HISTORY OF THE COUNTRY MUSIC GUILD OF AUSTRALASIA
- Members of The Trailblazers set up a family day for members of the band and their children and to foster and promote country music in Melbourne.
- The early family days were held at the Yarra Bend Park in Kew. It grew from there.
- The Trailblazers were probably the first fully professional country music show in Australia.
- They had their own radio show on 3XY for 12 years through most of the 50’s into the early 60’s.
- They released the first Australian Country 12” Album – “The Trailblazers Stage Show 1957-59”. Re-issued on CD and it is still available.
(Click on the album cover photo for more information).
- The Trailblazers were formed by Les Partell, Bill Earle (Manager), Russell and Alan Hawking, George Mack and the Whistle Sisters.
- At times The Trailblazers featured over 10 members including Russell and Alan Hawking, Bill Earle, Charlie Boland, Elsie Darling, George Mack, George Xanthos, Ian Castles, Jack Quinn, Pete Skoguld, Stan Green, Tom Heaney and Beverly Dick.
Formation of the Country Music Guild and Beyond
- At a meeting in the Collingwood Town Hall in April 1968, Johnny Conway initiated the formation of a Victorian country music organization which would later become the Country Music Guild.
- The Country Music Guild was then formed by Eric Scott, George Mack and Les Partell in 1968.
- Les Partell came up with the name “Country Music Guild of Australasia” after seeing a sign saying “Pharmacy Guild”.
- Eric Scott was the first President, George Mack the Vice President and Les Partell the Treasurer. The Trailblazers became the backing band for the artists.
- Started at the Back Of Bourke Restaurant in Camberwell then moved to the Whitehorse Inn in Box Hill.
- Other venues over the years include the Reservoir Hotel, Brunswick Club, Brunswick RSL, Doncaster Inn Hotel, Sportsman’s Club in North Melbourne, Fairfield RSL and the current location at the Pascoe Vale RSL since 1994.
Les and Joy Keats
- Les Keats and his wife Joy were early members of the Country Music Guild and both were Presidents of the Country Music Guild at various times.
- They worked as a duo in the 1940’s and 1950’s. They had their own radio show on 7LA, Launceston. They moved to Melbourne and recorded with The Trailblazers.
- They also had their own bands – The Country Styles – with Les, Joy, son Kerran plus Ken Davis and Johnny Rogers.
- Also The Dakotas and The Keats Family Band with their sons Garry and Kerran and later with youngest son Warren. They had a weekly residency at the Commercial Hotel in High St Northcote for over 14 years.
- Les was President of The Guild for many years until he got too ill to continue. Joy then took over as President.
- Les Keats passed away on August 7, 2002
- In 2003 the Les Keats Memorial Award for the “Most Popular Band” was introduced. The first winners were The Dalton Gang. Other winners were Mustang, The Prairie Oysters, Tim Farren Band, Rough Cut, The Rip Rawers, Honkytonk Rockers and Doug Bruce & The Tailgaters in 2017.
- When Joy got too ill to continue as President, Keith Green took on the role in 2006.
- Joy Keats passed away on December 19, 2007.
- Eric Scott was the first President of the the Country Music Guild.
- Born in England, Eric became heavily involved with a country music program from 7LA Launceston, Tasmania, Australia in the late 1950s.
- This eventually led to the formation of Hadley Records. His Australian wife Hilary was also heavily involved in Hadley Records. The name Hadley was inspired by a small English village called Monken Hadley near where Eric was raised.
- A foundation member of the Country Music Guild and its first President.
- On 29th March, 1972, Hadley Records released its first national hit recording – Slim Newton’s “Redback on the Toilet Seat” (it sold over 100,000 copies in Australia and New Zealand).
- 1997 – Inducted into the Australian Country Music Hands of Fame
- George Mack was the first Vice President of the Country Music Guild and later became President.
- Born George Macrokanis on October 21, 1933 in Melbourne.
- 1940’s – Career started in the late 40’s when he joined The Trailblazers as a singer and guitar and mandolin player. His voice and instrumental ability was an integral part of the Trailblazers. They performed regularly on 3XY as well as extensive travelling around Victoria.
- Played mandolin on many recordings, Hawking Brothers, Lionel Rose and Laurie Allen.
- An early member of the Australian Hillbilly Club and a foundation member of the Country Music Guild and its second President – after Eric Scott. Les Keats became the 3rd President.
- George co-produced The Guild’s first album entitled “A Wider Range of Country”.
- George was also a judge in the early years of the Tamworth Golden Guitars and a judge of the Victorian Country Music Awards in Whittlesea.
- 1978 – Inducted into the Australian Country Music Hands of Fame (as George M).
- Les Partell was the first Treasurer of the The Country Music Guild.
- Born Leslie John Partell on July 2, 1930 in Sydney. The family moved to Mendoorin in central west NSW and then to Clifton Hill.
- 1979 – Inducted into the Australian Country Music Hands of Fame.
- 2014 – Elevated to the Roll Of Renown in Tamworth. The Roll is displayed on special plaques, mounted on granite rocks, on the lawn in front of the Tamworth Regional Entertainment and Conference Centre (TRECC).
Russell Hawking: (1 July 1931 – 2 November 1975)
Played with his brother Alan at the Victorian Hillbilly Club later to become part of The Trailblazers Making appearances on Melbourne radio 3XY He was the lead vocalist with The Hawking Brothers who recorded many EP’s & LP’s. The Hawking Brothers were the support act for Johnny Cash in 1973 and Buck Owens in 1974. They recorded in Nashville and performed at the Grand Ole Opry in 1975.
Alan Hawking: (7 July 1933 – 19 September 1988)
Multi-instrumentalist, played with brother Russell at the Victorian Hillbilly Club later to become part of the Trailblazers. Took over lead vocals after the death of Russell in 1975 and later recorded as a solo artist. Alan’s wife Diane wrote many songs for the group.
This history was compiled by Frank McHugh from information supplied by
George Mack, Dick and Lorraine Senn, Les Partell, Keith Green and various online resources.