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92.9fm Regional News

  • Writer's picture92.9fm Newsroom

Pioneer of Tamworth's country music scene will be missed

The late Ross Murphy pictured with Max Ellis, Kevin Knapp and Eric Scott. Photo by: Robyn McIntosh

The country music community is mourning the loss of one of the first people to record country music in Tamworth.

Pioneering producer and broadcaster Ross Murphy died on Tuesday after a long illness.

Industry member Max Ellis said Ross was one of the foundation members of Country Music Capital.

"Over more than half a century he made a massive contribution to Tamworth and Australia country music as a record producer, a broadcaster and reviewer and a promoter of the music," he said.

"He has helped and worked with over the decades."

Ross, who was originally from Tenterfield, built a successful saddlery business in Tamworth before he became involved in Country Music in the early 1960s.

As a member of the Queensland based Modern Country Music Association, Ross had attended many concerts and talent quests around NSW and Southern Queensland run by the group.

Impressed by the club and its activities he decided Tamworth should have its branch which he set up in June 1967 with Margaret Carmichael as secretary, John Minson as publicity officer and Betty Frey as treasurer.

The MCMA was an active group, staging talent quests and concerts with musicians like Des and Barry Whitton, Lance McCulloch, Bob Cole, Michael Cook, Doc Riley, Tom Roach and Frank Jones' Trailblazers which featured young Tommy and Phil Emmanuel.

On June 14 1971, it changed its name to Capital Country Music Association with Ross as vice president.

In 1969, Ross travelled with Geoff Brown to Dubbo to help set up a branch of the MCMA with local country fan and car dealer Ken Cameron.

Ross and Ken got on so well they decided they would establish a record company together and CM Records was formed.

Their first recording of "Doc Riley" was on November 15, 1969, in the "Tin Shed" at radio 2TM Tamworth.

The label continued successfully for several years putting on vinyl, artists including Helen King, Johnny Heap, Wally White, Tex Little, Garry Gardiner, The Denning Sisters and others.

The partnership broke up in 1972 when Ross established his label, Opal Records based in Tamworth.

During the next thirty years, Ross has released hundreds of singles, EPs, LPs and CDs from artists including Jimmy Little, Stan Coster, Joe Daly, Brian Young, Auriel Andrew, Col Hardy, Michael Cook, Lindsay Butler, John Grills, Christina George, Buddy Weston, Ray Griffiths, Gary Brown and many other country singers.

His last releases were CDs of Christina George and Johanne Henara, released in January 2016.

After the 2TM "Tin Shed" (a corrugated iron building in which the station's workshop and storage areas were situated), Ross utilised a wide variety of studios including Hadley, Nashgrill, Enrec, Du Monde in Sydney, CM in Dubbo and Russ Hammond's Studio at Coffs Harbour.

Opal Records have won two Golden Guitars, the first Listener Award in 1973 for Col Hardy and 1977 for Best Instrumental by Lindsay Butler.

Ross, fondly known as Murph, has been deeply involved in the Tamworth country music scene for well over half a century and is rightly regarded as one of the significant pioneers who helped turn Tamworth into Country Music Capital.

For many years Ross reviewed Country Music for many media outlets.

He also became heavily involved in local radio station 2YOU FM both as a country music presenter and later as Board Chairman.

Ross's service was recognised when he was awarded a Country Music Capital Award in 1991, and he was inducted into the Hands Of Fame in 2005.

Mr Ellis said he will be sorely missed.


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