It was an exciting time for a young man
from the bush. At just 23 years of age, Arthur Blanch had been
playing the guitar and singing for a number of years before winning
a talent quest at Lismore which was to change his life.
Born and raised on the family sheep property at Wollun, about "50 miles north east of Tamworth as the crow flies", Arthur built himself a crystal set so he could listen to country music on the radio and loved to sing while mustering sheep and cattle. He rode miles each day to attend a tiny one-room, one-teacher school, then later attended Farrer Agricultural High School in Tamworth.
Though he'd previously won Australia's Amateur Hour in 1949 and made various acetate recordings in Tamworth and Inverell, it wasn't until he won the Lismore talent quest and gained a contract with Rodeo Records that Arthur's amazing life journey as a country music recording artist began.
In that very first session, Arthur recorded six tracks (or "sides" as they used to call them then) including two of his own compositions. "I've recorded on all the various formats," Arthur says, "from direct to wax, on one, two, three, four, eight, 16, 24 and 32 track (analogue) machines to the more recent digital tape (and digital without tape!) recorders."
Over the 50 years since that first recording (July 17, 1952), Arthur has grown from "the singing shepherd" (a promotional tag record companies used to give their country recording artists in the early days) to the club scene in Sydney and Brisbane to Golden Guitars in Tamworth, rising star in America and the Country Music Roll of Renown.
And of the many stories and experiences Arthur and wife Berice can relate from this time, the simple history of Arthur Blanch On Record is one of the most significant and interesting.
"I've recorded in radio stations, tin sheds, under a house, in garages and the major studios of record labels like EMI, ARC (Australian Record Company) and Festival to the studios of Capitol in Hollywood and leading country music studios in Nashville," Arthur said.
In a career sustained over half a century, there's been a great deal of success from Arthur's many recordings, one of the earliest being his self-penned Shearing Time recorded at the historic July 17 session.
This particular song is very close to Arthur's heart as it related so closely to his own rural upbringing in the NSW New England, a song which was re-released only several years ago and which he is featuring in all his shows during this Year Of The Outback as "a tribute to all the shearers in this great land".
One of Arthur's most significant early successes was The Strange Little Girl, a song he recorded for EMI which was so popular, it was also a hit on the "top 40" charts and became, reputedly, Australia's first country cross-over hit.
In 1963, Arthur and Berice were persuaded to visit America which they did for 12 months, gaining a recording contract with Dot Records in Hollywood on the strength of a song co-written by Arthur.
The family, including daughter Jewel, returned to Australia working constantly in the club scene until 1968 when Arthur gained a position as lead entertainer on a world cruise which took them to Los Angeles where another song of Arthur's-How Long Must It Be-gained him a recording contract with Capitol Records.
A number of successful years touring and performing on radio and television in America followed, including such notable appearances as the Grand Ole Opry. And through it all, the recording continued.
Most significant of Arthur's achievements in the USA was reaching high positioning on the Billboard, Cashbox and Record World country charts with the song The Little Man's Got The Biggest Smile In Town. Which, incidentally, was in the American charts at the same time as daughter Jewel's recording of So Good (September 30 and October 7, 1978), a unique achievement by a father and daughter.
Arthur's recording experience in America must have held this country boy from Australia in awe, recording "where greats like Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, as well as many famous country stars such as Johnny Horton, Jean Shepherd and Merle Haggard have recorded".
The family returned to Australia in 1980 and immediately re-launched back into the local scene. Arthur formed his own production company, producing four award-winning albums and a successful one-hour television special.
Four years in a row, Arthur won Golden Guitars at Tamworth, two for Male Vocalist of the Year, two for Album of the Year. The television special-based on his first Golden Guitar winning album The Lady And The Cowboy-was telecast in Australia and America.
Years of performing and touring followed with occasional trips back to America for business and family reasons (Jewel currently lives and works in the USA).
Just two years ago, in January 2001, Arthur received Australia's highest country music honour when he was elevated to the Country Music Roll of Renown. The same year, a dedicated display on "the singing shepherd" was unveiled at the Australian Country Music Foundation "hall of fame" in Tamworth.
With his 50th anniversary of recording looming, Arthur released two CDs that year, The Blanch Family In The Sixties and Gems And A Few Jewels. From this latter production, Arthur was again featured among finalists at the Country Music Awards and has been in demand for performances at numerous functions and festivals Australia-wide.
This year, riding on a wave of renewed success, volume two of Gems And A Few Jewels will be released this month, again by Arthur's own production company, and he has staged two "anniversary shows" at Tamworth - one during the January Country Music Festival, the second just last month during the CountryLink Hats Off To Country Festival.
And these last couple of years seem to have rekindled Arthur's recording spirit a spirit which has underpinned his many other achievements during a long and illustrious career.
"I've enjoyed all my recording sessions," Arthur said, "and met and worked with many wonderful people and marvellous musicians, most considered 'A' team players.
"They are the ones who can create the right feel and sound to suit the song and singer right there on the spot, and quickly.
"I've been fortunate in having some great producers over the years Geoff Harvey, Bob Montgomery, Pat Carter, Al DeLory, Gerry Styner, Pig Robbins, Dobie Gray and I've also enjoyed producing some of my own."
And Arthur seems most impressed with his most recent sessions, conducted almost exactly 50 years to the day of his very first recording session. In Arthur's own words
"My most recent sessions have been with the cream of the crop of Australia's musos and producers Rod McCormack, Stuart French, Mick Albeck, Michel Rose, Rudi Miranda, Lee Carroll and Brendan Radford."
So 50 years since first recording, it is still an exciting time for this young man from the bush. A little older, somewhat wiser, Arthur Blanch can look back with pride and satisfaction at what he has achieved since he first recorded.
Achievements which include chart hits in Australia and America, numerous awards and accolades, thousands of live appearances, top selling albums, and elevation to the Country Music Roll of Renown.
But for Arthur Blanch, 50 is not a time to stop recording. "I hope to be in the studio again, soon," he said.
since the 50th anniv, three more albunms have been released iuncl the current one lkife's been good to me
now working on material for a new album which
wollun one released in 2006 and going well... postage incl within australia 29.95.. po box... autographed