All roads lead to Tamworth

2015 Country Music Festival
 Brenda Gifford

All roads lead to Tamworth if you’re a country music fan! The Tamworth Country Music Festival is an annual celebration of everything country, from bluegrass and traditional through to contemporary styles. It’s also a great opportunity for the NFSA’s Indigenous Connections team to talk to musicians and bands from around Australia.

Country music is at the heart of Aboriginal music; a singalong with a guitar around the campfire is where a lot of great songs have started. That’s why I attended the festival to record a number of oral histories – in-depth interviews that provide a snapshot of current Aboriginal country music. It’s important to capture these stories and put our musicians on the record, and have their stories in the NFSA collection.

I had the pleasure of interviewing the legendary Roger Knox. He told me about his classic songs ‘Koori Rose’ and ‘The Streets of Tamworth’, his experience of touring, and the popularity of his music in the United States

Roger Knox talks to Brenda Gifford at the 2015 Tamworth Country Music Festival.

I also interviewed other stars such as Col Hardy (who spoke about his song ‘Black Tracker’, the early days of country music and his involvement in the first Tamworth awards, and his 1973 Golden Guitar award) and Frances Little (who shared her memories of her father, the late great Jimmy Little, as well as his legacy in music and Australian culture).

Other interviewees included Billy Pitt, Reuben Andrew, Dale Huddleston, Buddy Knox, and Lionel Campbell.

Freedom Ride concert
Three of our best (left to right): Roger Knox, Col Hardy, and Troy Cassar-Daley, at the Tamworth Country Music Festival Aboriginal Showcase.

A highlight of the festival was Troy Cassar-Daley’s Freedom Ride concert at the Tamworth entertainment centre. He took us on a musical journey with his killer band, featuring performances from local country music identities including Anne Kirkpatrick, Col Hardy and Roger Knox. A nice surprise was a duet with Troy on guitar and his daughter Jem Cassar-Daley singing a beautiful rendition of ‘Like Rock & Roll Radio’.

The Aboriginal Showcase featured many artists such as Warren Williams, who played a great live set which included ‘Raining on the Rock’. It was great to see the next generation of Aboriginal country musicians given the opportunity to practise their craft and develop their skills at the home of country music in Australia.

The mixture of community and good music made for a winning combination. There was everything from slide guitar, duelling banjos and some fine yodeling, to country musicians telling their stories and having a terrific time doing it. A great festival!