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A toe-tapping good time

On a radiant August morning, amid the splendour of the sun, 59 individuals from the Probus Club of Tea Tree Gully in South Australia gathered to attend a captivating concert presented by the accomplished country artist, Graeme Hugo.

Graeme, a multifaceted figure in the country music scene, boasts a 51-year journey as a singer, songwriter, award recipient, promoter, session musician and recording artist. His magnetic charm and connection with audiences of all generations are evident, and his contribution extends beyond his own performances. Graeme has been instrumental in nurturing aspiring artists, offering them a platform to gain industry experience. Moreover, his philanthropic efforts have benefitted several charitable causes, including Isolated Children, SIDS, Kids with Cancer, Variety Clubs, Angel Flight and the Royal Flying Doctor Service, among others.

During the event, Graeme regaled members with captivating anecdotes from his extensive time in the industry, particularly during his ventures into remote regions. Notably, he shared an encounter with the legendary country singer Brian Young, who mentored numerous present-day artists like Beccy Cole and Troy Cassar-Daley during his tours. One memorable story unfolded at Willowra Station, a vast cattle station spanning 4,885 square kilometres, situated 350 kilometres northwest of Alice Springs and inhabited by around 400 people. In a breezeway setup, Graeme took the stage and performed his third song, “Country Road Take Me Home”, only to witness the audience unexpectedly leave. Unbeknownst to Graeme, this song was Brian Young’s customary closing piece, leading everyone to believe the concert had concluded. A considerable journey from South Australia, where Graeme had embarked upon for a relatively brief performance.

For a quarter-century, Graeme led his own band, the Ironbark Country Band, which included his daughter as a vocalist and musician, his son as a drummer, and even his father who contributed with the accordion and harmonica. Fondly referred to as the “Dad and Lad and Lad's Lad” ensemble, they brought their unique blend of talents to the stage. Graeme candidly revealed the less glamorous aspects of touring, dispelling misconceptions and highlighting the long hours of travel, arduous setup routines, late-night pack-downs, early morning starts, and the challenges of adjusting to unfamiliar environments.

Graeme’s illustrious career has earned him a well-deserved place in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Noteworthy milestones include performing at the inauguration of the Sydney Olympic Stadium in Homebush and inaugurating the Sydney Country Music Spectacular over a span of five years.

Over a captivating 90-minute performance, Graeme treated members to a nostalgic journey through time with renditions of songs by iconic artists such as Slim Dusty, Hank Williams, Buck Owens, John Denver, Roy Orbison, Neil Diamond, Dean Martin and Tom Jones, among others. The concert climaxed with a heart-warming singalong featuring hits like “California Blue”, “Delilah”, “Sweet Caroline”, “Pub with No Beer”, “Waltzing Matilda” and many more. The atmosphere was electric, with everyone tapping their toes and basking in the musical nostalgia.

The Club extends its heartfelt gratitude to Graeme for gifting members with such a captivating morning, and special recognition goes to Joan, Activities Officer, for orchestrating this delightful experience. Following the concert, a group of 42 attendees reconvened at the Tea Tree Gully Hotel, now known as The Gully Public House & Garden, where they shared a delightful lunch, engaged in spirited conversations and deepened their bonds of friendship.