Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Tamworth and the History of Country Music

Photo: Max Ellis and John Minson, "Mr Hoedown"

In a post I wrote on my personal blog about Australian Idol, I talked about the impact that Tamworth and Tamworth country music had had on the development of Jessica Mauboy.

At 14 Jessica's well-developed skills as a vocalist helped to secure first place in the Road to Tamworth competition, where Jess had the opportunity to meet local country legends: "Part of the prize was to go to the Tamworth Camerata Junior College, the music school. That was so fun. We got to meet Beccy Cole and Kasey Chambers. They just had a talk about how they developed through their music. I was really into that. It gave me confidence and made me love music more.”

The evolution of Tamworth as the national country music centre has played a significant role in developing Australian talent.

Tamworth Camerata (and here) is unique in Australia, and possibly the world, as the only recognised country music school for junior performers where they learn from the best in the business. It is widely acknowledged as a ‘feeder’ for the grown-up version - the CMAA Australian College of Country Music, as many Camerata graduates progress to college and further afield in the pursuit of their careers.

Following up this earlier story, I was pleased to find Max Ellis's site on the history of country music in Australia.

I will write fuller posts on the country music story later. For the moment, I simply wanted to note that Tamworth and country music sit at the intersection of several very different New England themes.

Max himself is the son of Ulrich Ellis, a significant figure in New England's history because of his role as Earle Page's political secretary, his political writing and his role with the New England New State Movement.

When Max began his country music development work, he was working for Tamworth radio station 2TM. Owned by Broadcast Amalgamated Ltd (BAL), 2TM was part of the New England Radio Network and played a key role in the early development of country music.

In doing so, it carried on a another theme in New England's history, the way in which the then locally owned media promoted the New England interest.

BAL itself is a very interesting story, one that I wrote up in part some years ago because my grandfather, David Drummond, was on the board and the board papers themselves form part of the Drummond holdings in the University of New England Archives.

Founded by the Higinbotham's, another of the pioneering New England media families, BAL grew from one radio station into a chain, then sponsored the formation of TV New England and East Coast TV. The board papers show very clearly the nature of the challenges faced in building and running a radio business in Regional Australia as compared to the metros because of the smaller populations involved. The also show the business acumen of Mr Higinbotham in defining solutions to meet those challenges.

Tamworth country music itself is an example of this. The launch of TV New England damaged 2TM's radio audience, leading Max Ellis (Max was then working for BAL) and the station to look for new promotional opportunities. Tamworth country music was one outcome.

This brings me to the final theme, one of great interest to me, the reasons why some communities develop, others do not. Here Tamworth has always been an interesting case study because of the way that community generated a series of new businesses. I explored this in another story on my personal blog, "A Town like Alice: development and creativity at community level."


The December Boys said...

I have a site dedicated to the next movie of Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter): DECEMBER BOYS. I create a petition to ask WARNER BROS Independant (the distributor of the film) to release it worldwide. DECEMBER BOYS is a wonderful and charming story reminiscent of the famous movie Stand By Me. It's a coming-of-age film about family, first love and the search for self. In the late 1960s, four orphans, called the DECEMBER BOYS (Daniel Radcliffe, Christian Byers, James Fraser and Lee Cormie) leave their orphanage for a holiday by the sea in the McAnsh's house (Jack Thompson and Kris McQuade) an eccentric couple on KANGAROO ISLAND. The boys are befriended by a young couple (Victoria Hill and Sullivan Stappleton) who want to adopt a child ... one of them? Consequently, the boys compete to be the most adoptable, severely testing their friendship. Tension and rivalry rise among them, pushing them apart while they compete against each other. Along the way, the oldest boy (Daniel Radcliffe) will also experiences his first romance with Lucy (Teresa Palmer) who will 'teach' him a lot of things! It's a beautiful film about family , first love and the search for self. This film has been filmed in South Australia. The crew and the actors of this film spent almost a month in Kangaroo Island and captured the incredible beauty of the locations on film. This film will be a great promotion for your wonderful landscapes all around the world if you help us (all December Boys fans) to recolt a lot of signatures to save December Boys. In fact, we know directly from Rod Hardy himself (the director of DECEMBER BOYS) that the film has only been sold to the USA and Australia at this stage and that a final decision will be made late in January when the film will have or not its worldwide release. So we have until this date to collect as many signatures as possible to convince and to prove to the WARNER BROS leaders that this film is expected and that it has the potential to be a big success. So this petition has the only objective to convince Warner Bros not to hesitate and that this film deserves a chance to be a great success, we just want them to offer its to DECEMBER BOYS.
We have only until the end of January when the final decision will be made. If Warner Bros leaders realise that numerous persons are waiting for this film, it will maybe convince them to release and promote DECEMBER BOYS everywhere. Please help us, the contribution of Aussie people would do a great difference ! Send this petition to all your friends !
The petition :
Thank you and Happy New Year
Alana (

Anonymous said...

Join Today!