June 4th, 1970 – “The first song I ever attempted to write was released on the Fable label. It was ‘Old Man Emu’. I was out the back of the homestead in North West NSW when I first heard the recording. 2VM Moree received the single before I did. I had the radio on a fence post when I got the thrill of my life. I sounded older than I imagined, but an amazing experience the first time. That month I picked up radio stations all over the place at night. I was blown away. The song was screaming to the top of the charts (up there with The Beatles!). No.1 for 5 weeks and I was still at home farming wheat. All I’d done was win ‘New Faces’ and then record the song (one of the prizes was a recording contract). So, of course, I headed back to Melbourne to record an album of originals which were all pretty dreadful. The first LP sold 2000 copies, so I was a ‘one hit wonder’ for about 10 years. In the meantime, I moved to Sydney where the clubs were more suitable to my folk style performance than the ‘rock’ venues of Melbourne.
It took me those 10 years to begin to understand who I was and what to write about. Phil Matthews came into my life about that stage with lots of encouragement about my songwriting and I finally got back to being really Australian, that is, myself: writing about the things that inspire me. To put it briefly, songs about the truly unique character of our ancient country and how its vast variety of atmospheres mould the quintessential Aussie. Add to that my personal life and concerns and you have it. It’s loosely called ‘Country Music’ but it’s really ‘music of our country’ to separate it from the standard American genre.
I’ve always felt that we should have taken Banjo Paterson’s lead (‘Waltzing Matilda’) and created our own folk/country style. The trouble was and still is that Aussie success is so often gauged by our popularity in America. But I have never cared about that. I wanted to create something for the next generations of Aussie kids to grab hold of. It’s music about Aussies for Aussies. And you know, after 40 years of being on the road those kids are starting to understand what I’m about and it makes them proud. That means more to me than any world fame ever could. I want them to be as proud of me and my songs, as American kids are of Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan. In other words, be proud of who they are: Aussies. How lucky we all are to live here.
Now I hear other young Aussie artists with their own accents and I know I have been on the right track. And the track has become a road; it’s just the beginning. It is fascinating to hear interpretations of my songs by others and I am very proud that my friends in the business have paid tribute. I am truly thankful.”