Bush Boy Makes It Big

Article excerpt

Byline: TONI SOMES

HE was a boy from the bush with dreams of making it as a boxer, but fate and a musical gift paved a different path for Roger Knox.

His is a story of a kid from a remote Aboriginal mission, who went on to sing in Nashville and at London's Covent Gardens and a myriad of international stages, theatres, hotels and campfires in between.

Today Mr Knox is a grandfather and a vocal ambassador for the Kamilaroi people, but despite country music stardom his roots remain firmly embedded in the dry soil of northern New South Wales.

His has been a long journey and at O'Mahony's Hotel tonight he'll share it with Warwick.

Mr Knox was born in a time of racial segregation; his childhood was spent at Toomelah Aboriginal Mission south of Goondiwindi.

He grew up fearing police, welfare workers and white people, was short-changed on formal education and joined the workforce in his early teens.

"My grandmother was a Sunday schoolteacher so we went to church four times a week," Mr Knox said.

"So we grew up with gospel music and good behaviour.

"We went to church so often I once asked if I could stay home and just avoid hell with my credits from last week."

But half a century later he believes his strict paternal grandparent set him on life's straight path.

"I never drank alcohol or did drugs and we grew up knowing we had to work hard," he said.

He put the latter into practice early leaving school to work on a tobacco farm near Tamworth.

As chance would have it the move proved timely with the teenager finally encouraged to pursue his other passion, music.

"The Tamworth country music scene was just kicking off and my cousin told someone, who told someone else, I could sing," he said.

So he was railroaded onto the stage at Joe Maguire's bar.

"I tried to get out of it, but they wouldn't let me get down," he said.

More accustomed to belting out a tune around a campfire with a family friendly audience, he forced down his nerves and finally sang a song called Blacktracker.

"They clapped and I guess it was the start of something," he said.

With the modesty of a man who became known as the Black Elvis and the King of Koori country that "something" turned into a string of successful country albums, a national fan base and international tours. …