14 February 2008

Smoky Dawson

Smoky Dawson has died. Tonight's ABC TV 7.30 Report paid a generous tribute to him, including some footage of him riding a horse, singing, reminiscing and, back in the 1950s, plugging Kellogg's products on the radio (which nowadays would have him excoriated for promoting obesity).

A brief glimpse of a poster during the program showed that he was proficient in a several fields, eg knife and axe throwing, though he was best known for his singing. He was no Slim Dusty, as much of his material( and all his attire) had an American flavour, but he could carry a tune and did so until very late in his life.

My favourite performance of his is his duet with Jimmy Barnes singing "Cold Cold Heart", the old Hank Williams song. By the time he recorded this Smoky was only up to backing Jimmy's rasping vocals, but together the pair did a good job. By agreeing to appear with Smoky Jimmy presumably wished to acknowledge Smoky's contribution to Australian popular culture.

He was 94 and is survived by his wife Dot who is , according to the 7.30 Report, 101.

Update 16 February

There are more media tributes today, including "Smoky's sunset", by music writer Iain Shedden in The Australian , the last paragraph of which is a succinct summary of his career

Last year Dawson was honoured at his last Tamworth appearance. His plaque on the city's Galaxy of Stars promenade outside the entertainment centre marks a career spanning eight decades, that drew on vaudevillian show business traditions, cowboy pastiche and crafted storytelling as much as it did on singing and songwriting.

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