AN OVERNIGHT sailing and Bobby Wilson and his wife, Julie will be fresh on dry land from Tasmania ready for Saturday’s Gippsland Country Music Festival.
“I’m happy as can be. I just cannot wait to get over to Gippsland and knock out a few songs,” Bobby explained.
“I am really honoured to be a part of the festival.
“When Aidan gave us a call a few months ago to confirm I was head over heels, I could not believe I’d be rubbing shoulders amongst high legends in the country music industry.
“It’s awesome. To be there in the flesh to share my style of country music.”
“I’ve got heaps of songs up my sleeve – the important ones I’ve gathered include River of Life, which tells the story of the Darling Murray River.”
Through conversations with his mum, Bobby discovered the severity of the Governments Murray Darling Basin decision.
“We used to talk about the lifestyle back in the homelands of Wilcannia, the river and the hunting and gathering and things like that.
“And we got to the stage of talking about the river and I said, ‘Mum, how’s the river going? Is there fish biting?’ And she responded in the manner saying there’s no river.
“They’ve taken all the water away; they’ve taken that source of life away from the people that live on the river as well as from the fauna and flora.
“I decided to play, to write poetry and stories and turn that into song.
“That’s how I deliver my storylines to the audience and to the people who are prepared to listen.
“Every move we make, we are answerable to the government, and it shouldn’t be, we’re a free country.”
Bobby’s life story would fill novels.
Born in 1955 in Wilcannia on the Darling River in New South Wales, Bobby was the first born of ten.
“My dear old Mum and Dad raised us kids under the gum trees. My Dad is from the Dunghutti tribe and Mum was from the Barkindji tribe.
“Back then, my parents and grandparents were not recognised as Australians. Or even as people. It wasn’t until the 1967 referendum that Aboriginal people were no longer classed under the ‘Flora and Fauna act’.
“I’m not being inflammatory; I am just telling the truth. There is no lying in my life.
“Dad and I built a shack on the Darling River when I was 10 years old.
“We lived off the land. If any of us kids saw a roo down the track, off we’d go with the hunting dogs.”
The riverbank provided the Wilson’s with wild berries and fruits, fish, kangaroos and emus.
“Once a month, we would get government rations of flour, sugar, billy tea, a tin of corned beef and maybe an old grey government blanket.
“We had our morals and values entrenched into us by our parents – they taught us to respect our elders, use our manners, stand up for ourselves, be strong and believe in ourselves and our culture.
“My upbringing helped shape the person that I am today – proud, loyal and honest.”
A culture filled with music – singing made the Barkindji spirit stronger.
“I learnt how to play music by ear. I can’t read music, I just copied the music from the records my parents would be playing, the old 78’s, ’75’s and 45 LP’s.
“I would tune my guitar to the tunes of Slim Dusty, Buddy Williams or Charley Pride and other singers.”
Leaving school at 16, Bobby’s skills saw him undertake many jobs, including mining for 15 years.
An explosive ticket in hand, Bobby moved up the ranks exploring coal, oil and gas, becoming the boss.
The years proceeding saw Bobby marry Donna and have three children.
“In 1989 I got a promotion and a transfer to Burnie. Been in Tassie ever since and I love it.”
Taking his nephew under his wing, Bobby and Donna took on sole custody of a young Clinton, and their family grew to six.
As an Aboriginal Liaison Officer on Flinders, Bobby was invited to sing and celebrate Aunty Ida West at a function.
“It went down very well.
“A lady named Hazel overheard me telling someone that I had always wanted to record a CD but had never got the chance. So, she graciously offered me 3 hours of her time and that of a musician friend of hers.”
Fast-forward, Bobby met Kutcha Edwards and Grant Hanson and was awarded a $10,000 arts grant to record his first album – his dream of recording had come true.
Today, Bobby is proudly married to Julie (after the passing of Donna in 2008) and has recorded a second album.
“I’ve sat around the campfire, looked at my dad and my uncles and aunts and cousins, and that’s where I draw the spirits of my musical talent from.
“And from the legends that I’ve heard on the radiogram from Slim Dusty, Charley Pride, Buddy Williams, Chad Morgan and Casey Troy Cassar-Daley to Adam Harvey, and The Wolfe Brothers, I enjoy all types of music.
“I grew up in an era of the 50s and 60s. I love my rock and roll music from Elvis Presley to The Beatles.
“I enjoy singing with my grandkids, they get up and sing with me.
“My wife sings with me, we’re just one lovely family singing.”
A third album may just be in the works.
“I’m thinking about doing that but encouraging my grandchildren to also be a part of that.”
“I’d love to inspire the younger ones to get up there – just do your stuff, be who you are naturally.
“To build up their confidence to give their talent to an audience.
“That’s how I started – from being a shy Outback kid to singing in churches and schools at talent quests and eventually at festivals; rubbing shoulders with legends in the music industry.”
With his album played around the world, Bobby was chuffed to hear it receive airtime in South Korea and Canada.
“It’s gone a hell of a long way. Every state in Australia has given me some airplay on radio so it’s just awesome and brings out happiness.”
With covers and his own originals, Bobby has been incredibly fortunate to collaborate with incredible talents in the music industry.
“The gentlest person that I have had the honour of sitting down, listening to and talking with was Uncle Jimmy Little. The man was so calm, he was an inspiration, to be in his aura, it’s just unbelievable.”
“My grandchildren, their children, and their children in the future will sit down and they’ll say Grandpa Wilson’s dream came true…”
Tickets available from gippslandcountrymusicfestival.com