The Bushwackers are Australia’s best-known, best-loved bush band. They are currently celebrating 40 years of performance in 2011. There’s been 75 members, 20 studio albums, four books, tours, awards and enough stories to fill a dozen books.
The Bushwackers play Australian music, much of it based on the traditional working songs from the early 20th century but have seamlessly incorporated celtic instrumentals and great contemporary original songs like Beneath The Southern Cros s, Henry’s Men and I Am Australian.
The Bushwackers have taken their unique brand throughout the country and around the world bringing their spirit and energy to Festivals, clubs, pubs, schools and events.
Their Bushdances in the late 70’s and 80’s had thousan ds of people doing the Heel and Toe and Strip the Willow and there’s scarcely a schoolkid who didn’t learn a bit of bushdancing to the music of The Bushwackers.
The Bushwackers are led by the mighty Lagerphone of Dobe Newton and he’s joined onstage with a great team of musicians wielding fiddles, accordions, mandolins, guitars, bass, and drums. It’s a magic combination that has seen the band perform at festivals in Tamworth, Port Fairy, Canberra, Mackay, Port Arlington, Dorrigo, Brisbane and many other places in the last 12 months. Their shows are filled with enthusiastic old and newer fans who dance, sing and enjoy this unique Australian
When a group of Melbourne university students gathered to share their love of traditional music in 1971, little did they realise that they were establishing a musical ‘institution’.
There had been ‘bush bands’ before, but none that captured the public’s imagination to such an extent that they were able to turn professional.
Having established residencies in Melbourne pubs, the band’s attention quickly turned to Europe where two of their great influences – Fairport Convention and Planxty were leading a folk revival. They wanted to be part of the action, and in 1974 took off to try their luck. They were also heading into the gathering storm that was the beginning of punk! But that’s another story.
The next 8-10 years were split between extensive tours at ‘home’, and 5 European tours from the band’s base in London. Their energy and musicianship made an instant impact – Melody Maker describing them as taking the UK folk scene “by storm”. Numerous and extensive tours of the UK, Ireland, France, Holland and Germany established them as confirmed club and festival favourites – Cambridge, Rotterdam, Edinburgh …., and their debut LP ‘The Shearers’ Dream’ reached No.1 on the Melody Maker Folk Chart. The combination of traditional instruments, electric guitar and bass and the unique percussive drive of the lagerphone, meant they rocked like no other folk band!
During their home visits, the band began to explore and popularise the neglected area of bush dance.
The late 70s and early to mid 80s saw the band’s self-promoted Bush Dance Spectaculars attract 2-3,000 people to Town Halls and major venues throughout Australia. The impact of this dance phenomenon saw a single from their (Gold) ‘Dance Album’ reach the No. 14 on Melbourne’s leading commercial Pop/Rock station!
With the addition of drums in 1980, the Bushies entered musical territory previously unexplored in Australia. This was the decade of the ‘pub rock’ boom, and saw the band sharing stages (and holding their own) with the cream of Aussie rock – The Angels, Men At Work, Cold Chisel, Midnight Oil ……..
The band released two Australian Song Books and two dance books and albums which – to this day, hold sales records. No Aussie school could do without them.
This decade also saw the band ‘adopted’ by country music fans and, on their first visit (1981) to Australia’s largest music event – the 10-day, 4,000 gig Tamworth Country Music Festival, the band was awarded it’s highest honour – A Golden Guitar. (They’ve returned every year, playing to sell-out crowds).
The band’s constant search and reputation for musical excellence saw them attract some of Australia’s best – drummers Robby Ross (Goanna) and Freddie Strauks (Skyhooks), guitar legends Tommy Emmanuel, Steve Housden (Little River Band), Tim Gaze (Ariel, Rose Tattoo) and bassist Pete Farndon who went on to international fame with The Pretenders.
After decades of relentless touring, in 1995 the band decided to take a break from the road. The national broadcaster – ABC, marked the occasion with a 1-hour TV special “The Last Dance”. The band continued to record and perform at major festivals/events.
They’ve continued that policy to this day – always being in demand for their unique and powerful stage shows.
In 2007, the band realised a long-held dream, traveling to Nashville for the Australian Festival. The combination of Australian songs and subject matter and celtic-influenced music proved just as popular with Americans as it had with European fans 30 years earlier!
How many still-performing bands can boast 25 studio and live albums covering vinyl, cassette, CD and MP3 formats?!