G and Crest labels. During the war years while in the army, he did many shows for the troops. In his early career, he won many quests such as the Roy Rogers Hillbilly contest of Victoria and reached second place in “Australia’s Amateur Hour” twice, first in 1954 then again in 1957.

Kevin Knapp is best known for the role he played as compere of the Golden Guitar Awards since their inception in 1973 until the late 1980s. But during a long and illustrious professional career in country music, which started at Radio 2LM Lismore and finished with Radio 2TM and BAL Marketing in Tamworth, he fulfilled numerous roles including, for many years, the key editorial position at Australia’s leading country music publication, Capital News.

Karen Lynne has been taking great strides in her career as a singer, songwriter and musician since starting out more than 15 years ago. She has had considerable success with her recordings and collected many accolades and awards along the way including a number of Golden Guitar Awards finalist placings and last year’s Frank Ifield Silver Spur Award.

Jim Muir started to play the banjo and ukulele to accompany himself while playing for the boys and girls in open air Sunday school. He eventually graduated to a guitar, and has not been without one since! With his easy to listen to, laid back style, “country” was the most natural form of music for Jim to adopt. As well, he felt it was a good way to get a message across, so country music became part of Jim’s Christian ministry. He has toured and performed extensively in Australia and overseas.

Wally Sparrow has been a tirelesss worker for country music in Australia, and particularly South Australia, for almost 50 years. During this time, he has worked as a songwriter, singer, recording artist, promoter, broadcaster and with the industry organisation SACCM (South Australian Council for Country Music). Concentrating more on broadcasting in recent years, last year, Wally was presented with the Favourite Presenter for 2007 award at the recent Radio Adelaide Awards from his "Country Brekky" program on Radio Adelaide.

Born in Hermannsburg near Alice Springs in Central Australia, Warren H Williams is an Arrernte speaking man who is fast becoming one of Australia’s favourite country music singer/songwriters. He tours frequently with his band (mostly family), particularly to the outback, rural and Aboriginal communities of Australia. He and his band members.

All of this year’s inductees will be “imprinted” at the Country Music Hands of Fame Cornerstone in Hands of Fame Park at the corner of Brisbane Street and Kable Avenue, Tamworth, at 9.15am next Saturday (January 26)... except Warren who will be imprinted next January as he has to be in Queensland to perform this Australia Day.

The Hands of Fame are co-ordinated for the City of Tamworth by the Australian Country Music Foundation.

Photos (top): Tamworth Mayor James Treloar presents Kevin Knapp with his Hands of Fame certificate.

Bottom: Karen Lynne accepts her Hands of Fame nomination.

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Two additions to Country Music Broadcasters Hall of Fame

Two new names were added to the Australian Country Music Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame in Tamworth, Australia’s Country Music Capital, yesterday afternoon.

They are Terry Harkins and Max Thorburn (pictured).

The late Terry Harkins worked at a number of radio stations in his career, most notably at 2NZ Inverell (NSW) where he became a local legend.

He established a strong reputation in country music as one of the biggest supporters of the genre through his breakfast program to a much wider audience on the station over many years.

Terry was forced to retire from broadcasting due to ill-health in the early 1970s.

Max Thorburn is one of Australia’s most notable broadcasters, mainly through his radio station HOT FM in Mildura, Victoria.

Among his many achievements, Max played a vital role in the establishment and development of the giant Mildura Country Music Festival.

The Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame was inaugurated by the Australian Country Music Foundation (ACMF) to honour and pay tribute to those broadcasters, past and present, who have played a significant role in the development and promotion of Australian country music through broadcasting.

Inductees to the Hall of Fame are now Mike Bedford, Mel Cameron, Alan Clement, Hedley Charles, Gary Coxhead, Dick Cranbourne, Smoky & Dot Dawson, Carter Edwards, Gene Fisk, Bob Fricker, Brian Howard, Maurie Huxley, Peter Leslie, Reg Lindsay, Helen Kay, Doug “The Bandit” May, The McKean Sisters, Barry McMahon, Tim McNamara, John Minson, Barbara Morison, Nev Nicholls, John Nutting, Don McGuire, Dave Prior, Rocky Page, Keith Melbourne, Neville Pellitt, Earl Reeve, Eric Scott, Bob Spence, Allan Wallett, Barry Williams and Kathy Winkler.

The Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame Honour Roll is located at the ACMF in Brisbane Street, Tamworth, Australia’s Country Music Capital.

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Lee to star in Concert for Rural Australia

Lee Kernaghan will star in a Concert for Rural Australia at this year’s Tamworth Country Music Festival to raise funds for drought affected rural and remote communities.

Presented by Toyota and Rural Press, the Concert will be held in Country Music Capital's Bicentennial Park this coming Thursday night (January 24) and will also feature a number of "surprise" performers.

The concert is free, but patrons will be asked to make a donation to the cause.

This is the second year Lee has featured in a large outdoor free concert at Tamworth – last year’s event raised more than $16,000 for not-for-profit
organisation Aussie Helpers. Concert sponsor Toyota doubled this amount to arrive at a total donation of $32,000 to the group.

Toyota’s Manager of Promotions and Event Management Wayne Gabriel said the company was pleased to be raising money to help rural Australia.

"Through our national dealer network, we have heard so many stories of people doing it tough in rural and regional areas, particularly in light of the drought. Toyota is proud to contribute via initiatives such as the Toyota Concert for Rural Australia," he said. "Once we have ascertained how much money we have raised, we can then look at the way this money can be put to the most effective use."

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Roll of Renown Concert today

One of the annual Tamworth Country Music Festival’s major events, the Roll of Renown Concert, is on this afternoon in Country Music Capital’s famous Town Hall.

The concert stars Adam Brand, Carter & Carter, Nicki Gillis, Brian Letton, Karen Lynne, Geoff Mack and The Young Balladeers (Nathan Charlton, Mann & Dan Manning and Amos Morris) supported by rising stars Liam Brew, winner of last year’s talent search at Gympie’s Toyota Muster and Kiera Smith, winner of last year’s Victorian Champion of Champions title.

Country music legend Jean Stafford who was to feature on the bill has had to withdraw due to illness.

Compere of the concert again will be ABC “Saturday Night Country” host John Nutting.

The annual Roll of Renown Concert features announcement of the inductee or inductees to the Country Music Roll of Renown, 2008 inductees into the Hands of Fame and Australian Country Music Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame.

Tickets for the Concert, which gets underway at 2pm, are available over the counter at the Tamworth Visitor Information Centre at the corner of Peel and Murray Streets, by telephone (02 6767 5300) or "at the door" (subject to availability).

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New single from Sara

The second single to be released from Sara Storer’s latest album Silver Skies is Long Live The Girls.

Co-written with Boh Runga (sister of Bic), Long Live The Girls is about young girls and their stories of adolescence. Sara sings about her nieces performing in concerts and selling pretend tickets; girls looking out for each other; and staying young, not worrying about love and heartache.

Silver Skies, which debuted at number three on the national country albums chart, was co-produced by Matt Fell together with The Waif’s Josh Cunningham.

On the eve of the upcoming Golden Guitar Awards, where she is up for three more gongs, Sara will perform two shows in Tamworth and will follow with shows around the country, as special guest on the Suzanne Vega tour (see on tour page).

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Rod's master classes

Master songwriter, musician and record producer Rod McCormack will present two "master classes" in Tamworth during this year's January country music festival which gets under way officially today.

The first – titled "Acoustic Instruments/Ensemble Playing & Harmony Singing" – will be held on Monday afternoon (January 21) at 3pm at Southgate Inn's Scully Room with special guests Kym Warner and Carol Young of The Greencards.

On Tuesday (January 22), same time, same place, Rod will present a "recording master class" titled "Tips and Discussion on Recording Techniques, Mixing, Mastering plus live performance from Producer and Engineer Of The Year".

Photo (from left) Kym, Carol and Rod performing on stage.


Coca-Cola Concerts 30th anniversary

One of the longest-standing free January Country Music Festival venues in Tamworth is set to celebrate its 30th anniversary this year – the now famous Coca-Cola Concerts In The Park.

The concert series started in 1978 after the Hands of Fame Cornerstone was initiated in 1977. With steadily growing crowds of fans and artists coming to the city, then Festival organisers Radio 2TM set out to increase free entertainment activity in the week before the peak event, the Golden Guitar Awards.
Under the direction of 2TM staffer Bob Lipman, the Mr Juicy Sunshine Concerts, as they were then known, offered opportunities for a variety of artists to perform at the Festival.

Over the years, the Coca-Cola Concerts have attracted artists like Craig Giles (pictured), Wayne Horsburgh, Jade Hurley, Deniese Morrison and Reg Poole as well as then aspiring young artists like Troy Cassar-Daley and Keith Urban. They also gave exposure to pure amateurs who would walk up on the day while some singers like Madjak from Launceston have become institutions on the show.

With this exciting mix of entertainment, the concerts quickly became popular and, by the early ‘80s when Coca-Cola became the sponsor, they had become one of the major attractions of the Festival and remain so to this day.

In 2008, fans are again able to relax under the shade of a 600 square metre pavilion in the heart of Country Music Capital and listen to many hours of good quality free country music with the Country Concert sessions hosted by Mal Winckle, including the opportunity for "walk up" performances for visiting acts looking for somewhere to perform.

And, again for 2008, there will be the opportunity for bands to strut their stuff for $1,500 prizemoney with the Coca-Cola Battle of the Bands from 3pm each day.

John Eggins, District Sales Manager for Coca-Cola Amatil, said that the idea for the Battle had come from the many visiting bands that had nowhere to play except for busking in the street.

"Although we have always catered for individual acts to perform, there had been little opportunity for bands to play on stage,” he said. “What we are offering is a venue, stage with professional gear and audio and an audience, plus the chance to win some money for their efforts.”

Up to three bands per day for five days from Saturday, January 19, will be invited to play for about 30 minutes each, allowing the judges and audiences to fully appreciate their repertoire with those judged the best from each day selected and invited back to compete for the main prize on Saturday 26th.

This year, Coca-Cola hosts a number of state by state twilight free concerts including the new West Australian Showcase on Monday, January 21 at 7pm; on Wednesday, January 23 at 7pm the new Queensland Champion of Champions Winners Showcase and, on Thursday 24 at 7pm, the very popular South Australian Showcase.

Further additions to Coke Park for 2008 include improved seating and activities including "ride the bucking mechanical bull", the very active Coca-Cola Festival FM Radio Station where visitors can see many stars of Australian country music interviewed on air and visitors can pick-up subscription specials to Capital News.

Activities commence at 8am Saturday January 19 and run through to and including Saturday January 26.
Further information about Coca-Cola Concerts In The Park walk up entertainment and the Coca-Cola Battle of the Bands can be obtained from Rural Press Events on 02 6762 2399.


LBS Studio Open Day Concert

Lindsay Butler Studios at Moonbi (New England Gully Road) will once again host the LBS Studio Open Day Concert this Sunday (January 20) from 10am until 2pm.

This annual festival event features more than 20 popular Australian independent recording artists backed by triple Golden Guitar winner Lindsay Butler and his showband The Butler Boys.

This year, Golden Guitar finalists Brian Letton (pictured) and Shaza Leigh will be making an appearance along with other award winning LBS recording stars Ashley Cook, Dianne Lindsay (pictured), Tom Maxwell and Noel Parlane.

Australian country music legends Rick Carey, Terry Gordon and Brian Young make a guest appearance alongside a talented crop of other leading artists including Melissa Bajric, Bob Easter,Darryl Lamb, Peter Salata and Peter Simpson.

Exciting new artists to launch their debut LBS albums at the open day this year will be "poet of the bush" Ben Jacobs and singer/songwriter Lana Ross. 

Greg Bain and Lynette Guest, two of Australia’s favourite traditional artists, are both currently recording their new albums to be released on LBS early this year and both will be performing songs from their forthcoming albums.

Other surprise guests will also be appearing. Gates open at 9am.

Darryl Kirkup of CMR Nashville Radio fame will compere the concert which carries a low admission price of $15.

Catering on the day is provided by the local Lions Club with proceeds going back into the local community.

Tickets are available from the Tamworth Visitor Information Centre, by telephone on 02 6767 5300 or on-line at


New album from Arthur

Arthur Blanch will launch his latest album at a concert in Tamworth during the Country Music Festival.

What Really Matters is the title of the new work which was produced by Rod McCormack.

The album launch will take place at The Pub this Monday night (January 21) at 8pm.

Arthur will be making a number of other special guest appearances during the Festival including on air with John Nutting on "Saturtday Night Country" tomorrow night, at the LBS Studio Wall of Honour function on Tuesday (January 22) and Tamworth Songwriters' Association Concert on Wednesday night.

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Chart update – Harmony's first number one

Harmony James (pictured) has scored her first number one hit on the coming week's Country Tracks Top 30 singles chart with her song Somebody Stole My Horse.

Sara Storer's number one from the last four weeks – Land Cries Out – drops to number two while Adam Harvey is steady at three with Someone Else's Dream and Amber Lawrence jumps two places to four with Gonna Fly.

America's Kenny Chesney is steady at five with Don't Blink, Jetty Road's I Wanna Go Home slips to number six and Beccy Cole's Lifeboat jumps two places to seven.

Gina Jeffreys' The Truth About Lies is up to eight, Carrie Underwood's So Small is down to nine while The McClymonts' Save Yourself is at 10.

Bullet performers for the week include Travis Sinclair's Carry The Country (15 to 11), Lee Kernaghan's Sassafras Gap (19 to 16) and Troy Cassar-Daley's Last Mile Home (23 to 19).

One new entry to the chart for the coming week... The McClymonts' new single My Life Again (in at 30).

The Top 30 Countdown goes to air Sunday nights on CMR (Country Music Radio) on the Super Radio Network. The full chart can be viewed at



Jetty Road invited to play in Canada

On the eve of the 2008 Tamworth Country Music Festival, Jetty Road received news of their successful bid to perform at Dauphin’s Countryfest in June.

Organisers say Jetty Road’s application was "a stand out" and they were very pleased to include the Australian group in the line-up for this year’s festival.

Jetty Road will be performing two shows over two days between June 26-29, alongside artists such as American country stars Alan Jackson, Emerson Drive, Aaron Pritchett and Shane Yellowbird.

Dauphin’s Countryfest is Canada’s longest running country music festival, attracting crowds of 40,000 annually. Nestled on the north side of Riding Mountain National Park, the site is 10 km south of the City of Dauphin, Manitoba, and is home to one of the best outdoor amphitheatres in Western Canada.

The four-day music festival features "the best" in local, national and international entertainment on three separate stages.
This year marks the 19th anniversary of Dauphin's Countryfest.

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Paul to perform for the troops

Multi award winning country artist Paul Costa has been announced to perform throughout East Timor as part of the 12th morale-boosting Tour de Force concert series for Australian soldiers, sailors and airmen and women at the end of the month.

Paul, along with comedian Fred Lang, female punk band Legless and MC Krystal Forscutt, will perform in a number of locations throughout East Timor for Australian Defence Force, Australian Federal Police, NZ Defence Force and United Nations personnel as well as a special show at a local orphanage.

"The enthusiasm and performances of the entertainers, along with the opportunity to mingle with Australian Defence Force members between shows, have been a major factor in maintaining the morale of men and women who are far away from home and who accept considerable hardship and danger in the service to our nation," said a Tour de Force spokesman.

The entertainers are donating their time and talent and are continuing a long established tradition of supporting Australian Defence Force personnel deployed in the service of our nation that pre-dates the Vietnam War.

Prior to heading off to East Timor, Paul has an extensive schedule lined up for the annual Tamworth Country Music Festival. The highlight will be his one off "Working Class Country" show with Travis Sinclair at the Tamworth Town Hall this Sunday, January 20, at 2pm. The show will also feature Jim Haynes and Melanie Dyer as special guests.

Paul is also up for Male Vocalist of the Year at the 2008 TIARAs as well as Victorian Male Vocalist, National Male Vocalist and Best Independent Release at the 2008 Victorian and National Country Music Awards.

"And if that’s not a great way to start the new year," Paul said, "my latest single, Love Is Not A Game, has just hit number one on the Mildura Hot 100 Chart."

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The next generation of country music stars

The 15th annual Advance Tyre Service (Oakey) Country Music Rush will be held March 15-16, at the historic Jondaryan Woolshed in Queensland, organised by the Garden City Country Music Association (Toowoomba).

Entrants from south east Queensland will compete against each other in 19 different sections over the two-day competition (sections such as bush ballad, vocal, country rock, gospel, instrumental, group and duo). Entries close, March 3.

Campers from Bundaberg in the north to Roma in the west, Brisbane and the Gold Coast have booked their spots for the weekend.

The program commences at 8.30am Saturday and runs through to about 7pm. This will be followed by a "Bush Dance" with the Ridgee Didge Bush Band until around 11.30. Sunday morning activities commence again at 8.30 and will conclude with a performance by 2007 Rush winner Lance Coassin at round 3pm before the presentation to the winners for the weekend.

Entry forms or further information can be obtained by phoning Dell on 07 4635 6429 (after hours) or by visiting

Photo: Sarah McMonagle, a recent winner of "the Rush".


2008 Country Energy bush poetry

What is dubbed "the best bush poetry competition in Australia" – the Country Energy Tamworth Bush Poetry Competition – is on again at West Tamworth League Club this January.

Competition gets underway starting on Wednesday 23rd with three days of heats and a grand final on Saturday 26th where patrons will hear "the very cream of bush poets giving their all to win one of two Golden Damper awards".

The admission free programs start each day at 10am.


Class act on stage

After almost a fortnight’s tuition and a gruelling learning program, the Australian College of Country Music class of 2008 is about to graduate.

Twenty-two students from the College are champing at the bit to show just what they’ve learnt over the past two weeks and will do just that tonight (Thursday, January 17) in Blazes showroom at Wests in Tamworth.

It’s the eve of the official opening of the 10-day Tamworth Country Music Festival so all students, including two who are to take the stage in Toyota Star Maker, are more than ready to launch into action, showcasing their newly-learnt performance and stage presentation skills.

From the moment the students hit campus on January 3, all lessons, workshops and master classes were geared towards this major event. The students come from all over Australia and New Zealand and all are aiming at a professional country music career.

They are: Lauren Barnes, from Kallangur, Qld; Sarah Barnett, Cherrybrook, NSW; Chelsea Basham, Wongan Hills, WA; Liam Brew, Palmview, Qld (Toyota Muster 2007 Maton Talent Search winner); Meggan Carswell, Cootamundra, NSW; Megan Cooper, Kelvin Grove, Qld; Kaylah Anne Farmer, Raymond Terrace, NSW; Carmen Fraser, Barjarg, Vic; Anthony Green, Armidale, NSW (Troy Cassar-Daley Scholarship funded by Arts NSW for Indigenous country artists winner); Luke Herlihy, Dunedin, New Zealand (winner of the Gore Golden Guitar Scholarship); Mitchell King, Shailer Park, Qld; Sera-Jane Moore, Alice River, Qld; Julie Perandes, Manly West, Qld (winner of the Australian Bush Balladeers Association scholarship); David Prow, Cambooya, Qld; Simon Ranger, Gawler East, SA; Alexandra Scotton, Forbes, NSW; Chad Shuttleworth, Eumundi, Qld; Cassandra Smiles, Queens Park, NSW; Penelope Somerville, Fosterville, Vic; Tiffney Stroh, Mt Barker, SA; Jeremy Turner, Lockrose, Qld; and Shaun Wegener, Willaston, SA.

This year’s concert will be quite differently staged to previous years, according to a spokesman for the organisers, which tended to feature groups of performers. "This year, the students will perform both original songs they’ve written during College, plus some old favourites – and individuals will be highlighted."

College staff member Mike McClellan encourages everyone in Tamworth to "come along and support the students. This College is unique around the world and it needs all the support it can get. It costs a lot to provide the wonderful experience these artists get and by attending the concert every little bit helps," he said.

With tickets priced at just $16 each, the College Graduation Concert promises to be one of the best value-for-money gigs of the Tamworth Festival.

Tickets are available from Wests on (02) 6765 7588, or on-line at



Toyota Country Theatre hosts top line-up at Tamworth 2008

Toyota is again combining with Rural Press Events (RPE) to transform the Tamworth Regional Entertainment & Conference Centre into Country Music Capital’s biggest concert venue – the Toyota Country Theatre – for the 2008 Tamworth Country Music Festival.

The Toyota Motor Corporation has been a founding or naming sponsor to many significant country music events over the years including Toyota Star Maker, the Toyota Tamworth Festival Cavalcade, the Gympie Muster, Toyota Concert for Rural Australia and, for the fifth year, the Toyota Country Theatre (TCT).

Popular features of the Theatre precinct, including all-day free entertainment, the now famous Toyota Hat giveaways, free sausage sizzle for breakfast, will all be back for 2008. The Theatre foyer will feature Kids Corner with activities and puppet shows every day at 10.30am and the popular Country Cafe plus merchandise store.

A new attraction this year will be a Toyota 4WD and Jayco RV Expo displaying "life on the road" products from Toyota and Jayco, sponsor of the Golden Guitar Awards.

On the hour, every hour, the line-up of artists on the outdoor stage is always very impressive while inside the air-conditioned 1500 seat Theatre, the audio and visual production is state-of-the-art, "and if you like your music so that you can hear every word and every instrument, then you will find it here," according to Barry Harley, RPE General Manager.

Major acts to be featured at the TCT this January include Melinda Schneider with Mary Schneider and Peter Denahy at 2pm Saturday January 19 (the first major show)... John Williamson with special guest Warren H Williams at 8.30 Saturday night ...Colin Buchanan at 10am Wednesday, January 23, the wolverines at 2pm on Wednesday... Beccy Cole, Gina Jeffreys and Sara Storer on Thursday January 24 at 10am... and Troy Cassar-Daley at 4pm Thursday.

Toyota Star Maker 2008 will be held at the venue through Sunday and Sunday evening while the Telstra Road To Tamworth competition finals and grand final will be held over Monday and Tuesday (January 21, 22). And the last show to be held at the venue before set-up commences on Friday for the Golden Guitar Awards is the Maton Guitar Showcase at 7.30 on Thursday night.

Tickets for the Colin Buchanan Toyota Kids Show and Maton Guitar Showcase are only available at the Country Theatre box office from this Friday. All other tickets for shows at the venue are available from the Tamworth Visitor Information Centre at the corner of Peel Street and the New England Highway, telephone 02 6767 5300 or on-line at

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Artists announced for 2008 People’s Choice Awards presentation

The artist line-up for the 2008 Australian Country Music People's Choice Awards has been announced.

Being presented during this year’s giant Tamworth Country Music Festival, the Awards line-up, in alphabetical order, will be Rose Carleo, Beccy Cole (special Awards guest, pictured), Travis Collins (pictured), Steve Eales, Lee Forster, Jetty Road, Jonah’s Road, Amber Lawrence and Graham Rodger.

A total of nine voted awards will be presented in Country Music Capital’s new Festival venue, the fully air-conditioned Regent Theatre (with tiered seating) next Thursday, January 24 at 2pm.

Awards will be presented for Best Female and Male Vocal, Best Group or Duo, Most Promising Future Star, Best Song, Best Bush Ballad, Best Album, Most Popular Country Music DJ and Most Popular Country Music Program or Radio Station.

Tickets for the People’s Choice Awards are available direct from the Regent on 02 6766 3162 or on-line at

The Australian Country Music People’s Choice Awards, now in their ninth year, are determined by popular vote by many thousands of members of the public.

Some 35 artists have been recognised since the Awards began in 2000... Troy Cassar-Daley leads the honour board with six awards, Melinda Schneider is next with five, closely followed by Carter & Carter and the Wolverines with four each.

Adam Brand, Tania Kernaghan and Travis Sinclair are next on the tally with three each while Lee Kernaghan, Magnificent 7, Peter Pratt, Felicity Urquhart and Brendon Walmsley have two each to date.

Holders of one award each are Arthur Blanch, Owen Blundell, Beccy Cole, Tracy Coster, Country Music Radio, Dale Duncan, Dave Duncan, the Dead Ringer Band, Slim Dusty, Craig Giles, Jonah's Road, Anne Kirkpatrick, Brian Letton, John Nutting, Dean Perrett, Ian Quinn, Graham Rodger, Matt Shelton, Cat Southern, Sovereign, the Sunny Cowgirls, Don Walker and Rob Wilson.


Joy to receive College honour

Joy McKean is to be honoured at this year's Australian College of Country Music Graduation Concert.

The honour comes in the form of a re-naming of the previous Slim Dusty College Scholarship which will now be known as Slim Dusty / Joy McKean Scholarship.

Joy says she is very honoured that she and Slim have been both acknowledged in this way. The couple played a vital role in establishing the College in the late 1990s through their involvement with the Country Music Association of Australia.

Joy will be on hand tomorrow night (Thursday January 17) to present the 2008 "class" with their graduation certificates and will announce the recipient of the inaugural Slim Dusty / Joy McKean Scholarship which is sponsored by EMI Australia.


Brian wins Lions award

Country star Brian Letton has been named winner of the Peel Valley Lions Club of Tamworth Australian Country Music Service Award.

The annual award honours someone in country music who uses their talents in a voluntary capacity for charity and for those less fortunate than most.

Brian was nominated for the award by the Lions Club of Port Lincoln in South Australia (where Brian was born) for his support of many organisations around Australia including work from aboriginal workshops and the Royal Flying Doctor Service in the western states to the Blue Nurses and Westpac Rescue Service in the eastern states.

Presentation of the award (a Fred Hillier ceramic mounted "dunny") will take place next Tuesday January 22 at Festival FM in Country Music Capital's Hands of Fame Park.

Brian has nominated the Matthew Flinders Nursing Home in Port Lincoln to receive the $500 cash that goes with the trophy.


State Government to fund country music bus services

The NSW Ministry of Transport will provide up to $10,000 to Tamworth Regional Council this year to allow for an extension of bus services during the Tamworth Country Music Festival.

Announcing the funding, independent Member for Tamworth Peter Draper (pictured) said he took Council’s request for increased bus services during the 2008 Festival to the Minister for Transport and Deputy Premier John Watkins in October last year and the Minister had confirmed that the State Government would provide funding.

"Festival visitors greatly appreciate having a reliable and frequent bus service to transport them between venues," Peter said, "plus get them back to their accommodation after a day enjoying the myriad of entertainment on offer.

"With quality entertainment available right across the city, local taxis are extremely busy, so many people would miss out seeing some of their favourite artists should such a service not be available."

The Festival bus schedule would allow visitors and locals alike to plan their day in the knowledge that they could rely on this form of transport to arrive at the venue in time to enjoy the entertainment.

He also pointed out that despite an increased police presence during the annual Festival, a number of people had been caught each year driving after consuming more than the legal amount of alcohol.

"I would urge locals and visitors to leave the car at home and take public transport during this busy and exciting period," he said.

"Given the frequency of transport available around Tamworth during the Festival there are no excuses for people who drive after consuming alcohol. I congratulate Tamworth Regional Council for providing this service and the NSW Government for supplying this additional funding package so Festival-goers can travel safely and efficiently around the city."


Bluegrass Championships return

After a number of years' absence, the Australian National Bluegrass Championships return as a part of the annual Tamworth Country Music Festival.

Patrons will see "Australia’s finest bluegrass musicians completing for some fabulous prizes," according to a spokesman for organisers.

Prizes with a value of almost $9,000 are being supplied by Fender Australia.

The Championships will comprise four sections, for flatpick guitar, bluegrass banjo, bluegrass fiddle and bluegrass mandolin.

An additional award – the Horizon Award, for the most promising talent on the day – will also be presented.

The contest will be judged by some of Australia’s leading musicians including Mick Albeck (four times fiddle champion), Rod McCormack (three times guitar and three times banjo champion, pictured), Kym Warner (Mandolin Champion and Grammy Awards nominated musician from The GreenCards) and Trev Warner (Banjo Champion and Australia’s leading authority on bluegrass).

Judges will be joined by Jeff McCormack and some very special surprise guests to perform "a blistering set of bluegrass before announcing the winners," the spokesman said. "It will be a fantastic opportunity for music lovers to see our best musicians all performing in one place at one time."

Contestants will play acoustically (into microphones) and are allowed one acoustic accompanist only. Contestants must have prepared two bluegrass tunes for the heat. The three finalists in each section will have to perform one new tune.

The Championships will be staged at Wests Diggers in Kable Avenue at 1pm Wednesday January 23.


Tamworth Camerata Reunion Concert

The 2008 Tamworth Camerata Reunion Concert will be held at Country Music Capital's Family Hotel at 3pm Tuesday January 22.

Showcasing "the best young talented performers from all over Australia and New Zealand", this will be the sixth annual Concert providing graduates an opportunity to show off their individual talents.

"These performers are predominantly 18 years and younger," said Co-ordinator Greg Williams. since Camerata began, more than 100 young people have graduated from the junior school of country music held in Tamworth mid-year.

"At this Camerata concert, you will witness the future of Australian country music," Greg said, "as many of the graduates from this six-day country music course have progressed incredibly in their chosen career paths of becoming professional musicians and entertainers.

"This concert is always full of high energy and sensitive performances, backed by a great band of experienced musicians – Ian Lees (bass), Doug Gallacher (drums), Mark Moulynox (pedal steel, dobro, banjo), Rod Motbey (guitars) and graduates Penelope Somerville and Mitchell King sharing fiddle and mandolin duties."

Graduates taking the stage at The Family Hotel this year will be Kayla Anne (from NSW), Victoria Baillie (NSW), Lauren Brede (WA), Sinead Burgess (Qld), Melanie Dyer (NSW), Makaylie Foodey (NSW), Olivia Hally (Vic), Dana Hassall (Qld),Mitchell King (Qld), Briana Lee (Vic), Amos Morris (NSW), Brianna Ridge (Vic), Kiara Rodrigues (Qld), Ryan Sampson (Qld), Kiera Smith (Vic), Penelope Somerville (Vic), Shandell Tosoni (Qld), Jeremy Turner (Qld) and Daisy May Wegner (Qld).

Tickets are available from Tourism Tamworth, telephone (02) 6767 5300 or online at

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Golden Guitar Awards on live television

The 36th annual Country Music Awards of Australia (or Golden Guitar Awards), presented by Jayco, will go live to air in parts of regional Australia on Saturday, January 26.

Organisers of the Awards, the Country Music Association of Australia, have announced that the Awards will go live to air at 8.30pm on the Southern Cross Ten Regional TV Network in Queensland, Victoria and South Australia and in NSW with the exception of the host city – Tamworth – where there will be a delay until 10.30pm.

The Awards television broadcast will go to air in Darwin and Tasmania the following morning at 11am and on Network 10 in all capital cities at 12noon on Sunday, February 3.

This year's Awards will feature performances from headliners, in alphabetical order, James Blundell, Adam Brand, Troy Cassar-Daley, Kasey Chambers, Beccy Cole, Steve Forde, Adam Harvey, Gina Jeffreys, Lee Kernaghan, Shane Nicholson, Guy Sebastian and Sara Storer, supported by Kirsty Lee Akers, Lou Bradley, Dianna Corcoran, Morgan Evans, Harmony James and Amber Lawrence. Ten Network personality Georgie Parker will host the presentation.

Awards tickets can be purchased from Tourism Tamworth on 02 6767 5300 or on-line at

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LBS Tamworth program '08

Butlers Auditorium, part of the LBS Studio complex in Country Music Capital, will host a wide range of activity during the upcoming Tamworth Country Music Festival.

The Auditorium, on the Sydney Road (Goonoo Goonoo Road or New England Highway) opens this Saturday, January 19, with major showcases running every day of the Festival.

LBS Studio's traditional Museum Morning Teas will run again Monday to Friday of the main Festival week from 10am to 12noon with Lindsay Butler and Shaza Leigh (pictured) and The Butler Boys with various guest artists from the studio roster including, in alphabetical order, Greg Bain, Melissa Bajric, Ashley Cook, Dale Duncan, Bob Easter, Lynette Guest, bush poet Ben Jacobs, Darryl Lamb, Dianne Lindsay with Peter Simpson,Tom Maxwell, Noel Parlane, Lana Ross, Brian Young, Lindsay Waddington and Brian Young.

At the end of each concert, an artist will be inducted to the Studio's Wall Of Honour. This year's inductees, as previously announced, will be Clelia Adams, Arthur Blanch, Johnny Greenwood, Slim Newton and The Webb Brothers.

The studio is then opened to the public who can wander through and have a look at the awards lounge and the actual recording studio where many of today’s albums are recorded. The artists also mingle for a chat and to sign autographs.

Each afternoon and evening, the Auditorium hosts a number of package shows run by various established promoters including Afternoon Melodies, Bluegrass Spectacular, the Lindsay Butler & Friends Salute Shorty Ranger show, Country Crooners, the Scott Dann Show, Craig Giles & Friends, the Kross Kut Records Show, Noel Parlane & Eddie Low's Kiwi Show, TSA Pass The Guitar, Rodney Vincent Show and Yodelling Greats.

Butlers closes on Sunday with a new event this year, "The Festival Round-up". This will feature more than 20 leading Australian recording artists recorded for world wide broadcast via Daryl Kirkup's "Australian Showcase" radio program (Internet radio show on CMR Nashville).

Another innovation this year will be the introduction of free entertainment on the "Rising Star Stage" during lunch and evening meal breaks between major events. This will be held on the Studio grounds and tables and chairs will be provided for patron's convenience.

The lunchtime host is Charmaine Pout (presenting "Country Corner" from 12noon to 1.30) while Ashley Cook will present "Cookies Cook-up" during the evening break (5 to 6.30pm).

Walk-ups are also encouraged and time has been allocated to feature any artists "fitting the criteria of the presentation" if they report to the host at the stage area 15 to 30 minutes prior to the commencement of the show.



Finalists gear up for Toyota Star Maker

With just a little over a week to go until "the big day" finalists in Australia’s most prestigious country music talent search – Toyota Star Maker – are gearing up to "do battle".

Twenty competitors will travel to Tamworth for the finals this coming Sunday (January 20) at Toyota Country Theatre in Country Music Capital’s TRECC (Tamworth Regional Entertainment & Conference Centre).

They face the judges in a tough day of competition with only six to be selected to go through to the grand final at night.

Two finalists, meanwhile, have added to their music education experience through their participation in the annual Australian College of Country Music currently running in Tamworth.

Sera-Jane Moore (left), who also has the benefit of competing in Toyota Star Maker last year, was introduced to country music at Charters Towers when she was 13 and to date has won an astonishing 90 music awards. In November 2005, she released her debut album In My Town. Sera-Jane has become a popular act, particularly in Northern Queensland where she currently performs regularly at Jupiter’s Casino in Townsville.

Although Cassandra Smiles is a first-time Toyota Star Maker finalist, she has been performing for a few years as a singer/songwriter. She is doing her best to make a mark on Sydney’s acoustic/country scene, during the past few years playing in venues throughout the metropolitan area, the Central Coast, Newcastle and Wollongong. In 2006, Cassandra toured the east coast of the USA.

Both Sera-Jane and Cassandra see their time at the College as highly advantageous in the bid to become the next winner of Toyota Star Maker which is also one of the most sought after tickets of the Tamworth Country Music Festival with the grand final regularly selling out early.

Tickets are available from the Tamworth Visitor Information Centre at the corner of Peel Street and New England Highway (Murray Street), telephone 02 6767 5300, or online at


Hall of Fame Country in the Courtyard

The Australian Country Music Foundation (ACMF), operators of Australia's Country Music Hall of Fame, is running a series of their usually monthly Country in the Courtyard concerts during this week's Countdown to the Tamworth Country Music Festival.

The first was held on Friday, the second will be tonight, another will run tomorrow night and the final in the series will be staged on Wednesday night.

A spokesman for the Foundation said extra versions of the popular events were organised after it became clear in recent years that there wasn't a lot of opportunity for "walk-up" artists during the Countdown period.

"We used to run one special Courtyard event as our regular monthly staging but decided to expand it to four to cater for demand."

Australia's Country Music Hall of Fame, established in Tamworth for a number of years now, is open throughout the year and for extended times during the Januarty Country Music Festival... daily from 9am.

The Hall of Fame has more than 30 exhibits on many of Australia's country music pioneers plus a number of special displays.

This coming Saturday afternoon, the ACMF will stage it's popular Roll of Renown Concert in the Tamworth Town Hall where patrons will witness the 2008 announcement of inductee/s to the Country Music Roll of Renown, Hands of Fame and Broadcasters' Hall of Fame.

And a series of special "Meet The Pioneer" sessions will be staged each morning of the main Festival week.

The Hall of Fame is located at the top end of Brisbane Street in the city's central business district, next to the Imperial Hotel.

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Country for Lifeline

Country for Lifeline is a new event on the Tamworth Country Music Festival calendar.

The first concert – a fundraiser for the Lifeline organisation – is to be staged this coming Saturday night (January 19) in the Tamworth Town Hall.

Stars of this inaugural concert include Chris Callaghan, Allan Caswell, Rose Carleo, Lance Coassin, Jodie Crosby, the Davidson Brothers, June McAlister, Amos Morris, Deniese Morrison (pictured), Kiara Rodrigues and Paul Wilson.

Tickets are available from the Tamworth Visitor Information Centre at the corner of Peel Street and the New England Highway, telephone 02 6767 5300, or online via at

Cessnock Festival on again

Program details have been announced for the 2008 PFI Net Cessnock City Country Music Festival in the NSW Hunter Valley.

The Festival will run from May 23 to 25 at the East Cessnock Bowling Club and this year is expanding to include the Cessnock City Bowling Club as a second venue.

The program will include  concerts on Friday evening featuring Carter & Carter and a Saturday evening with The Feral Swing Katz, Grant Richardson and Tamara Stewart. The free  daytime program over the two days includes Nicki Gillis, Amber Lawrence, Felicity Urquhart, local favourites and many more to be announced.

A Sunday of bush balladeers at the Bowling Club will feature Greg Bain, Charley Boyter and his band, Laura Downing, Amos Morris (pictured), and more.

Further information can be obtained from Rhonda Astill on 02 4990 6861, or email


The McClymonts at number one on CMC

The McClymonts (pictured) are at number one for the second week on this week's CMC (Country Music Channel) Top 50 playlist with the clip of their latest single My Life Again.

Steve Forde is at two with Summer's Little Angel while Troy Cassar-Daley's Last Mile Home is at three and Adam Brand's Get On Down The Road is at five.

Catherine Britt's Little Wildflower is at seven and Amber Lawrence jumps into the top 10 with Gonna Fly.

Bullet performers this week include Gina Jeffreys with The Truth About Lies (new at 19), The Sunny Cowgirls with Dry Land Crop (30 to 23), Jetty Road with I Wanna Go Home (new at 24), Buddy Goode with Dutchy In The Morning (48 to 30), Peter Denahy with The Ringing Of Steel (46 to 43), Tamra Stewart with Drive (new at 45), Amos Morris with Frustrated Truckie (new at 46) and Harmony James with Somebody Stole My Horse (re-entry at 47).

Other new entries to the playlist this week include The Bobkatz with The Man In The Picture (in at 48), Rose Carleo with Till I Find Me Again (re-entry at 49) and Morgan Evans with Big Skies (re-entry at 50).

CMC's Country Pick for the week is Kirsty Lee Akers' Goin' To The Beach.

The full list can be viewed at



Oasis fundraiser

More than 40 country music performers are expected this afternoon at Country Music Capital's Oasis Hotel to raise funds for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.

Stars will include 2007 Telstra Queen of Country Music Leanne Coddington, Lynette Guest (pictured), the Hatch family, Patti Morgan, Those Gals and Brian Young (pictured).

All of the performers and musicians are giving their time and talent free of charge for the fundraiser which will also include family fun day activity.

The event has been organised by Maureen Gardner, a member of the Helicopter Services support group, with what she calls a lot of help from friends.

"Col Behan brings the singers together and works out the time slots and I can't thank the owners of the Hotel, Des and Joyce Gilfillan, enough for their help and giving us somewhere to hold it," she said.

"Our sponsors have been fantastic, too... this just couldn't happen without them."

Admission is by gold coin donation with entertainment starting at midday and going through to 5pm and patrons need to take their own chairs.

"This is my third year running this fundraiser," Maurren said, and last year I was overwhelmed with the response and support it got."


Queensland Champs to star in park concert

Among the many special events to be held under the banner of Coca Cola Concerts in Tamworth's Hands of Fame Park this year will be Queensland Champion of Champions Winners Showcase on Wednesday, January 23 at 7pm.

The concert will feature the top juvenile, junior and senior Queensland Champions as well as other special guests.

Juvenile Champion Kiara Rodrigues, Junior Champion Rehanna Leschke and Champion of Champions Lance Coassin (pictured) will all perform on the showcase which is a free-admission event.

"It is wonderful to get the support from people such as Capital News, Rural Press and the Coca-Cola Concerts in the Park," said Champs Event Manager Paul Wilson. "This shows the credibility that the Queensland Champion of Champions has in the Australian country music industry."

The concert will be hosted by multi-Golden Guitar winner Deniese Morrison.

Hands of Fame Park is in the centre of Tamworth at the corner of Kable Avenue and Brisbane Street diagonally opposite the Regent Theatre.

"Please come along and support the Queensland winners," Paul said, "and see some of the best talent on the planet."

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2008 Golden Fiddle Awards finalists

Finalists in the 2008 Golden Fiddle Awards have been announced.

They are...

For Best Band – Ben the Hoose, Blue Drag, Crooked Fiddle Band, Davidson Brothers, Shenzo's Electric Stunt Orchestra and Sydney Lyric Orchestra.

For Best Band CD – Blue Drag with I'll See You There, Davidson Brothers (pictured) with Davidson Brothers, Fourplay with Now To The Future, George Washingmachine Quartet with Room 301 Sessions and Jigzag with In The Middle.

For Composition – The Bostocks with Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Bostocks, Hamish & Lachlan Davidson with Tipsy Gypsy, Shenton Gregory of Fourplay with Now To The Future, Clare O'Meara of Fiddlers Feast with Arachnareelia, Nigel Maclean of Blue Drag with Jasmin and Caroline Trengove & Greg Bryce of Jigzag with Tsunami Surfing.

For Best Solo CD – Michael Kerin with The Dining Room Sessions, Nigel Maclean with I'll See You There and George Washingmachine with Room 301 Sessions.

For Best Soloist – Shenton Gregory, Adrian Keating, Nigel Maclean and George Washingmachine.

For Best Teacher – Jan Cooper and Phil Rooke.

For Youth Achievement – The Bostocks, Emma Luker and Christopher Porteus.

The 2008 Golden Fiddle Awards will be presented at West Tamworth League Club at 11am Thursday, January 24.

Tickets can be purchased on-line at

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ABC Music signs Sinead

Sinead Burgess – one of the Australian music industry’s most promising young talents, has announced that she has now signed a recording deal with ABC Music.

"A vocalist, guitarist, piano player and songwriter with unquestionable star quality, Sinead Burgess is both a vibrant and sincere performer with a commanding presence both on and off stage," said Tim Holland, ABC Music Country Label Manager.

"Despite only just finishing school, she’s already supported the likes of James Blundell and Graeme Connors and was a Tamworth Camerata Junior Country Music School Graduate in 2006. And it was only the major floodwaters in the Gympie region which stopped her from debuting on the main stage at the 2007 Gympie Music Muster," Tim said.

Sinead has won a swag of awards at prestigious local talent quests including the Caboolture Urban Country Talent Quest, Glasshouse Mountains Tavern Talent Quest, Queensland Champion of Champions, Pioneer Village Country Music Club Festival and Gympie Muster Maton Talent Search. She was also a grand finalist in the 2007 Telstra Road to Tamworth competition.

"When I saw Sinead perform at the Telstra Road To Tamworth finals in 2007, I knew she was an incredibly special performer and we are thrilled that she’s now an ABC Music label artist," Tim said.

A debut single from Sinead on the label is expected mid 2008, "and plenty more from her after that".

She will be making regular appearances at the 2008 Tamworth Country Music Festival.

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The Noll Brothers album launch

The Noll Brothers will launch their debt album – A Country Heart – at a series of shows in Tamworth during the upcoming Festival.

The world is practically unrecognisable from what it was five years ago, said a spokesman for then trio. "Back then, they were working farmers with a nice little sideline in the form of a family band which allowed them the opportunity to travel rural Australia pleasing crowds with their rowdy mix of good time rock and country.

"Then came Australian Idol which catapulted Shannon, the youngest of the brothers, into the spotlight.  Damian and Adam, the elder brothers went on to play in Shannon’s band for the next three years."

Damian, younger than Adam by three years, had written a song for Shannon’s debut album and the encouragement he received from that led to he and Adam writing wherever and whenever they could.

Produced by Craig  Porteils, A Country Heart was recorded in Sydney’s Velvet Sound Studios. Nine of 12 tracks were written by the Noll brothers, "each reflecting their love of driving and energetic country music as well as the stripped back rock recalling the likes of John Mellencamp, who was so popular with the boys when growing up".

For details of The Noll Brothers Tamworth shows, visit our On Tour page.

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New country music club for Young

A new country music club has started near Young, NSW, called the Cherry Capital Country Music Association or Triple CMA.

The club's first meeting was held in November where a committee was elected comprising Terry Ellis (President), Mark Summerfield (Vice-President), Kerry Summerfield (Secretary), Michelle Severs (Treasurer) and committee members including Annette Allen, Brendan and Vicki Andrews from Wallendbeen, Patrick and Louise Mustonen also from Wallendbeen, Steve McGlynn and Nicole Starr.

Junior members are Kaylee-Rose and Jayson Andrews, Leah and Dom Ellis, Nioka and Owen Fuller, Dean and Chelsea Moore, Max and Charlie Mustonen, Triston and Katie Severs, Trudi Summerfield and Mikayla Starr.

The committee has already been busy with incorporation with main objective being "To encourage, develop and promote Australian country music in Young, Wallendbeen, Cootamundra, Harden and district". "In particular, we intend to promote our junior members by participating in talent quests, fundraisers, performing at functions and by example from older members" said a club spokesman.

A club fundraising activity was held at the Wallendbeen Pub on Christmas Eve.

The Club is gaining community support, including from Michael Croke at M & M’s Music at Young who has donated the use of his musical equipment for monthly musters.

"Our first major function will be a talent quest to be held on Saturday April 5," the spokesman said. "This will be a fantastic event with prizemoney and a special guest judge who has been nominated for two Golden Guitars at this year’s Tamworth Country Music Festival, including Female Artist of the Year and Maton New Talent of the Year.

"Our Club will be holding two musters in Cootamundra at the Cootamundra Ex-Servicemen’s & Citizens Memorial Club in Parker Street. The first is on Sunday February 3, the second on Sunday February 24 from 2pm.  There will be a variety of performers and we invite supporters of country music to come along and enjoy a great afternoon."



Tamworth Country Music Festival Countdown under way

Today marks the first day of the period known as the Countdown to the annual Tamworth Country Music Festival, the seven days leading to the official start of Australia's biggest country music event, arguably one of the two biggest country music festivals in the world and one of the top 10 global music festivals.

The American Country Music Association's Music Festival in Nashville in June is touted as the world's biggest, but a close look at how figures are calculated there indicates that on purely attendance and involvement terms, there is probably little difference between the two.

Visitors have been streaming into Tamworth – Australia's Country Music Capital – since late last year with the city's festival camping grounds opening up today for the thousands who will live there for some time (if not the whole 10 days and more) of the upcoming festival.

In the coming week, dozens of venues will feature numerous events to cater for the early crowds before the giant Festival Opening Concert next Friday night, the important Roll of Renown Concert on the first Saturday of the festival and Toyota Star Maker on the Sunday (among many other activities).

Tamworth Mayor James Treloar (pictured) has issued an official early welcome to visitors and an open invitation for the 50,000 plus who will make Tamworth Country Music 2008 one of their earliest experiences in the New Year – a tradition many now follow every year.

– Editor


Ambitious plan to capture Tamworth-bound music lovers

Wauchope NSW's local paper the "Wauchope Gazette" meanwhile has reported on an ambitious plan to capture country music lovers on their way to Tamworth this January.

And "the event" is set to be held this weekend at the Wauchope Showground.

Wauchope country music enthusiast and 2WAY FM presenter Joy Lewis, one of the faces behind the plan, said the event was designed to promote independent country music artists to the Tamworth-bound country music enthusiasts.

"There is a genuine market out there to promote independent artists," she said. "Wauchope (near Port Macquarie) is well placed to capture those people travelling to Tamworth … and we believe that promoting independent artists is the best way to entice people to come here for a weekend.

"This weekend co-incides with the lead up to the Tamworth Country Music Festival and will also complement the new Slim Dusty Way which takes travellers through Wauchope," a spokesman said.

"We are within a days drive to Tamworth and we are targeting those people who want to spend a weekend listening to genuine country music.

"We already have local artists including Chainsaw, Nashie and Craig Stewart (pictured) indicating they will participate this weekend. Graham Rodger will be here if he can organise his recording sessions around our dates. Craig Giles is hoping to be able to make it for the Sunday."

Camping is available at the showground.


Chart update – Sara – four weeks at number one

Sara Storer scores her fourth week at number one on the coming week's Country Tracks Top 30 singles chart with her current hit Land Cries Out.

Harmony James jumps two places to number two with Somebody Stole My Horse while Adam Harvey and Jetty Road are down one each to three and four with, respectively, Someone Else's Dream and I Wanna Go Home.

America's Kenny Chesney is up one to five with Don't Blink, Amber Lawrence is up three places to six with Gonna Fly and The McClymonts' Save Yourself is at seven.

Carrie Underwood is down to eight with So Small while Beccy Cole and Gina Jeffreys bound into the top 10 at nine and 10 with, respectively, Lifeboat and The Truth About Lies.

Bullet performers for the week include Travis Collins with Don't Win Enough (20 to 17), Lee Kernaghan's Sassafras Gap (24 to 19), Shea Fisher's Cowgirl In My Jeans (26 to 22), Troy Cassar-Daley's Last Mile Home (29 to 23), James Blundell's Nature's Gentleman (28 to 25) and Catherine Britt's Little Wildflower (new at 27).

Other new entries to the chart for the coming week include Camille Te Nahu & Stuie French (pictured) with All I Ever Need Is You (in at 30).

The Top 30 Countdown goes to air Sunday nights on CMR (Country Music Radio) on the Super Radio Network. The full chart can be viewed at



Pregnancy confirmed

Nicole Kidman's pregnancy, as reported here several weeks ago, has been confirmed.

Together with husband of 18 months or so Keith Urban, Nicole is reportedly due to have the couple's first baby around July.

Nicole's agent Wendy Day received a phone call from the Hollywood star confirming the rumours, saying the couple are thrilled at the prospect.

Nicole was scheduled to begin shooting the post World War II drama "The Reader" this month, but concerns about the welfare of her unborn child led her to quit the film.


SNC dominates ratings again

In the latest national radio survey results, ABC's "Saturday Night Country" has again dominated ratings in its timeslot.

"The last survey figures for 2007 have again proved that 'Saturday Night Country' is the most listened to of any country music radio shows in Australia," said John Nutting (pictured), host of the program for the last 15 years.

John said he was delighted with the result which "proved that Australian country music was continuing its growth and acceptance by
Australian listeners."

The following figures show a percentage share of all AM and FM stations in mainland capital cities...

Adelaide at 9.3 percent, Brisbane at 14 percent, Melbourne at 10.1 percent, Perth at 5.3 percent and Sydney at 9 percent.

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Final call for Festival Queen entrants

Organisers of the Telstra Queen of Country Music Quest have issued a final call for entries into the 2008 quest.

At last report, there were still a number of vacancies, but entries were due to close tomorrow (Friday, January 10).

With more than $36,000 worth of prizes to be won, the 2008 Quest is one of the great traditions of the Tamworth Festival where 25 young ladies aim to be crowned the Telstra Queen or Princess of Country Music.

The entrants act as Festival ambassadors for the Tamworth region and the Tamworth Country Music Festival presented by Telstra. "It’s a great way to meet people and form friendships," said Jodie McKenna on behalf of the organisers, Tamworth Regional Council.

"Entrants get the chance to be involved in and behind the scenes of the top 10 music festivals in the world."

The quest runs throughout the Festival culminating in a gala crowning dinner. "The 2008 Telstra Queen of Country Music then has a year of celebrity and activities that take her on a journey of official and informal duties," Jodie said. "The queen will also get the chance to travel to New Zealand to visit the annual Gore Country Music Festival mid year."

Entry forms (including entry conditions/requirements) are available on Council's Festival website (click here). The quest is open to women aged 18 ore more and who intend to reside in the Tamworth Regional Council area in 2008.

Entrants can be sponsored by their employer or a community organisation and the 2008 entry fee is $180 (including GST).

"The 2008 Telstra Queen of Country Music Quest is an excellent promotional opportunity for the sponsor as it provides great exposure throughout the Festival," said Jodie.

Any queries can be directed to the team at Council's Events Management Unit on 02 6767 5220, email or ring mobile 0438 886 307.

The Queen of Country Music Quest was established in 1984 by the Tamworth & District Chamber of Commerce & Industry. The quest is now part of the events run by Tamworth Regional Council.

Photo: 2007 Queen of Country Music Leanne Coddington (left) and Princess (runner-up) Katie Alchin.


Cutting Edge Music Talent Search ready to roll 

The Cutting Edge Music (CEM) Talent Search (formerly the Cavalier Music Talent Search) is all set to happen for Tamworth Country Music Festival 2008.

The Search is taking place on the Cutting Edge Music Stage upstairs at The Tudor Hotel in Peel Street, "in the hub of the festival".

Response to the Talent Search has been described as both positive and substantial by organisers with entries coming in for both youth and open sections.

"Further entries are invited as spaces are still available in this exciting revamped, renamed and relocated talent search," said a spokesman for the organisers.

The CEM Talent Search runs with heats on Wednesday and Thursday January 23 and 24 and the final on Friday January 24.

"The backing band, under the direction of Dave Brookes, is primed to take the contestants through the heats and into the final," the spokesman said. "Dave, through his long-term involvement with Talent Search, has seen future stars such as Simon Bruce, The McClymonts (pictured) and others hone their craft.

"Under Dave’s professional guidance, the Talent Search will continue to be an excellent launch pad for artists to gain experience in performance and stagecraft.

"Established for 10 years, the Talent Search has become an integral part of the Tamworth Country Music Festival and an essential ingredient in unearthing new talent."

Substantial prize packages are in place for those successful in taking out the top places. Major sponsor Cutting Edge Music is providing Levinson Blade electric guitars for the winners of both sections. Runners up receive cash prizes and incentives.

Further information can be obtained from Karen Frost on 0418 205 830 or 02-6768 9239 or by emailing


Tracy hits the Frog & Toad

Tracy Coster will be making her annual trip to Tamworth again this year presenting a new show at the Frog & Toad Function Centre on Country Music Capital's Sydney Road.

Shows run at 3pm daily from Friday to Friday January 18 to 25 and will feature lead guitarist Scott Donaldson, who hails from Toowoomba, Qld, and was one of the first artists to graduate from the Australian College of Country Music. "Scott’s playing draws on the styles of Barry Thornton and Lindsay Butler," Tracy said, "and is featured in several instrumentals through out the show."

Joining Scott on stage will be rising Queensland star Mitchell King, "who is not only a great singer but a multi-instrumentalist," Tracy said. "Mitch, too, is a graduate of the College... and is definitely one to watch. With strong vocals and red hot fiddle and mandolin skills, this boy is going places."

Tracy, Scott and Mitch have been touring together during the past 18 months but this will be the first time they have brought the show to Tamworth and all say they are very much looking forward to playing the Frog & Toad.

"In addition to this, Roger Corbett, singer, songwriter and bass guitarist from the Bushwackers, will be making a guest appearance or two and will no doubt delight audiences with his stories in song," said Tracy who will be performing songs from her award-winning album Coster Country and her current collection of songs from her latest release I Don’t Want To Talk About Rain, together with a "whole new set of songs in the mix".

Tickets for Tracy’s shows are available at the door. Pre bookings can be made by telephoning The Frog & Toad Function Centre on 02 6765 7022.

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A Tamworth first for Pixie

He’s performed in all types of venues from tiny outback halls to the largest city theatres, and now Pixie Jenkins is fulfulling a lifelong dream – to hold court at the famed Tamworth Town Hall.

In a first for the Golden Guitar-winning musician, Pixie will present one concert only during the Tamworth Country Music Festival instead of his usual frantic 10 shows in 10 days – and it’s at 9am on Thursday, January 24.

"I just felt it was time to scale down my Tamworth schedule," Pixie said. "Doing 10 shows in 10 days was both exhausting and exhilarating, but when the Town Hall vacancy came up, I jumped at the chance. I’ve worked at the Town Hall on any number of shows over the years, but to have my own show there will be a first. And after 25 plus years in the business, to have a career first, is quite exciting."

Mind you, the size of that historic venue could be daunting for some, but not for our fearless fiddling firecracker. "I’ve been face to face with Charlie Daniels – well, actually, it was face to navel … so a big old Town Hall full of seats doesn’t scare little old me," Pixie said.

For 50 weeks of every year, Pixie is on the road, doing what he does best – entertain. He has developed a one-man show that’s a combination of edgy comedy, strong vocal delivery of a wide range of all time favourite standard songs and, of course, that fiery fiddle. These concerts have been sellouts from Tasmania to the Territory and all points in between.

Although he was born in Launceston, Tamworth was Pixie’s home for a number of years and it was where he entered Hadley Studio to put down his first fiddle track on a Rick & Thel Carey session. It’s the place where Pixie has staged his highly successful Pixieland Country Theatre concerts, arguably the most successful independent venue in the Country Music Capital. Tamworth is also where Pixie earnt a string of Golden Guitar awards for his amazing wizardry on the fiddle.

"He’ll make you laugh. He’ll make you cry. He might even make you blush," said a spokesman for the artist. "But rest assured, when you leave a Pixie Jenkins concert, you’ll walk out the door with a great big smile on your face knowing you’ve been thoroughly entertained by one heck of a showman."

Tickets for Pixie's Tamworth 2008 Town Hall show are available from Tourism Tamworth on (02) 6767 5300 or on-line at the  


TIARAs recognise independents

Throughout the decade since their inception, the TIARAs (Tamworth Independent Artist Recognition Awards) have recognised independent artists foremost during the annual Tamworth Country Music Festival.

"In 2008, the Awards move to the Brisbane Street location of the Regent Theatre and supports the Regent Theatre Country Live concept also home to the innovative People’s Choice Awards, and brings great country entertainment and major award shows back into the heart of the city similar to a time gone by when entertainment was a gala affair," said a spokesman for the organisers.

"For country music lovers, you can expect some of the best to appear on the TIARAs stage in 2008. Last year’s 10th anniversary Male Vocal winner Lee Forster (pictured) heads the billing of independent artists appearing. Lee is joined by Diana Corcoran (pictured), one of our best imported Tamworth talents and Aaron Bolton, a certainty on the entertainment list plus the Blue Dog Show Band."

The event will be hosted by 2007 Broadcasters' Hall of Fame inductee Alan Clement.

"Nominees from all states are attending one of the most important nights on the country music calendar for predominately self managed and self funded artists," the spokesman said. "From the Northern Territory, Harmony James, South Australia Danny Hooper and Peter Warner, to the far west to West Australian nominees Terry & Jenny Bennetts, each of these artists compete with the best from Australia’s eastern states 10 from Victoria, 11 from NSW and an incredible 13 artists from Queensland.

"For a night of nights, join Australia’s top independent recording artists at the 11th annual Blue Dog TIARAs on Tuesday January 22 at 8pm."

Tickets are available from The Regent on 02 6766 3162.

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Victorian Awards top five finalists announced

Organisers of the Victorian & National Country Music Awards have announced their top five finalists for 2008.

In the Victorian sections, Mike Brady, David Carter, Greg Champion, Paul Costa and Peter Denahy are vying for Male Vocalist of the Year while Ann-Marita, Merelyn Carter, Rebecca Lee Nye, Brianna Ridge and Gail Smith are up for the Female Vocal crown.

Carter & Carter (pictured), Crakajak, Donna Fisk & Harry Jon Nanos, Jetty Road and Rodney Vincent & Michael Cristian are finalists for Group/Duo while the top five for Album of the Year are The Battler by Steve Eales (pictured), Dirt Road – City Lights by Jetty Road, Intuition by Ann-Marita, Leap Before You Look by Carter & Carter and The Shack Tapes by Greg Champion.

In the national sections, David Carter, Travis Collins, Paul Costa, Adam Harvey and Lee Kernaghan are finalists for Male Vocal while Merelyn Carter, Beccy Cole, Nicki Gillis, Harmony James and Tamara Stewart are finalists for Female Vocal of the Year.

For Group of the Year, finalists are Crakajak, Jetty Road, Jonah’s Road, Keri McInerney, Steve Eales & Michael O’Rourke and The McClymonts. Finalists for Duet of the Year are Carter & Carter with Slow Dancing At Midnight, Rose Carleo & Drew McAlister with Sometimes You Just Know, Donna Fisk & Harry Jon Nanos with Somewhere Between The Truth And Goodbye, Stephen Rowe & Tania Kernaghan with Let’s Fall In Love Again, Rodney Vincent & Allan Caswell with Since The City Came To Town.

Finalists for the Hawking Brothers’ Best New Talent award are Morgan Evans, Shea Fisher, Danny Hooper, Harmony James and Brianna Ridge while vying for Bush Ballad of the Year are Tom Curtain with Days Roll By, Harmony James with Home, Amos Morris with Sign Of The Times, Peter Pratt with Willoughby and Craig Stewart with Only The Two Of Us Here Tonight.

Finalists for The Trailblazers Heritage Award are Anthony Classen with Take A Chance, Greg Champion with Been There Done That, Peter Denahy with The Ringing Of The Steel, Harmony James with Home and Lee Kernaghan, Adam Brand & Steve Forde with Spirit Of The Bush.

Carter & Carter are finalists for Best Independent Release with Leap Before You Look, together with Greg Champion (The Shack Tapes), Paul Costa (A Lover’s Question), Jetty Road (Dirt Road – City Lights) and Jonah’s Road (Counting Down The Days).

For Bluegrass & Traditional Country, finalists are Greg Champion with Undying Flower, Peter Denahy with The Ringing Of The Steel, Nicki Gillis with Watch The Wildflowers Grow, Dianne Lindsay with Teardrops On The River and Amos Morris with The River.

For Instrumental Of The Year… Cowpoke with Chicken On The Bone, Crakajak with The Lunger, Steve Eales with Maton Heaven, Michael Fix with Hobbity Hol and Ruckus with Black and White.

Finalists for Songwriters Composition Of The Year are Been There Done That (Champion), Save Yourself (McClymont/Anders/Bruce), Somebody Else’s Dream (Harvey/McCormack), Spirit Of The Bush (Kernaghan/Porter/Buchanan) and Tailwind (James).


Cook River Club looking to a big country year

The Cook River Motor Boat Club in Sydney is looking forward to a big 2008 as a full time country music venue.

From February 1, the entertainment commences with Friday nights to feature "the best bands" at the Club which is located in Holbeach Avenue, Tempe.

Thursday nights will feature a music jam while sometimes there will be theme nights, according to the Club, "including a steel guitar night, a surf guitar night and special nights where we will remember the greats of our musical heritage."

Line dancing will be held at the Club on Tuesday nights.

Some Saturday nights, the Club will be presenting bands visiting from out of town, such as Andy Baylor (pictured), The Detonators and Johnny Green’s Blues Cowboys.

On Sunday February 3, the Club will be hosting a "Tamworth Recovery Party with two bands, Wildseed and The Blue Miustangs.

At this year's Tamworth Festival, WildSeed have secured three top 10 finalist placings in the People's Choice Awards for Best Group, Best Album and Best Song (The Fire). They are also top five finalists in the Tamworth Independent Artist Recognition Awards (TIARAs) for best Group. The Blue Mustangs are a new band mixing country, rockabilly and rock 'n' roll.

Another importantdate for the Club is Sunday February 24 when the annual Les Scott Memorial Jam will be staged. Rob Lucky & the Lucky Bastards will be backing artists including Leslie Avril, Hunter & Suzie Owens and Bryen Willems.



Victoria at Tamworth '08

Victoria McGee is set to release her debut album You'll Remember Me during the upcoming Tamworth Country Music Festival.

Victoria's recent successes have included a top five placing in Network Ten's television talent quest "The X Factor" and reaching the top 30 of Australian Idol in 2005.

Featuring 11 previously unreleased tracks, Victoria's album was produced by Nashville guitar legend, now Australian based, Louie Shelton. Louie has produced gold and platinum albums for artists including Lionel Richie and Seals & Croft and, in Australia, acts like the Wolverines who took out the Best Album gong at last year's Australian Country Music People's Choice Awards in Tamworth.

Victoria will be teaming up with Louie during the festival for a show called "The Legend & The Lady" which, Victoria says: "I believe is a fabulous opportunity for country music lovers to see a true legend of the music industry".

The shows will be held at The Cattleman Steakhouse on the Sydney Road on the southern outskirts of the city and will alo be the venue for Victoria's album launch.

The debut single from the album – Run With It – has been released to radio nationally with a film clip currently airing on CMC.

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The Territory comes to Tamworth

Northern Territory artists will be showcased at two events during the upcoming Tamworth Country Music Festival.

The annual Northern Territory Night, hosted by Tracey Bunn (Toe Sucking Cowgirls) and Music NT is back after a short hiatus. This year's show – "Barkly Diamonds and Arafura Pearls" at the Family Hotel at 6pm on Sunday January 20 will be "bigger and better than ever with the very best of what the Territory has to offer," according to a spokesman for the organisers.

The Night will feature rising star and New Talent Golden Guitar finalist nominee Harmony James (pictured), "charismatic larrikin" Tom Curtain (pictured) performing songs from his new album Heatwave, country rocker Matt Scullion and newcomer Leah Flanagan who won Best Emerging Artist at this year's Indigenous Music Awards.

Rumour has it that Neil Murray will join the artists performing and, for fans of the Toe Sucking Cowgirls, Tracey says she thinks she may have been able to twist Gleny's arm into getting up for a few "old favourites".

"Plus there'll be some surprise guests turning up to perform a song or two inspired by their time in the Top End.

Tickets for the show are $15 from Tourism Tamworth or by phone on 02 6767 5300 or $20 at the door.

The second show is titled "From The Top End Down" and will run at the Hogs Breath Cafe upstairs function room from 12 noon on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, January 21, 22 and 23.

This show will highlight "fabulous female songstresses" from the Territory – Tracey Bunn, Harmony James and Leah Flanagan – presenting their award winning songs in an informal unplugged pass-the-guitar-type concert.

Tickets for this event are $25 and include a meal, available from Liam on 02 6766 9522.




Tribute concert for Shorty

As part of the Australian Bush Balladeers Association (ABBA) week of entertainment at "The Balladeers Homestead" during the 2008 Tamworth Festival will be a special Shorty Ranger Tribute Fundraiser with all funds raised going to the Kempsey Shorty Ranger Bronze Bust Committee.

ABBA is staging the event on Sunday January 20 at 7.30pm at "The Homestead" – the Salvation Army Hall on the Sydney Road. Admission will be $20 per person.

Artists appearing will include Greg Bain, Charley Boyter, Lindsay Butler, Peter Coad & The Coad Sisters, The Durdins, Bluey Francis, Warren Mahoney, Julie Perandes, Lorraine Pfitzner, Reg Poole and The Young Balladeers (Nathan Charlton, Matt Manning, Dan Manning and Amos Morris). The Charley Boyter Band will provide backing, compere will be Paul Rowe.

All artists will be performing Shorty Ranger material... songs from Shorty's vast reportoire of more than 1,000 compositions, many of which have been recorded by mainstream artists such as Slim Dusty, Lee Kernaghan, Reg Lindsay, Reg Poole, John Vaughan, Buddy Williams and many more.

Shorty's famous Winter Winds, which has been recorded by artists overseas as well as in Australia, is guaranteed to be performed on the day.

"Shorty Ranger OAM – "The Singing Wanderer" – was a major contributor to the on-going success of Australian and bush ballad music for the last 60 years," said a spokesman for ABBA.

"This Tamworth 2008 fundraiser concert will enable artists and bush ballad supporters the opportunity to make a lasting contribution to Shorty Ranger's memory in thanks for all the great songs he wrote and his lifetime of dedication to Australian country music."

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Tamworth Golf Club's festival entertainment

Tamworth Golf Club will feature a range of entertainment during the upcoming festival in Country Music Capital.

The Club is boasting some of the best value ticketed shows of the festival and is also offering "a selection of quality free shows from Tuesday through to Friday" of the main Festival week.

Scots-born singer/songwriter Karl Broadie (pictured), a 2008 Golden Guitar and People's Choice Awards finalist, kick-starts the live, free and acoustic concerts at 8.30pm Tuesday, January 22. Then on Thursday night, there’s twice the entertainment with Hunter Valley singer/songwriter Kellie Cain at 8pm followed by two sets of original music from South Australia’s Huckleberry Swedes.

Sydneysiders Southbound crank up the party on Friday from 7.30pm for a night of country rock. Todd Atkinson leads this new combination of hot players that plays everywhere from B&S balls to corporate functions.

Tamworth’s favourite yarnspinners, The Naked Poets – Marco Gliori, Murray Hartin, Shirley Friend, Ray Essery and Pat Drummond – return to deliver two evening and six daytime concerts at the Golf Club. "One never knows quite what to expect from a Naked Poets concert, so enter at your own risk! And with only two evening shows, tickets are selling fast," said a Club spokesman.

"A terrific trio of bushmen will present two tailor-made concerts on the final weekend of the festival – 11am on both Saturday and Sunday, January 26 and 27. These three-hour events feature the talents of Tom Curtain, Dave Prior and John O’Dea and will reveal the real Australia in story and in song with humour and story songs that will make you laugh, cry and feel proud to be an Australian."

Texas Rose, "whose shows have become the stuff of legends over the past decade in Tamworth", is working exclusively with Tamworth Golf Club to offer members and their guests three special events – Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday, January 20, 23 and 26. "With a full band, these concerts are sure to be bigger than Texas!"

The final show at the Golf Club is a concert that’s become something of a Festival tradition – the Hired Hands Reunion on Sunday evening, January 27. "The Hands" formed in Tamworth on New Year’s Eve in 1979 and, although it’s been many years since they’ve ceased performing together, their annual reunion in Tamworth always brings about some memorable musical moments.

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Vale – Lyn McKenzie

NSW Central Coast television, recording and touring artist Lyn McKenzie has died.

Lyn, who, it is understood, had been battling cancer for a number of months, died on January 1.

Together with her group Bandolin, Lyn was well known at festivals around Australasia as was her duo act with Chad Plane, Mixed Brew. Lyn also hosted a radio program on 2CCC-FM.

In recent years, Lyn escorted tour parties to festivals at Gore (NZ) and Norfolk Island where she performed as a guest artist.

A foundation member and current President of the Central Coast Country Music Association, Lyn will be much missed among the Central Coast and wider music community.

Lyn's funeral will be held at McKays Funeral Home, Ourimbah, at 2.30pm on Monday (January 7).


Program released for Illawarra Folk Festival

The program for the 2008 Illawarra Folk Festival has been released.

Historic Slacky Flat at Bulli Showgrounds (NSW) will burst into party mode from January 17 to 20 when more than 500 performers converge on the town for the award-winning festival.

"Folk festivals are unique," said a spokesman for the organisers, "they are highly enjoyable, hugely entertaining and an absolute blast – all in all they really are just one big reason to join in a massive party!"

The Illawarra festival is now in its 23rd year of showcasing some of the leading folk music, song, verse and dance, storytelling, events and instrument workshops available in Australia and the world. "With a diverse range of cultures and a hearty dose of both the old and the new, there is something for everyone to savour at the 23rd Illawarra Folk Festival," the spokesman said.

"Bulli Showground, north of Wollongong,will be transformed into a magical world of festive colour and song. Whether it’s just for one day or four, come be part of the continuing tradition, established in 1985 and now an integral part of the Illawarra identity."

After moving on from its original venue in Jamberoo, this will be the third time the festival has been held at the Bulli Showground.

"Wander around the 12 festival venues at your leisure, as you make the difficult decision from the vast array of choices on offer of who to see, what to do and where to play! The Illawarra Folk Festival has events for everyone, young, old and in between. Tots are included, no-one is excluded."

This year's program includes artists like Eric Bogle, John Broomhall, Bernard Carney, Counterfeit Gypsies, Joe Dolce, Pat Drummond, Kate Fagan, Frencham Smith, Karen Lynne & Acoustic Shock, Martin Pearson, The Rhythm Hunters, Chloe and Jason Roweth, Wongawilli and the Wheeze & Suck Band.

The festival will also host an array of international artists including the Appalachian Whitetop Mountaineers from America, Gary Og from Scotland, Nano Stern from Chile, Sanskriti& Dheeraj Shrestha from Nepal, SONiA and Disappear Fear from the US, Bajaly Suso from Gambia and the Tete Adehyemaa Dance Theatre from Ghana.

Special guest this year will be Dog Trumpet with Reg Mombassa. In a coup for a folk festival, Reg has also provided the festival image artwork.

"We are privileged to be welcoming lots of new friends from around the nation such as Bruce Mathiske, The Band Who Knew Too Much, The Nester Lou and Slim Knackers Show, The Go Set, Lolo Levina, Squeezebox Boogaloo, Karl Broadie, The Miles to Go Band, Mothers of Intention, The Fourth Realm, Franklyn B Paverty, Zorba’s Kefi Band and Tangocentric."

Some of the Festival's feature highlights will be the Poets Breakfast, a Comedy and Limerick Competition, Tripe Eaters Association Dinner and Concert, Italian Lunch, Festival Parade, World Dance Party, Youth Folk Project and Australian folk instrument makers display. "The dance program is also packed. You can choose from bush dancing to African; Contra to Belly Dance; Morris to Irish jigging and much much more to be held on a specially dedicated dance floor..."

The Showground venue is within easy walking distance from train and bus services, camping is available for a flat fee of $15 per person, but spots are limited and there is plenty of free parking available on-site.

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Chart update – Sara's third week at the top

Sara Storer (pictured) is at number one for the third week on the coming week's Country Tracks Top 30 singles chart with Land Cries Out, the hit debut single release from her new Silver Skies album.

Adam Harvey, Jetty Road and Harmony James all move up one place each to two, three and four with, respectively, Someone Else's Dream, I Wanna Go Home and Somebody Stole My Horse.

The McClymonts number two from last week – Save Yourself – is down to five while America's Kenny Chesney and Carrie Underwood hold down sixth and seventh places with Don't Blink and So Small.

Brooks & Dunn's Proud Of The House We Built is down to eight while Amber Lawrence bounds into the top 10 at nine with Gonna Fly and Morgan Evans' Big Skies is steady at 10.

Bullet performers for the week include Jonah's Road with All Mine (21 to 18), Travis Collins with Don't Win Enough (23 to 20), Cat Southern with Little Miss Understood (24 to 21), Peter Denahy's The Ringing Of Steel (27 to 23) and Lee Kernaghan's Sassafras Gap (29 to 24).

New entries to the chart for the coming week include Troy Cassar-Daley with Last Mile Home (in at 29).

The Top 30 Countdown goes to air Sunday nights on CMR (Country Music Radio) on the Super Radio Network. The full chart can be viewed at



Australia’s newest country music radio station

NSW Central Coast community radio station 94.1 FM has been taken over by a new team of community members and local country music stars and rebranded "todayscountry94one".

As of late November, the station, is being managed by a board that includes country star Adam Harvey and award winning producer and musician Rod McCormack. The new team is re-vamping the format of the station to include more Australian acts, more local acts and more emerging artists, as well as increasing the focus on community news and sport.

"Given the wealth of talent in the local community, the station is pleased to be able to enlist local musicians such as Adam Harvey, Kasey Chambers, Shane Nicholson, Bill Chambers, Gina Jeffreys and Beccy Cole to broadcast regular shows on the station," a spokesman said.

The shows will also be available for syndication across the country. And, "as an added bonus for country music fans all around the world, 'todayscountry94one' is also streamed on the internet, so you don’t have to live in 'Hillbilly Heaven' on the NSW Central Coast to pick up these great shows."

The first show to be produced is by Bill Chambers and called "Hickory Wind". "It was a huge success and generated enormous feedback to the station," the spokesman said. "This was followed by the 'Adam Harvey Christmas Special' which featured many of Australia’s country music stars talking to Adam and spreading Christmas cheer."

A strong focus of community participation will be a major aspect of the new station. Community representation on the board includes a local council planner, a solicitor, firefighter and accountant, all of whom are country music fans and supporters of local artists.

"Board member 'Fireman Ron' will be hosting a regular 'Community Spotlight' program introducing listeners to people who help our community. Local character and comedian Dave 'Prousty' Proust will be hosting a regular feature called 'Prousty’s Comedy Corner' featuring some of the best local and Australian comedy tracks.

"'todayscountry94one' looks forward to becoming one of the most influential and popular community radio stations in Australia."

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Fundraising commences for Shirley's bronze bust

Fundraising has begun to erect the bust of country music pioneer Shirley Thoms in Country Music Capital’s Bicentennial Park.

Recognised as the first solo Australian female country recording artist, Shirley was elevated to the Country Music Roll of Renown – the nation's highest country music honour – in 1980.

The announcement of Shirley as the fifth to be honoured with a bonze bust follows the announcement late last year that the bust of Barry Thornton would be unveiled during this year's Tamworth Country Music Festival. It will be officially handed over to the Tamworth Regional Council by the Country Capital Bronze Bust Committee chaired by Lorraine Pfitzner.

"With the completion of Barry’s bronze bust, fundraising has started in earnest for Shirley's," Lorraine said. "This will be quite a significant bust, as it is our first female pioneer to be honoured in this way. Shirley Thoms was known and loved by many as Australia’s yodelling sweetheart."

In 1941, at age 16, Shirley went to Sydney and recorded for the now famous red and green label Regal Zonophone. One of her most famous songs, Faithful Old Dog, emerged from this first batch of recordings.

She toured with George Sorlie’s variety shows and, during the war, entertained armed forces throughout Australia and New Zealand. During this period, she kept on writing songs and recording and later toured with Sole Bros Circus where she met her first husband John Sole.

After recording several "sides" (tracks) for the Rodeo label, Shirley gave up show business for home and family, but tragedy struck with the premature death of her husband John. The couple had only one child, a son, Peter.

In 1970, Shirley was encouraged by Tamworth radio station 2TM to come out of retirement and appear on the Captain Cook Bicentenary Show in the historic Tamworth Town Hall. This was to spur a brief re-emergence of Shirley’s career as Eric Scott of Hadley Records signed her to a recording contract. She recorded two albums with Hadley at the time, the first released in 1970, the second in 1972.

Some of the most memorable songs Shirley is remembered for include Where The Golden Wattle Blooms and Yodelling In The Moonlight.

"With the great support this Committee receives from the Australian country music public, January is the ideal time to launch Shirley’s fundraising drive," Lorraine said. "It is only through donations by individuals and organisations that we are able to honour our pioneers in this special way. The bronze busts are now a major tourist attraction in Tamworth."

The first fundraising event for the Shirley Thoms bronze bust will be a concert at Tamworth’s Salvation Army Hall, known during the Festival as The Balladeers’ Homestead, at 1pm on Wednesday, January 23. Entry is by donation of $12 per person.

Artists donating their time and talents to the cause include Jeff Brown, Lynette Guest, Dianne Lindsay, Amos Morris, Hank Sasaki and more.

Anyone wishing to donate at other times during the year can send a cheque made out to CCBB (Country Capital Bronze Busts), PO Box 1207, Tamworth 2340.



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