Bill Caralis opens his cheque book for Country Music

After a 4 year break Tamworth’s legendary overnight country music radio program has returned to commercial radio on Saturdays and Sundays, and will once again be hosted live by Nick Erby.

The program (formally known as Hoedown) was axed 4 years ago as part of changes at the Caralis SuperNetwork, but is now returning as CMR (Country Music Radio), much to the delight of SuperNetwork listeners in this ‘country music month.’

CMR is broadcast from 6pm to 6am each Saturday and Sunday on 16 Caralis stations, including 2SM Sydney and 2HD Newcastle.

The program, which began Christmas weekend (27 December 2003), is heard in northern and western NSW, plus southern Queensland including the key Country Music centres Gympie, Toowoomba and Tamworth.

CMR was broadcast from Tamworth for 35 years up to the beginning of 2000 and was the catalyst for the establishment of the annual Golden Guitar Awards and the Tamworth Country Music Festival.

The re-introduction of CMR at weekends was initiated by SuperNetwork owner Bill Caralis, who has upgraded the facilities at 2TM to accommodate the network programming.

CMR highlights country music’s latest hits plus interviews and features. The program will cover all of country’s major events, including a big coverage of the upcoming Telstra Tamworth Festival later this month. The program will include live broadcasts of the Toyota Star Maker Quest final (celebrating it’s 25th year) and the 32nd Toyota Golden Guitar Awards (country’s annual record awards).

Nick Erby is one of Australian country music’s leading broadcasters, producing and hosting country radio and television programs for over 30 years.

Erby told radioinfo: “I am delighted to accept Bill Caralis’ invitation to re-launch CMR, and particularly pleased that he is allowing me to do it from Tamworth – Country Music Capital.”

Stations broadcasting CMR are:

Sydney 2SM 1269AM, Newcastle 2HD 1143AM,

Tamworth 2TM 1287AM, Toowoomba 4WK 1359AM,

Darling Downs 4WK 963AM, Gympie 4GY 558AM,

Tweed Coast Radio 97 972AM, Gold Coast Radio 97 104.1FM,

Lismore 2LM 900AM, Grafton 2GF 1206AM,

Taree 2RE 1557AM, Mudgee 2MG 1449AM,

Parkes 2PK 1404AM, Dubbo 2DU 1251AM,

Cobar 2DU 972AM, Gunnedah 2MO 1050AM,

Moree 2VM 1530AM, Walgett 2VM 106.7FM,

Goondiwindi 2VM 89.5FM, Inverell 2NZ 1188AM,

Armidale 2AD 1143AM.

As the Tamworth Country Music Festival approaches, radioinfo spoke to Nick Erby about Australian country music.

radioinfo: How has country music changed in the time you have been presenting it in the various radio programs you have had in your career?

Erby: I came into Country at just the right time in the 70s, when overall it was building a bigger more universal audience (both in America and here). Since then Country has been through several cycles (just like pop music) but all the time it has ben exciting, innovatve and very competitive.

Country suffers from just one problem – people don’t get to hear it. In Australia major market radio stations that have tried a Country format (with a couple of exceptions) have failed to understand the format and exploit its qualities. Had that happened we would have full time Country stations successfully competing in Australia in exactly the same way they work in American middle to major markets.

Country Music is progressive, appealing and has an amazing audience in spite of its lack of media exposure. The crowds that will be in Tamworth this month will come from the city and the bush and cover every socio-economic profile from five star to camping in the open on the riverbank – from spending thousands to thriftilly spending very little.

radioinfo: You went to 4AAA, the aboriginal country music station, as Operations Manager to help set them up to compete in the mainstream Brisbane market when you left 2TM. How important is country music to indigenous people and why? Who are the most popular artists with aboriginal people?

Erby: Country has always had a strong following within the Indigenous community. Particularly rural and remote people. Even today, over 20 years after the big travelling shows of Slim Dusty and Buddy Williams stopped touring the outback settlements there are still some Country tours that are in big demand out there – particularly the Brian Young Show, which still does four months across the top end each year.

Over the years there have been a number of fine Aboriginal artists like Tommy and Phil Emmanual, Troy Cassar-Daley, Roger Knox, Warren H Williams, (last year’s Star Maker winner) Todd Williams and of course Jimmy Little.

The most popular artist amongst all Aboriginals has always been Slim, and of course they are very proud of Troy and Tommy’s success.

radioinfo: Is Australian country music different from American country – either in the stories it tells or some other way?

Erby: There are two types of American Country – Nashville and non-Nashville. The mainstream Nashville music (controlled by the major labels) is considered to be too homogenized (although considering all the hits of any year will bring forward a good argument against that position). The other music has more variety, a stronger tie with tradition and much less structured for mass market penetration.

In Australia our music is more like the second American type. Sure we have successful acts who produce Nashville type music, but we have a lot who tend to follow different directions – and that has always allowed us to have a much broader “Country” – Slim Dusty, John Williamson, Graeme Connors, the Bushwackers and Kasey Chambers are just a few of the “off centre-line” people who make Australian Country so exciting.