A website dedicated to preserving and promoting the history of Australian
country music.

Country Music
The Music Of
Our Country

The Story of Australian Country Music

A Tribute to Buddy

A Tribute to Jimmy

A Tribute to Reg

A Tribute to Shirley

A Tribute to Slim

– Slim, Chronicler of the Bush

A Tribute to Smoky

A Tribute to Tex

– Tex Morton White Guitars

A Tribute to The McKean Sisters

Arch Kerr – pioneer record producer

Australia's College of Country Music

Bicentennial Concert 1970

The Big Golden Guitar

Birth of the Golden Guitars

Brief History of the Golden Guitar Awards

Brief History of Star Maker

The Buddy Bishop Story

Country Music Capital Meets Music City

Country Music Hands of Fame

Country Music Media

Country Music Roll of Renown

Country Timeline

First The Song

Golden Guitar Memories

Golden Guitar Pioneers

Golden Guitar Winners Tally

The Gympie Muster

The Hadley Records Story

History of the College of Country Music

How the CMAA Was Born

How Tamworth became Country Music Capital

How the College of Country Music Works


The John Minson Story


Minson Memories

Narrative! Narrative! Narrative!

Origins of the Tamworth Country Music Festival

Radio Ranch & Spurs

Sources and Resources

Stairway to Stardom

The Story of Maton Guitars

Tamworth, We've Done Us Proud

What is Country Music

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Contact: Max Ellis

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Buddy Bishop

Buddy Bishop was one of the group of talented artists who emerged after the end of the WW2. A few years older than Slim Dusty, Buddy helped pave the way for the younger country stars that followed him. Though born near Taree on the north Coast of NSW, Buddy achieved fame while living in Tamworth and his reputation contributed to the growth of Country Music Capital. Buddy died on the 13th April, 1995. Here in his own words, is his story.

A Tamworth Country Music Pioneer tells his story

1923 -1995

I was born at a little place called Tinonee near Taree, in the Manning River District of New South Wales on the 3rd of August 1923. I lived and worked on my father’s dairy farm, at a place called Bootoowaa, six miles from Tinonee, until I was nineteen years old.

I came from a fairly musical family. My Father could play several band (Brass) instruments, as well as Button Accordion and Concertina. My Mother played piano and both Mum and Dad could read music. My oldest brother, Tom, played lap steel guitar and could vamp on the piano. My sister Ruby could play the piano and my brother Walter played Spanish guitar, gum leaf and ukulele. I was about 12 years old when I started to teach myself to play an old guitar my brother had given me. It was not till some years later that I was able to learn to read music.

We had an old wind up gramophone and had records of Vernon Dalhart, Bradley Kincaid, Jimmie Rodgers, Harry Torani and Vince Courtney (the later being a baritone but sang a lot of songs in those days that we now call country, including “ In the Luggage Van Ahead”, “ A Picture no Artist can Paint, “ A Bird in a Gilded Cage etc.) We also had all the records of Art Leonard, who I believe could be credited with being the first person ever to swear on record and get away with it, a very bold move in those days. This occurred in his version of “ Barnacle Bill The Sailor”. His song “ A Gay Caballero” was also a bit on the spicy side and only had to be listened to, to get it’s true meaning. I still know all, or most of the words of his songs. We also had records of the Carter family, Gene Autry and many more right up to the days of Tex Morton and beyond. There are the songs I cut my teeth on.

During my early years I used to sing a just about anything that was going, parties, dances, concerts, and even boat cruises on the river. I even sang a number of times during interval, at Keevers Travelling Talking Picture Shows in order to get a free pass in.

In 1942 I was called up in the Army and as I nearly always had my guitar with me I did quite a lot of singing at the camp concerts. This sometimes got me into a lot of trouble, as I seemed to have a habit of writing songs abut my superior officers.

In 1944, while still in the army, I was badly smashed up in a truck accident. It was thought for some time that I would not live. It was then thought that I may never walk again but after many long months in Concord Hospital in Sydney, the doctors were able to get me back on my feet.

On 2nd June 1945, after negotiations with radio station 2TM I was given leave from my unit to come to Tamworth and do my first radio broadcast. I did a quarter hour session on Saturday, from noon til a quarter past twelve. The announcer on duty that day was Miss Edith Marshall now Mrs Geddes of Gunnedah and the technician was (the late) Cyril (Spec) Hunt. I had quite a lot of mail after this show and I still have my first fan letter I ever received.

I received my discharge from the army on 13th June 1946 and my wife Rae and I married on 26th October that same year. We came to Tamworth to live on 1st March 1947. I had bought a mixed business that we conducted for the next ten years or so. Country Music was almost non-existent in those days. 2TM had a half hour session six days a week from noon to half past twelve. In fact 2TM was not all that keen about playing country music at all in those days. The midday show was later cut down to five days a week and a bit later it was cut out completely.

I started to sing country songs in April 1947, at of all places, the cycle races at Tamworth's No 1 Oval on Friday nights. I wrote a song for the club in which I named most of the top local riders of that time. I also used to sing a fairly regular basis at the local boxing matches in the old Police Boys Club in the days of Sgt. Don Ewin. This was back in the days when local identities such as Nev Leary, Dick Delaney, Tommy Bugg and Ted Dillon used to fight. I sang on radio club shows in the Small Town Hall and I used to travel with 2TM and do shows in most of the surrounding areas. 

In those early days it was rare to have the use of a microphone. Apart from 2TM, the Town Hall had a regular P.A. system and a bit later on the Police Boys Club got one, but this could only be used if the caretaker happened to be there to set it up. One or two other organisations such as the cycle club had their own systems but that was about it. The only other people to have their own gear were regular travelling shows. It was quite unheard of in those days for the individual performer, as is the practice now, to have their own gear. It was also, almost, unheard of to be paid for doing a show. In most cases payment was not offered. Nor was it expected.

In early March 1948 I wrote a song that I called "When a City Guy Went to the Farm”, and this song was to be re-named some two years later and called “The Farmyard Yodel". It still carries that name today.

On the 28th March, some two weeks after writing the above song, I went down to 2TM, which was then located in Peel Street, and recorded "When the City Guy went to the Farm" together with another song called "When the Roses Bloom in the Garden" that I had also written. This was cut at 78 rpm on one of the old style acetate records that radio stations used in those days for special programmes and commercials (radio stations at that time did not have tape recorders) and these were the first two country music songs ever recorded (in Tamworth) and the first country music record ever made in Tamworth. The technician in charge of recording these songs was the (late) Mr. Spec (Cyril) Hunt. An acetate record, by the way, consists of a round aluminium disc with a smooth covering of wax on both sides.

Although I did not realise it at the time, this record was to be the very start of the heritage of country music in Tamworth. As I have stated, this old record was the first country music record ever made here and the song now known, as "The Farmyard Yodel" was the song that started country music in Tamworth. It was also the first record that I had ever made, and the first time “The Farmyard Yodel" had ever been recorded.

Although this was made as a private recording, and only one copy was ever made, I believe it would now be classed as a collector's item. I still have it and it still plays in almost new condition (now in the ACMF, Ed).

In I949, I had an audition for Australia's Amateur Hour, and was lucky enough to be picked as one of the ten acts to appear.

The big night came on the I7th March of that year, and a week later it was announced that I had topped the poll. The compere of the show was Mr. Dick Fair and I sang the song which was then called "When the City Guy Went to the Farm". I received a number of engagements that night before I even left the stage, which included an appearance at the old Newcastle stadium and a tour of Queensland with the "Great Levante" vaudeville show. On the 23rd December 1949 I received a letter from Australia's Amateur Hour, which stated that my act had been picked as one of the ten best acts for the year, and would be played back on a special programme on 29th December 1949. I was also engaged by the ABC to sing the theme for a special documentary radio show about Tamworth entitled "This Town'll do Me". This was played back over 2BL on the 9th August I949. The producer's name was Mr. Fred Simpson.

I cut my first commercial recordings on 20th January 1950, for the John Mystery Record Company (thus becoming Tamworth's first ever recording artist, not only in country music, but in any field). These recordings were cut at the “Record Centre”, 3rd floor, 251 Pitt Street, Sydney. The producer's name was one Bob Ramjan.

Photo: Buddy with Slim Dusty.

On this recording session the songs recorded were "Spitfire the Outlaw", "When the Roses Bloom in the Garden", "Honey be my Honey Bee" and "When the City Guy Went to the Farm" or "The Farmyard Yodel". This song was released under both names by the John Mystery label. I received a flat rate payment of ten pounds (£10.0.0) plus my expenses for recording the songs mentioned, as this was the practice with some recording companies at that time. I did not receive any royalties.

In early March 1950, "When the City Guy Went to the Farm" found it's way on to the general hit parade on radio station 2CA. It was a rare feat in those days for an Australian Country Music artist to get any kind of recognition much less the honour of having a song make a hit parade, as most Australian County Music artists, at that time, were still recording backed by nothing but their own guitars. For this reason, most radio stations preferred to play American artists. I also believe that I was the first Australian Country Music artist to have a song, not only in but also on top of a general hit parade. Anyway the song had a run of fourteen weeks, including six weeks in the top spot. I well remember the night it was demoted by none other than Bing Crosby singing a song called "Quicksilver".

I would also like to point out that there was nowhere near the number of radio stations in those days, compared to the number that we have to-day, and in country areas they were few and far between. However some of these stations did have Country Music programmes, or hillbilly as it was then called, on which Australian artists were played, mostly on Saturday nights, one of the better known being 2WG Wagga.

On the recording session mentioned, some of the songs recorded had the backing of two well known musicians of that time namely, Herbie Marks on piano accordion and Don Andrews on electric lead guitar. As electric stringed instruments had only just started to come into being in those days, I believe that there is little doubt that I was the first Australian Country Music artist to record commercially, backed by an electric lead guitar as we now know it. I recall being told that it was a new idea as a backing instrument, and it was' explained to me. I followed Country Music very closely in those days, and I had never seen or heard, a guitar played in this manner before. There were only a handful of people playing, or should I say experimenting with, this type of guitar at that time and their instruments were all of an experimental nature. One could not go into a music store and buy an electric guitar. They did not exist.

I feel that it is worth a mention that I was the 16th country music artist to make commercial recordings in Australia, and the 11th Australian. By this I mean that of the first sixteen (although they did all, or most, of their recording in this country) five were not Australian born. Tex Morton and Gill Harris both came from New Zealand while Bob Dyer, Don Reynolds and Billy Blinkhorn came from America/Canada.

On the 22nd May 1950, I took off on the tour of Queensland with the "Levante Show". This tour took me right up as far as Cairns. In those days most shows touring Queensland travelled by train as some of the roads in that area were not very good at that time. It was not uncommon to see anything up to five or six shows, with their trucks and equipment, loaded on to one long show train. And oh boy, were they slow!

When I speak of the "Levante" Show", I would like to explain the type of show this was. There were three main shows of this type at that time, they were "The Levante Show", "Barton's Follies" and "Sorlies" and they were known as vaudeville or tent shows. Each company had a big marque about the size of a circus tent, and could seat about a thousand people. Usually the back of a semi-trailer was used as the stage, and the band sat at ground level in front of the stage. It was just like going to the theatre, except you there under canvas.

The advance agents for these shows used to book the acts into hotels and boarding houses, usually two to a room. There were no motels in those days. My roommate for most of the tour was the now celebrated Mr. Ron Shand, better remembered as "Herb" in the television series, Number 96.

During 1950 I was kept pretty busy. Apart from local shows I used to go to Sydney from time to time to appear on the Tim McNamara show on 2SM, I also worked with Gordon Parsons and Norm Giles doing shows around the country in the local halls on Saturday nights.

On the 16th November 1950, I recorded four songs for the "Rodeo" label, they were "The Farmyard Yodel", "I don't work for a Living", "and I want to go back to the Farm “and” Spitfire the Outlaw". All my recordings up to that time, that is for the John Mystery and Rodeo labels, were on the old standard 78s, and were recorded directly on to disc. As mentioned before we did not have the benefit of tape recorders in those days.

On 22nd January I95I, I was invited to appear along with Slim Dusty, Lilly Connors, Tommy Mack and Lucky Grills, just to name a few, as one of the special guest artists on a big show in the Sydney Town Hall. This was sponsored by radio station 2SM in conjunction with the Tim McNamara show, and was the show on which Reg Lindsay won the talent quest, a recording contract, and started his career.

Photo: Buddy pictured at right with Reg Lindsay (left) and Rocky Page.

During 1951, I had several letters from the late Bob Fricker of 5AD Adelaide. I recall making, and sending him, a special record for their Good Friday appeal for the Adelaide Children's Hospital. It was played on the day of the appeal, together with other Australian country music artists. This had to be sent on a specially made record because, as I have stated before, there were no such things as tape recorders at that time. The first time that I ever recorded on anything of this nature, was on an old wire recorder that I believe was made by (the late) Spec (Cyril) Hunt at 2TM.

In October-November 1951, I had a quarter hour programme each Wednesday, for five weeks on 2TM. This was to advertise the P & A Northern Championship Rodeo. The programme included a talent quest to be held on the night of November 10th. I had donated a cup as part of the prize and had the honour of being one of the judges. The other two judges were two good friends of mine, namely Kid and Kim Mahoney. The talent quest was won by Geoff Brown.

On 2nd March I952, I was asked to appear as a guest artist on the Stamina Show, one of the big radio shows of that time. Some of the big names who appeared on the show included Willie Fennell, the (late and great) Roy Rene (MO), Hal Lashwood, Allan Code and Thea Walters. I also appeared at a later date on the Aspro Show, another of the big radio shows of that era, with many of the same artists, including Willie Fennell and MO.

In 1952-1953, I did a number of trips to Lismore for the Radio Ranch shows with Slim Dusty and others.

During the mid 1950s I received payment through A.P.R.A. (Australasian Performing Right Association Limited) for American royalties. I also received, again through A.P.R.A. payment of royalties from A.S.C.A.P. (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.) And still receive these payments from time to time.

On 23rd February I957, I again worked with Willie Fennell on a big open air show at Tamworth's No I Oval, the proceeds of which went to improve and help equip the scout camp at Lynchwood, Moore Creek. Also in June of 1957, Southern Music published “The Farmyard Yodel” in music form.

In 1958 I had my own radio show on 2TM for a local car firm, this programme ran for some twenty-eight weeks. I also joined with the late David Long in 1960, when 2TM conducted the Mickey Mouse Club in the auditorium of the old Myers building. This was held each Saturday morning for some twelve months or more.

I remained fairly active until around 1962, but then for the next eight years due to work pressures and other commitments, I did mostly hotel and club shows. It was not until I970 that I again started recording with Hadley Records here in Tamworth. Some of the songs on my early records for Hadley were recorded with my daughter Debbie, who was only eight years old when she put down her first track called "Ten Little Fingers".

On 25th April 1970, I appeared on a show in the Tamworth Town Hall that I like to refer to as the old timers show (The 2TM Cook Bi-Centennial Show, ed). Some of the artists to appear included Slim Dusty, Joy McKean, Smoky Dawson, Trevor Day, Shirley Thoms, Gordon Parsons, (the late) Smilin' Billy Blinkhorn and yours truly.

Between 24th August I973 and the 3rd March I975, I made a number of appearances on the television series "Travellin' Out West" "which was produced by the Reg Grundy organisation at Channel 3 Newcastle. The compere was John Williamson.

On 29th January I977 in Tamworth, I was one of the first Australian country music artists to press my hand into the cement and be inducted into the "Hands of Fame".

During 1982, as well as hotel and club shows, I appeared several times on the locally produced Television series "Must be Country", compered by Terry Gordon.

I still own my old original guitar that I bought in I938. This is the instrument that I used to record my old 78s (now in the ACMF, Ed.)
I do very litte performing these days as ill health has forced me to lead a very quiet life.

Buddy Bishop
April 1, 1990.

Extra notes

According to my research, the electric lead guitar was not used for recording in Australia until the latter half of I949. It is also true that no Australian Country Music Artist had a recording session in 1949. My recordings were made on 20th January 1950, the first recording session for that year.

With regard to my claim re the hit parade... let me point out that nearly all Australian Country Music Artists were still recording with nothing but their own guitars. The great Slim Dusty only had six commercial singles released at that time, none of which had ever made a hit parade.

I also said in an earlier story, and at that time I believed this to be true, that Dick Carr played lead guitar for me on my first recordings. However after meeting Dick Carr again several years ago, and talked about the recording session in question, he told me that it was not he but the now great George Golla who played the electric lead.

However after making contact with George Golla he told me that it could not have been him because he didn’t start to play the electric lead guitar till around I955. He said that in his opinion, from what I had been able to tell him, that it would have been Don Andrews. After a long search I located Don Andrews and after some correspondence and a number of phone calls we were able to establish that he was indeed the one who played the lead guitar on that recording session.

Story and pictures provided by Buddy Bishop’s daughter, Debbie Hofman, Tamworth.

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