South Australian Country Music Festival and New Talent Awards 2018
The 40th anniversary of the Riverland Country Music Festival is being celebrated from the 1st to the 11th of June this year at Barmera, and the committee is planning a special celebration to mark the occasion with a tribute to the late Rocky Page, who many considered the ‘Father of the Festival’.
Dean ‘Rocky’ Page, who was a successful country music entertainer/singer/hypnotist/music teacher/horse trainer and radio announcer, began his early stage career touring outback and regional areas around Australia to appear with carnival performers, and such greats as Smokey Dawson and Slim Dusty, and many more. They also appeared at the country shows around the nation, and at the Royal Shows in all major cities.
Many years ago Rocky and his wife Viv settled down in Berri in the Riverland to raise their family, while he continued to perform, and teach local music students, while he ran a music shop. He became an Icon of the Air when he ran a country music program on 5RM and had his students perform live to air. That program ran for many years and was listened to by music fans all around South Australia and in NSW, NT and Victoria.
In order to allow his students the opportunity to perform on stage to a live audience, and to compete against other young musicians and singers in a talent quest, Rocky set up the Riverland Country Music Festival, and ran it for the next twenty years, until his untimely passing from Motor Neuron.
During the time he ran the festival he called on all his mates who had become stars in the country music industry, to come along and perform at the festival for mate’s rates, and to have their hand prints immortalized in the country music avenue of honour. Slim Dusty was the first to be recognised, and one of his famous hats, which he wore on stage, is in the Hall of Fame which Rocky established in the main street of Barmera.
Over 200 people have been acknowledged in the concrete guitars which form part of a giant guitar in the grounds behind the Rocky’s Country Music Hall of Fame, which is now known as the SA Country Music Hall of Fame.
This year’s inductees are two local men, one of whom, is recognised as a leading international artist on the country music circuit overseas, and has had several top hits on the US and European charts. He is Darin Warner from Loxton, and he will be joined by his father, Sarge who is his hero and mentor, and is a member of Darin’s band, and a leading guitarist within the industry.
Former committee member Phil Turpin is also being inducted into the Maple Avenue of Honour at the official opening of the festival, and the induction ceremony, at the Hall of Fame on Saturday the 9th of June. Berri Barmera Mayor, Peter Hunt, will officially open the festival, and participate in the induction ceremony.
This will be conducted after the popular annual sheep run down the main street. The Barmera Sheepdog Trials are now held in conjunction with the festival, and adds to the overall atmosphere in the street.
From 8.00 am of Saturday the band Working Overtime will be playing in the street, and many of Rocky’s former students will be performing as part of an ongoing tribute to Rocky.
A special tribute to Rocky will be performed at the Spectacular on Sunday, and the former Kingston Kids, Ricky and Tammy, who were students of Rocky’s, before becoming successful in the entertainment industry around Australia, will be performing. Peter Healy, former radio announcer at 5RM, and co-worker with Rocky will also fly in from Sydney for the tribute.
The list of artists appearing at this festival will be released shortly along with the program, and is very impressive.
Meanwhile, the festival committee is holding a fundraiser at the Mallee Fowl on Sunday the 11th of March from 11.00 am in the form of the 5RM Country Music Countdown and a large group of well-known local singers and musicians will be jamming, and a comedienne and bush poets will entertain the crowd. Entry will be $5 and a sausage sizzle and refreshments will be available. A great day is promised.