Sunday History Photo / Person

Submitted: Sunday, Feb 05, 2012 at 06:05
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Buddy Williams was born Harry Taylor in the Sydney suburb of Newtown on September 5, 1918.

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He never knew his parents, and by the time he was six he had tried to escape from the orphanage at Glebe Point, where the government placed him. Soon after that he was given into the custody of a couple from Dorrigo, inland from the NSW central coast, an area that produced some of Australia's finest country performers. However, this was out of the frying pan, into the fire. As so often happened then, the dairy farm family were more interested in an unpaid farmhand than a son. An old .22 rifle he found in the bush became young Harry Taylor's escape from farm chores.
At fifteen Harry took work digging potatoes and dairying. He was working at a quarry in the Coffs harbour area, when one of his work mates dared him to try singing in the street. He took up the bet and to his amazement collected 13 pounds/ 10 shillings ($27) for his effort - a small fortune in prewar depression ridden Australia. His first radio appearnce was an unaccompianied vocal on 2GF Grafton, but the first time he sang professionally was at the Jacaranda festival in 1936 when he was eighteen - he literally stopped the show.
From there he busked his way from the North Coast to Newcastle, to make a living singing outside theatres at intervals. It was about this time he got his first Gibson guitar, and the Page family, who ran a taxi service in Newcastle, befriended him and had welcomed him into their home almost as a son. Even in these early days of his career, the orphan boy had had major problems with dishonest managers, as a result he had lost his own guitar, but the Pages bought him a replacement -his treasured black Gibson.
In 1935 he cut his first recording (a process disc that was not generally distributed) to see for himself how he would sound. The titles were, 'Where The Jacarandas Bloom', and, 'They Call Me The Clarence River Yodeller'. After much soul-searching he had determined on the name Buddy Williams and as such he headed for Sydney, busking his way down.
Busking in the thirties was a pretty precarious existence, especially if you couldn't afford a licence - the police were really tough on offenders.
He finally gained an audition with EMI legend. Arch Kerr, boss of Regal Zonophone records, doing several of his own compositions. The result, two days after his 21st birthday, was a session that made him the first Australian-born solo country recording artist. That session on September 7, 1939, produced three Regal Zonophone releases.

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It got him work in the Sydney show business scene, working alongside people like Evie Hayes, Roy Rene and Jack Davey. Buddy met Jack Davey in a round about sort of way. He was busking outside a pub one afternoon when he saw a policeman approaching, but the law was right on him so he didn't have time to run. Luckily the friendly copper was a frustrated entertainer, who played flamenco guitar as a hobby, and he invited Buddy back to the police barracks in Sydney to entertain. One Constable Barnard gave him the name of Harry Kitch, manager of the Theatre Royal. This was enough to get Williams started at the theatre under the guidance of promoter Dicky Butler. Butler's shows were called "Community Concerts"- and featured all kinds of artists and acts. One show at Burwood Town Hall had the increasingly popular radio man Jack Davey as the star and the yodelling cowboy support act. Nervous at the thought of sharing a stage with Davey, Buddy stumbled his way through his performance, but his openness and his songs and stories about his missing mother and family started the audience's tears flowing. When the curtain fell and the entertainers were taking their bows, Buddy was amazed to find the applause for him overshadowed even the great Jack Davey. It was a situation that was to be repeated over and over again as Buddy Williams' sincerity won the hearts of people wherever he performed.
Soon after he took a lease on a property at Walcha, where he ran a sawmill. A bushman to the backbone following his earlier days in the Dorrigo scrub, he got a war contract from the army to supply hardwood for bridges and construction work. Then Williams enlisted and due to his skill with a rifle was sent to a front-line infantry battalion rather than an entertainment unit.
With the 2/31 St Battalion at Balikpapan Borneo Williams was badly wounded only weeks before the war ended. He wasn't expected to live, but iron will pulled him through, although he still had shrapnel in his body.

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He met Grace Maidman in 1945, when Buddy called into the cafe in Atherton in Queensland, where she worked as a waitress, to pass on a message-from an army mate. The mate was soon forgotten as they saw each other quite a bit and eventually married in Brisbane on January 31, 1947. Their first child, Donita Carolyn, was born in Brisbane late in 1947, but died tragically in Scottsdale Tasmania 21 months later when one of Buddy's rodeo riders accidentally backed a truck over her. Two heart-tugging Buddy Williams songs came from that - "Another Angel In Heaven", and "Little Red Bonnet". Their other children are Harold George, born in Rylstone (NSW) on June 23, 1948, Kaye Elizabeth, born at lvanhoe (Vic) on January 31, 1950; and Karen Anne, born in Brisbane on May 20, 1957.
Some 13 albums were released on RCA between 1965 and 1972, along with numerous singles and EPs. By this time Buddy's show had settled into the form of a variety show featuring singers, instrumentalists, and comedy acts and he travelled 30,000 kilometres a year touring. .
During 1972 Williams teamed up with Tex Morton and they toured the eastern States with a very successful show, and cut one side, "I Love Country Music" together.

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In 1977 he was elevated to the Australian Country Music Roll Of Renown and with Tex Morton and Smoky Dawson was the first inductee in the Hands Of Fame cornerstone in Tamworth. In 1980 he won the Heritage Award for his "What a Dreary Old World it Would Be" and three of his compositions have been listed amongst the 50 most popular country songs in Australia - "Where the White Faced Cattle Roam", "Heading For The Warwick Rodeo" and "Music In My Pony's Feet".
He also received Queensland's Modern Country Music Association's first award for service to country music - an award that will be presented only every 10 years. In 1979 RCA presented Buddy with a gold-plate map of Australia to celebrate his 40 years of recording country music. In October 1981 Buddy Williarns was made the first honorary citizen of Warwick for his contribution to the success of the annual rodeo - he had written and recorded "Heading for The Warwick Rodeo", 40 years before and the song had been used to promote the event.

Buddy Williams died December 12 1986.

Ten years after his death the 1997 Tamworth festival honoured Buddy with a number of activities revolving around his music.
A display of some memorabilia took place in the Tamworth Arcade.
A bronze bust of Buddy is also on display in the Tamworth Bi-Centential Park, and he is also on display at the wax works museum.
Buddy is gone, but his music will always live on, as one Australia's finest pioneer legend recording, performing and touring artists.
Article courtesy of The Australian Country Music Book, and Garry Coxhead.


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Reply By: Member - Alan H (QLD) - Sunday, Feb 05, 2012 at 08:09

Sunday, Feb 05, 2012 at 08:09
Thanks Doug

AnswerID: 476934

Reply By: Member - John L (WA) - Sunday, Feb 05, 2012 at 08:43

Sunday, Feb 05, 2012 at 08:43
Morning Doug & Country music lovers. There is a beaut movie/doco just out called 'I'm Not Dead Yet' which tells the life story of Chad Morgan "The Sheik from Scrubby Creek'.
Our touring muso's sure did some miles around our country - guess Slim Dusty would have clocked up the most!
AnswerID: 476941

Reply By: Member - Toyocrusa (NSW) - Sunday, Feb 05, 2012 at 10:25

Sunday, Feb 05, 2012 at 10:25
Loved it. Thanks again Doug.
AnswerID: 476956

Reply By: Member - Rod D (VIC) - Sunday, Feb 05, 2012 at 20:01

Sunday, Feb 05, 2012 at 20:01
Thanks Doug

Great read as usual

My dad rode in the Buddy Williams buck jump show as he called it, I havent really seen much about Buddy so it was good to learn a bit about him.
AnswerID: 477032

Reply By: blue one - Sunday, Feb 05, 2012 at 22:17

Sunday, Feb 05, 2012 at 22:17
Great read. Thanks Doug.

Just something off topic. Are yo getting ant cherabin out there yet?


AnswerID: 477052

Reply By: Off-track - Sunday, Feb 05, 2012 at 23:18

Sunday, Feb 05, 2012 at 23:18
Good one!

(I still wonder where you get some of the ideas for SHP...)
AnswerID: 477060

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