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BIRTH OF THE GOLDEN GUITARS
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Birth of the Golden Guitars
Today the famous Golden Guitar trophies, which sparkle on the stage at the Toyota Golden Guitar Awards, are recognised all over the nation as a symbol of country music and Tamworth.
Thirty years ago they were just an idea.
In late 1972, 2TM‘s Mr Hoedown, John Minson and 2TM Station Manager, Max Ellis were discussing the type of trophies they would like to use in the Country Music Awards they were planning for January 1973.
After attending a function in Sydney where a Perspex trophy disintegrated as it was presented, the two agreed their trophy would have to be rock solid and truly representative of country music.
After deciding on the concept of a bronze guitar, local artist Harry Frost (pictured at right with Max Ellis and Buddy Williams) was commissioned to produce a detailed design based on a semi cut-away, dual pick-up, hollow-bodied guitar. It was a recognition of both traditional design, and modern amplified electric guitar.
From Harry's sculpture, John made the pattern and it was cast at Austral Brass Foundry in Sydney. The very rough casts were polished and prepared by John and mounted on a highly polished Tasmanian Blackwood base, prepared by Tamworth cabinetmaker Noel Smith from timber originally donated by fans in Northern Tasmania and chosen as a tribute to Tasmanian Talent.
The finished trophy stands 24cm high (with base) and weighs 1.5kgs.
Initially, John Minson personally prepared each and every Golden Guitar grinding, smoothing and polishing the rough casts and mounting them on their carefully finished bases before attaching the brass plaques engraved with the winners details. In the mid eighties Noel Smith took over the responsibility for producing the Golden Guitars. Still totally dedicated to this task after almost 20 years, Noel spends many hours bringing a high lustre finish to each casting and base, rejecting many that he feels are not up to the high standards he demands.
The final decision, which has played a huge role in creating the legend, was the name. Today it seems obvious to call the trophies “Golden Guitars” but then it was a conscious decision by 2TM Executives. The famous brand name was quickly established and today a national survey shows that 72% of all adult Australians recognise the name.
The Golden Guitar Awards became the foundation of a festival, which has been created around the core event over the past 30 years.
Since Joy McKean picked up the first trophy in 1973 (for her Song Of The Year, "Lights On The Hill"), up to 2005, some 369 Golden Guitars have been presented at a current rate of 16 or more a year. The late Slim Dusty has won 38, with John Williamson at 21 and Lee Kernaghan at 20.
The Golden Guitar is reproduced in many forms now, from the giant 12 metre high replica outside The Golden Guitar Tourist Centre in Tamworth, to tiny badges. However, to artists and fans alike, the original trophies still represent the ultimate accolade, the goal that most performers strive to attain.
They may be only cast bronze, but when a winning artist steps forward on the Awards stage amid the cheers and adulation, the spotlights and the cameras, the glitter and excitement, the Golden Guitars might as well be real gold.