Australian country music has been carving out its own special place in the music world for years now. Before the turn of the century and before the contemporary stars like Keith Urban and Lee Kernaghan emerged, Banjo Peterson was writing lovely ballads and poems such as the flowing “Waltzing Matilda” that would someday influence what we know as Australia’s very own style of country.
One would be remiss if he or she did not speak of Tex Morton, perhaps the main figure in the effort to bring about the modernization of the Australian country tradition. An early bloomer with regards to initiative and the drive to dive into show business, Tex began working and recording at an early age both on solo acoustic guitar, and with a backup band known as the Rough Riders. He was a huge factor in melding the American style of country with the old traditional Australian bush songs, varying the subject matter of many of his tunes to reflect things in both American and Australian culture. Just listening to Tex pluck out the first verse of “The Ned Kelly Song” puts you right in the shoes of a proud and patriotic Australian citizen.
Slim Dusty was a man who took this ball from the pioneers and ran with it; he recorded many of the old poems of Banjo Peterson as well as Henry Lawson and wrote many of his own as well. In fact, one of his tunes, “Pub With No Beer” rose to the top of the charts, something that could not be said for any Australian before him. A New South Wells man, (New South Wells is widely known and regarded as the country music capital of Australia) Dusty was an artist that worked tirelessly to tie all the aspects of the industry together. His legacy includes the recording of 100 albums, and he is the first recording artist to carry out this amazing feat. With regards to performance, of particular note was his performance of the aforementioned “Waltzing Matilda” at the closing ceremonies of the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney, Australia.
Throughout the years, popular artists such as Nick Cave and Olivia Newton John have carried the torch, and today, performers such as Melinda Schneider and Shannon Noll churn out country hits. But none of this would have been possible without the pioneers who saw the opportunity to create a new hybrid, and to tie together American and Australian traditions. Music on the whole morphs and changes as it gets influenced by outside sources, and this is how it lives on: through growth and the concept of sharing ideas.