Childhood & Early Life
John Robert Williamson was born to Keith and Shirley, at Australia's Kerang Bush Nursing Hospital, on November 1, 1945. Though he was born in Kerang, the child was raised in the town of Quambatook, in northern Victoria. Both Keith and Shirley, who had five sons, were farmers and occasional singers.
When he was as young as seven years of age, John was taught the string instrument ukulele, by his father, Keith. Soon, in a matter of five years, the young boy had learnt the nuances of playing the guitar and harmonica.
The musically-inclined child formed his own music group, while he was studying at Melbourne's 'Scotch College'. However, he returned home after college to help his father at his farm. In 1965, he began singing at a restaurant when the family shifted to a place called Croppa Creek.
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By 1969, the singer began pursuing a full-fledged career in music, penning his first song 'Old Man Emu'. He performed the song on a talent show the next year, and bagged the first place.
He went ahead and released the song 'Old Man Emu' in 1970 under the banner of 'Fable Records', owned by Ron Tudor. The song was an instantaneous hit and featured on Australian newspaper, 'Go-Set', as one of the top songs of the year.
Soon, he released his debut album titled 'John Williamson', which did not see much success despite featuring the hit number 'Old Man Emu'. The album also contained other singles like 'Beautiful Sydney', and 'Under the Bridge'.
In 1973, a music show on television was presented by Williamson, and it also featured artistes like Emma Hannah, and Ricky & Tammy. In the next few years, he released albums like ‘The Comic Strip Cowboy’, ‘Road to Town’, and a compilation entitled ‘Country Greats’, which too did not fare well on the charts.
The singer then went on to start a band called 'Crow', in 1978, which performed regularly at pubs all over the country. The band began playing a fusion of rock and reggae, and came to be known as 'Sydney Radio'.
The band soon separated, and from 1981, John began performing by himself at pubs. Meanwhile, he continued to record albums, and his song titled, 'Diggers of the ANZAC (This Is Gallipoli)' dedicated to 'The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps' became extremely popular.
During the same time, he went on musical tours with famous fiddler, Pixie Jenkins. He also released a song, 'The Breaker', which featured narration by actor Charles Tingwell. The song instantly saw success, and Williamson's string of musical failures came to a halt.
The following year, in 1983 the talented singer released popular albums like 'Singing in the Suburbs', and 'The Smell of Gum Leaves'. The song 'I'm Fair Dinkum', from the latter, received considerably more success, and he established 'The Fair Dinkum Road Company', which deals in merchandise.
In 1985, he launched his own music company, 'Gumleaf Recordings', which released several hit albums like 'Humble Beginnings', 'Road thru the Heart', and 'All the Best, Vol. 1'.
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However, the popular singer's 'Mallee Boy', released in 1986, was the album that brought him new-found recognition. The album was followed by ‘Boomerang Café’, and ‘Warragul’, both of which were quite well-received.
From 1990-98, the celebrated folk singer released several albums, including 'Waratah St', J'.W.'s Family Album', 'Australia Calling – All the Best Vol. 2', 'Love Is a Good Woman', and 'Pipe Dream', amongst others. These albums increased his popularity, not just in Australia, but also nations like the UK, US, and New Zealand.
Towards the close of 1991, Williamson collaborated with other country singers to establish the 'Country Music Association of Australia', which aimed at bringing home more awards for the nation's folk musicians.
During the same time, he also brought out the book, 'True Blue: Stories and Songs of Australia', comprising the lyrics of songs in an album of the same name, along with their connotations.
In 1998, John appeared in 'The Bush Telegraph', a television show aired for a brief period of time, on Australian network, 'Channel Seven'.
In 2000, Williamson produced the album, 'Anthems – A Celebration of Australia', which is still remembered for the tribute the songs pay to the nation.
The album contains collaborations like 'This Ancient Land', with aborigine singer Jimmy Little, and 'The Baggy Green', with cricketer Steve Waugh. It also contains a tribute, titled, 'A Number on My Back', meant for the country's rugby team, 'Wallabies'.
During the next few years he released commercially successfully albums like 'Gunya', 'Chandelier of Stars', and 'Hillbilly Road'.
In 2008, John produced a musical, under the banner of his own company, 'Fair Dinkum Road Co.'. The production, called 'Quambatook – The Musical', used his own compositions, and was directed by Australian filmmaker, Bernie Zelvis.
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In recent times, the renowned music artiste has issued albums like 'The Absolute Best of John Williamson: 40 Years True Blue', 'The Big Red', 'Honest People'. He also released his autobiography, published by 'Penguin Books' on July 25, 2014.
Awards & Achievements
From 1988-95, the annual 'Australasian Performing Right Association' ('APRA') awards were presented to Williamson, on three occasions, for his songs, 'True Blue', 'Rip Rip Woodchip', and 'Tropical Fever'.
During the same time, he has also been the recipient of the 'Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Music Awards' on several instances, for the albums, 'Mallee Boy', 'Boomerang Cafe', and 'Warragul'.
In 1992, the Government of his homeland made him a 'Member of the Order Of Australia', for his invaluable contribution to the nation's musical heritage.
After several other nominations at the 'ARIA Music Awards', the legendary singer was included in the association's 'Hall of Fame'.