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NEWS January 2013

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2013 Tamworth Festival Message and Memories

The Tamworth Country Music Festival is here again and it’s hard to believe it’s my 28th Festival – there are so many great memories !

Once again the Big Bush Brekky Variety Show will kick off every day of the festival at 7.45 am at West’s Diggers Showroom with songs, comedy, special surprise guests and amazing young talent. It’s still the best way to start your festival day in Tamworth.

I can’t wait to get back on stage in the green and gold suit and sing some old favourites as well as the new songs from the recent album.  Of course there will also be verse and jokes and yarns every morning. Isn’t it GREAT to be part of a live event and not sitting at home looking at a screen ?

Joining me on the show every day are regulars like ventriloquist Darren Carr, who is the funniest man in Australia, and the amazing young singer Katelyn O’Donogue, along with Rustling Russell on piano and special surprise guests every day! I am also appearing at the Roll of Renown Concert on Saturday 19th and the Australian Bush Laureate Awards on Tuesday 22nd  – both events are at The Tamworth Town Hall.

It seems like just last year we started the morning shows at Tamworth. I have some wonderful festival memories, and oh boy, hasn’t the festival changed over the years!?

Way back in 1986 I travelled down from Inverell with other members of the Bandy Bill & Co Bushband to see if we could get some gigs at the Country Music Festival. Back then you didn’t have to arrange your gigs six months before the festival and, while having a beer in the Wests League Club, Rod Laing told us the festival was bigger than expected that year and he offered us a gig at Wests …. that afternoon!

Over the following twenty-eight years Rod became a great supporter and a good friend and we served many years together on the board of the CMAA. West’s has been my home for many festivals now and Rod probably doesn’t even remember giving me my first ever gig at the Tamworth Festival.

Within a few short years I had convinced June Smyth to try morning shows at The Longyard  and I ran the first Bush Verse morning show there in 1989. At first we ran from Thursday to Saturday but soon we started on the first weekend and it was every morning for the ten days of the festival.

By 1996 there were  other morning shows starting up and Bush Poetry was the latest ‘big thing’. In the meantime I’d had hits with Don’t Call Wagga Wagga Wagga  and  Since Cheryl Went Feral and in 1997 I started the Big Bush Brekky Variety Shows at West Tamworth League Club – with comedy, country music and surprise guests every morning.

In those early years at Wests entry to the shows was just a couple of dollars and the big air conditioned Hokker on the oval was packed every morning with up to 800 people – we had to have video relay screens so everyone could see the show!

As the Country Music industry became more professional and the costs of putting on shows at the festival went up we moved the show into a theatre environment at Wests Diggers and added new features. We always had young performers on the show and gave away guitars and other instruments as well as scholarships to the CMAA Academy of Country Music.

The Big Bush Brekky Variety Show has always had a similar formula.

A female singer always hosts the show, Casey Watt did it for a few years and then Katie Brooke, Amber Lawrence, Melanie Dyer and most recently then Katelyn O’Donoghue.

Rustling Russell, the Tinkling Terror of the Keyboards, has been the show’s piano player since we started at Wests seventeen years ago and he has toured with me for all that time also, and played on the various albums. For the past ten years another great mate, the wonderful ventriloquist and comedian Darren Carr, has also been a part of every Big Bush Brekky Variety Show.

The show has became something of an institution over the years and many people come back again and again so we try to keep it fresh while holding onto the things people enjoy. There is almost a feeling of nostalgia about the show these days. Every major star of country music has been a surprise guest at some time.

I don’t know how long the Big Bush Brekky Variety Show will continue, but it sure is fun doing it every morning of the festival and we’d love to see you all there again at this year’s Tamworth Festival.

If you see me in Tamworth, come up and say Hi!





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