John Williamson celebrates 25 years in Show Business (1992)

Variety Today 1996

JOHN WILLIAMSON celebrated 25 years in Show Business in 1996 and industry peers took the opportunity to pay tribute to the `boy from the Mallee'.

Shirley Broun wrote in 1996:

 A Bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. That may have been the case once, but John Williamson has rewritten the adage and turned a bird in the bush - Old Man Emu - into 25 years in show business.

Affectionately referred to as the `boy from the Mallee' who is every bit `true blue', John has endured the test of time and has built up an unshakeable following to boot. But, he says, it wasn't an easy rise to fame.

"With Old Man Emu I won the national `New Faces' TV show and a recording contract, and the record went to No.1 nationally, and went `gold'," said John. "I thought the rest would be easy, but then it took me 13 years to come up with a successful album."

Not that he was idle by any means. John hosted a regional television show, fronted cover bands, tried rock'n'roll (not quite the image he has today), and performed solo. But it was truly Australian songs which told a story of life as we knew it and as it was currently being lived that was this talented singer/songwriter's passion.

His voice was a `natural' when it came to portraying the `true blue' Aussie and while early critics panned `original songs' saying people wanted to hear covers, John stuck to his guns. "This is my voice, this is my land. I can only sing about what I know," and so the masses began to hear original songs that reflected their lifestyles.

With the 1986 re-release of `True Blue' as the theme for the Government's `Buy Australian' campaign, John's position as `The Voice of Australia' was consolidated.

In celebration of his 25 years in show business, John launched two major releases - a book titled `True Blue' plus the 25th Anniversary, Limited Edition Double CD - also titled `True Blue'.

UPDATE 2012: John Williamson has now been in the industry for over 40 years and sold over 4 million Platinum and Gold albums. He has been inducted into the prestigious ARIA Hall of Fame, secured 3 ARIA Awards, 24 Golden Guitars, MO Awards, and APRA Awards.



Col Elliott


COL ELLIOTT was still in the navy when Australia was applauding John Williamson's first major hit, Old Man Emu. "Every sailor on board was singing it," Col recalled. "It was my introduction to John Williamson."

Col said the song was a real inspiration. "And it continues to inspire both old hands like me and the new performers coming through," he said.

According to Col, himself a much-loved Aussie character, John had not only contributed a great deal to the industry but also `knew how to do it right'. "I can give you no finer example than John Williamson. He's totally Aussie and keeps on getting better. He's a constant and has got humility. I enjoy his talent and his humility, and the way he incorporates the verses from people like Banjo Paterson into his songs."

Col said he was proud of John's achievements. "I'm also very proud to call him `friend' and send my best wishes for the next 25 to a good mate,' Col said.

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