JIMMY LITTLE AO, the true Gentleman of Australian music, left us on April 2nd, 2012 at the age of 75. From childhood spent with his parents in a travelling vaudeville show, he became a recording artist with hits including the triple-gold single Royal Telephone in 1963, Baby Blue in 1974 and the multi-award winning 1999 album, Messenger. Born of the Yorta Yorta people, he became the most popular Indigenous music star across six decades, and in later years an educator and role-model. After personal health problems that included a kidney transplant, The Jimmy Little Foundation was created to promote indigenous health and diet.
I first encountered Jimmy while promoting his work at Festival Records in the mid-seventies. Soon after, I would have the joy of occasionally playing guitar behind him onstage. Much later, at various industry events, I was always touched by his warmth and dignity. A true inspiration; may his music live forever and the Foundation flourish in his name.
CHARLIE LAMB, the “Mayor of Music Row’, died on March 7th, 2012 at the age of 90. He came from an era when the rules of showbiz were still being invented, not just by choice but by necessity. From carnivals to movies, from reporter to publisher, he took life by the horns and rode it to success! Amongst his many achievements, he will be remembered as the inventor of the “bullet’, now a feature of music charts around the world. He was there at the start of many trade organisations including the CMA and he was one of the inspirations behind the International Country Music Conference.
I was humbled to be invited to the 2004 ICMC in Nashville and to be honoured with the Charlie Lamb Award for Excellence in Country Music Journalism, presented on his behalf by Miss Brenda Lee and sponsored by Peggy and Gary Walker of the ‘The Great Escape’. It was fascinating to learn more about the life-story of Charlie Lamb and a privilege to have met this wonderful man in person.
ERIC WATSON OAM, historian and songwriter, died on January 8th, 2012 at the age of 85. As a young man, his first songs were recorded by artists that including Jimmy Little and later on, Slim Dusty. He was the first recognised historian of Australian Country Music with his two books, Country Music In Australia, volumes 1 & 2 published in 1975 and 1983 respectively (and combined as one book in a 2005 edition). With an uncompromising view of what constituted country music in general and Australian CM in particular, he founded Selection Records, the label that would further the careers of Reg Poole, Owen Blundell, Barry Thornton, Evelyn Bury and many other artists.
When I first met Eric in the late-seventies, he was literally living next door, over the back fence in the Sydney suburb of Eastlakes. He encouraged me as both a producer (several tracks for various Selection artists, including an album for Dusty Rankin in 1980, Sunset Valley Calling, during which this photo of Eric was taken), a session-musician (including the Gordon Parson’s album, The Old G.P.) and as an artist (my version of The Bushman’s Rodeo on Selection would be a ‘Golden Guitar’ finalist track in 1982). Always he was outspoken about what he considered ‘authentic’ in country music and, while there are undoubtable exceptions, when when one considers the progressive dilution of the genre, one must always consider that perhaps “Eric Watson was right”.
– Bob Howe, April 2012