[FONT="]John Robert Williamson is a country singer and songwriter with a string of awards to prove it. But he also is or has been a farmer, television personality, band leader, activist, jingle maker, movie songwriter, conservationist, producer of a musical and a general ‘all rounder’. In 1992, Williamson became a Member of the Order of Australia and in 2003, he was elected President of the Country Music Association of Australia. Leading up to that and beyond, he has accumulated forty years of service in and contribution to country music.

Williamson, born on November 1, 1945 in the Mallee district in the north western part of Victoria, was playing the ukelele at age 7 and the guitar by the time he was 12. When the family relocated to Moree in New South Wales in 1965, Williamson wrote his first song “Old Man Emu” which he sang in a local restaurant as part of his repertoire. In the program New Faces the song won first prize and a recording contract with Fable Records. As soon as it was released, the record shot to the top of the Australian music charts. Several other singles followed in the course of the next ten years.

In 1973, Williamson became the host of the television show “Travlin' Out West” which was on the air for two years. He formed his band “Crow” which, when it changed its style to rock, was renamed “Sydney Radio”. When the group disbanded, Williamson started to do the rounds of pubs playing solo. His songs, style and personality caught on and he built up a strong following. In 1985 he set up his own record label Gum Leaf Recordings. Then came his landmark album “Mallee Boy” which became a triple Platinum with many of the songs now considered as classics. Since the album was released, Williamson developed the preference to sing around a campfire. The Next year, Williamson was named by Variety Club “Entertainer of the Year” and in 1990, his [/FONT][FONT="]album “Warra[/FONT][FONT="]gul” won the ARIA Award as Best Australian Country Record.

[FONT="]The 90's was a stellar [/FONT][FONT="]year in Willi[/FONT][FONT="]amson's career. His first family album won the Award for Best Selling Album and another, “Waratah St.” was a gold even before it could be delivered to stores. He was inducted into the Roll of Renown and his song “Sir Don” for our leg[/FONT][FONT="]endary batsman Sir Donald George Bradman was adjudged the Biggest Selling Album at the Tamworth Country Music Awards. The Next year, he and an Indigenous Australian friend won the Collaboration of the Year award at Tamworth. At the end of the decade, his album “The Way It Is” won three Golden Guitar awa[/FONT][FONT="]rds, becoming Gold after only eight weeks.[/FONT]


[/FONT][FONT="]In 2003 Williamson sang “Sir Don” at the memorial service for Bradman in Adelaide. In October of the same year, at the request of the Prime Minister, he sang Waltzing Matilda at the memorial service for the 2002 Bali bombings. After Steve Irwin was killed in 2006, Williamson sang his songs “Home Among the Gum Trees” and “True Blue” at the memorial service for Irwin in the Australia Zoo Crocoseum.

In 2010, John Williamson was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame, a fitting tribute to an artist who has devoted his life to making music a meaningful experience for people everywhere.


Nashville and the CMA Music Festival

Located along the Cumberland River in Tennessee, USA, Nashville is the state's capital with a population of almost 700,000 people. Although its main industry is health care, it is best known as the Mecca of country music, and is nicknamed “Music City”. As the home of country music, Nashville is the second largest music production center in the USA, second only to New York. The city's music industry contributes almost $7 billion to its economy and employs almost 20,000 people in the Nashville area alone.

The jewel in Nashville's crown is the annual CMA Music Festival. Originally known as Fan Fair, the Festival started in 1972 and has grown to become the biggest country music event in the world. Hosted in June of every year by the Country Music Association, it is a four-day event which attracts over 400 country music artists from around the world who hold country music concerts, interact with their fans, and sign autographs for hours on end. Almost 300,000 people from more than 20 countries and 50 states of the USA attended the 2011 Festival enjoying 150 hours of concerts, over 30 hours of autograph sessions, celebrity sports competitions, family games and activities and interactive displays.

Artists perform for free at the Festival where half of the total proceeds of about $200,000 are donated to charity. In 2010, because of the floods which devastated Nashville earlier in the year, 100% of the proceeds went to charity, half for flood relief. The other half went to a program, in partnership with the Nashville Alliance for Public Education, called “Keep the Music Playing”, to support music education in public schools, and a “Words and Music” program which assists language arts and music teachers in the basics of songwriting. To date, donations by the Festival have reached almost $5 million. The 2011 CMA Music Festival is reported to have contributed $30 million to the Nashville economy.

There are many interesting sidelights in the history of the CMA Festival. Paul McCartney was the first non-country musician to perform at the Festival during its third year. At the same event, Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner sang their last duet together before ending their partnership. Singer Kathy Mattea, under doctor's orders not to speak to preserve her vocal chords, “conversed” with her fans through a computer. At the Festival's 25th anniversary, Garth Brooks had so many fans that he signed autographs for 23 hours and 10 minutes straight, without taking a single break. The Festival was renamed CMA Music Festival in 2004. When the ABC network televised a special of the event, it ranked no. 16 in the ratings, with a viewership of 9 million people.

At the 2011 Festival, the big winners were Taylor Swift for Video of the Year, The Band Perry for Breakthrough and On Your Side awards and Blake Shelton for Male Video and Best Web Video trophies. Justin Bieber and Rascal Flatts received the Collaborative Video Award (the first country music award for Bieber). The other winners were Sugarland, Lady Antebellum, and Miranda Lambert, while The Zack Brown Band and Jimmy Buffett won the CMT Performance of the Year video.

Kasey wins APRA

Kasey Chambers’ composition Little Bird has won her the 2011 APRA Country Music Work of the Year award.

Kasey took home the award ahead of Australia’s other big names in country that included McAlister Kemp, Lee Kernaghan and The McClymonts.

The recent awards in Sydney also honoured music legend Paul Kelly who received the Ted Albert Award for Outstanding Services to Australian Music.

Country TV

Melbourne country music fans can tune into TV Chanel 31 for their weekly dose of international and Australian country music artists.

Nu Country screens 10.30 pm Saturday and is repeated 2.30 am Friday.

Another new country music TV show to hit the screen is Twang Nation seen every Thursday at 8 pm on Foxtel’s Aurora community channel 183.

Adam’s new CD

Adam Harvey, Golden Guitar winner and much loved Australian country music artist is about to release his new CD, Falling Into Place.

Adam describes the new recording as his most personal album to date. It includes songs he says that have genuine meaning in his life.

Falling Into Place will be available on-line and in stores from July 8.

Rick as Denver: priceless

Singer-songwriter Rick Price presented a faultless performance on the opening night of the John Denver Story at the AthanaeumTheatre.

Rick, along with the Colorado Quartet, interpreted Denver’s timeless classics in a way that only a seasoned performer of his calibre could.

With an informative and engaging narration by Rick throughout the show about Denver and himself, the John Denver Story certainly gets the thumbs up.

The Prairie Oysters have been placed in the final Top Ten as Best Group for the 2011 Australian Country Music People's Choice Awards to be announced at Tamworth on January 20.

In addition to that, The Prairie Oysters have also been chosen as one of the two finals for the National Best Group category in the Victorian and National Country Music Awards to be announced at the Whittlesea CMF on the 12 February.