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Smoky Dawson interviewed by Rob Willis for the Rob and Olya Willis folklore collection [sound recording]
Bib ID 2299995
Format AudioAudio, OnlineOnline [sound recording]
Dawson, Smoky, 1913-2008, Interviewee
Online Versions
Access Conditions Access open for research, personal copies and public use. 
Description 2000 Apr. 20 
2 digital audio tapes (ca. 58 min.) 

Rob and Olya Willis folklore collection.


Folkloric recording.

Smoky Dawson, born at Collingwood, Vic. speaks about his family background; his schooling at Victorian state schools; his father's theatrical career and war service at Gallipoli; songs the family sung; story about his baptism by Archbishop Mannix; his enjoyment of classical music; Jack Carew, Smoky's boyhood hero; his 3 years at an orphanage; being fostered by Jack Carew in the country near Colac, Victoria; his return to the orphanage; concerts at the orphanage; Lawson's poetry in songs; his first singing spot; meeting Jim Kelly (brother of Ned ) and others in the Kelly family at Benalla, Vic.; Cobb & Co coaches; Ned Kelly and that era in Australian history; writing songs based on life experience, retaining memories and comments on mateship; learning to play guitar; the era of Hawaiian music; the demise of Island songs; lap steel guitar; names influences on his music in the early days; early radio days, Australian Amateur Hour; Terry Dear; Hawaiian Club; 1st Hillbilly Club; Tex Morton stories; his early radio productions,in particular the Smoky Dawson Radio Show (1952-1962)

TAPE 2: Dawson speaks about the importance of sound effects; making up tunes; he and his brother singing at station 3DB in a competition; playing at the Australian Hotel; his involvement with the Rotary organisation; memories of sideshows, showmen like Chief Little Wolf; his army days serving with the 1st Australian Entertainment Unit; whilst serving in Borneo falling seriously ill; marriage to Florence (known as Dot) Cheers in 1944; his days as an entertainer performing for many years with his horse Flash, who died in 1982; the story of the song The Wild Colonial Boy; putting together a tune for Wild Colonial Boy, changing the words and recording the song Wild Colonial Boy with Glen Campbell (American singer); Frank Clune (Australian author); recording the first talking book for the blind, titled Ben Hall the bushranger; American songs in the United States; Australian accents in the USA; New York in 1950; touring in schools in USA; comparing USA to Australia; going into the backwoods country; a story of Hillbillys in the USA; writing a book on the jaw harp; tuning jaw harp.

Partial contents
  • Tape 1: sings an early song (Dawson composed this as a child of about 8 years of age)
  • sings Melbourne Town
  • sings Little Brown Cottage (learnt from Jack Carew)
  • sings The Last of the Kellys Tape 2: demonstrates horse noises
  • dog effects
  • farm effects and stories
  • farm effects and trumpet - plays the Jews harp (Smoky called it the Jaw harp)

Smoky Dawson, Australian entertainer was awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1978 and was elected to the Australian Country Music Roll of Renown. He also received the Honour Award of the Grand Old Opry and the American Country Music Association in Nashville, Tenn.


Recorded on Apr. 20, 2000 at the National Library of Australia, Canberra, A.C.T.

Also available online

Related Material Related material : Portrait of Smoky and Dot Dawson held by National Library of Australia Pictorial Collection at PIC NL38659 LOC NL38659. 
Index/Finding Aid Note Timed summary (4 p.) 
Subjects Dawson, Smoky, 1913-2008 -- Interviews.  |  Kelly, Ned, 1855-1880.  |  Smoky Dawson Radio Show.  |  Country music radio stations -- Australia  |  Country musicians -- Australian Capital Territory -- Canberra -- Interviews.  |  Broadcasting -- Australia -- Anecdotes.  |  Australia -- History -- 20th century -- Anecdotes.  |  Australia -- Songs and music.  |  Australia -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
Occupation Country musicians.
Other authors/contributors Willis, Rob, 1944-, Interviewer

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Details Collect From
ORAL TRC 3388/231-232
Copy: Recording
Special Collections Reading Room

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