Shotgun Willie Nelson's 11th hour cancellation of his sixth Australian tour is a major blow to Australian fans.

But it's an even bigger financial headache for tour promoter Michael Chugg.

Fans for Willie's national concerts will receive refunds after he cancelled all touring for a month after suffering acute laryngitis.

Nelson cancelled five U.S concerts this week and a Mulwala-Yarrawonga festival gig on February 26.

Willie's doctors ordered him to rest for another three weeks.

His management said they had no alternative but to cancel Nelson's Australian shows.

"At this time, we can't reschedule his Australian tour dates because Willie has already many shows booked soon in the US," they said.

Willie's duet partner Pat Green recently replaced the icon on several Texas dates such as the Houston Rodeo but sadly has received no major airplay here.

Fans who bought $60 tickets for Willie's Melbourne Myer Music Bowl gig - Sunday February 27 - will need a lot of convincing to refrain from demanding refunds.

Nelson, 71, has probably written more songs, released more albums and appeared in more movies than his entire support cast.

The promoter's major bait for stopping the flood to the refund box office is whether Redneck Woman Gretchen Wilson can earn mainstream exposure.

Nelson and Wilson had already drowned in the post Tsunami backwash of the refried rocker reunions to draw in the hits and memories hordes.

The legendary Daddy Cool, featuring four respected musicians who played plenty of country music in their post fame days, may still be a lure.

Although Billy Thorpe and Cold Chisel keyboard player Don Walker have written country songs for artists diverse as Melinda Schneider and the late Slim Dusty, they are unlikely to draw country fans.

Barnes may be a country fan but his vocal gymnastics have the irritant factor that also alienated soul fans.

Fellow singing actor Russell Crowe was reportedly going to join Nelson at the Music Bowl gig for a duet.

Crowe may have lured fans, more for his profile than his vocal imperfections, after a brief career with his blues band, Thirty Odd Foot Of Grunts.

Crowe met Nelson while on tour in Texas but has not yet become a recording partner.


Willie's departure means the most relevant artist on the bowl bill is Redneck Woman Gretchen Wilson who scored best female country act at the 47th Grammy Awards.

Wilson, 31, has reportedly done Australian print media interviews but so far they have not surfaced south of the Murray Dixon line.
Gretchen is no stranger to radio, TV and controversy at home and won plaudits for her reaction to Grammy jibes by a fly by night hip hopper, with myxo.

She has been snubbed by radio here but not by record company Sony who re-released her debut album Here For The Party, with a bonus live tracks and two video clips, to prime its sales way beyond three million.

Wilson's colourful career and life make her eminently marketable.

Viewers of Nu Country TV can verify that after her recent performances of her huge entrée hit Redneck Woman and an interview profile.

Gretchen fans have other choices to catch her - Brisbane Tivoli Wednesday February 23, Sydney Metro - Thursday February 24 after her gig at Perth Moonlight Music & Wine Festival on Saturday February 19.

If the Myer Music Bowl publicists need any research they can CLICK HERE for a Gretchen Diary Story on January 3, 2005.


Willie's cancellation is good news for rival promoters.

Former Geelong trucking troubadour Adam Harvey headlines 16th Bunyip Country Festival - also on the Sabbath.

Harvey, 30, is likely to score mainstream print media exposure and lavish support by #1 fan Ernie Sigley on 3AW.

The multiple Golden Guitar winner and raconteur will also receive hefty exposure in Gippsland.

Bunyip footy ground - locale for the festival - is less than an hour east of the heart of Melbourne on Highway One.

CLICK HERE for details in our comprehensive Gig Guide.


Nelson's absence is also good tidings for Ringwood promoter Rob Hall who has Kevin Welch making his sixth tour, Kieran Kane #5 and Fats Kaplin on his maiden Australian sojourn.

The trio kick off in Meeniyan on Friday February 26, Milano's Brighton on Saturday and Loxley Winery on the Sabbath.

CLICK HERE for a new interview with Welch from the Diary.


It's debatable whether Willie's departure will impact on expat Australasian country superstar Keith Urban.

Urban, 38, didn't win a Grammy but scored lavish exposure here on surrogate radio - mainstream TV - for his live cameo with Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Maybe that's the key to the door of our mainstream hits and memories mausoleums where familiarity is the cloying crutch.

Urban's in-depth interview with Ray Martin on Nine Network show A Current Affair on Friday February 18 was an oasis in the country music desert.

The much-maligned TV host has the depth of knowledge of the importance of Urban and country music in the big picture.

Martin worked in the U.S. long before country was cool and is well aware of just how much the genre is part of the American fabric.

He is also hip to the popularity of the genre here in the unlucky radio country despite the boycott by mainstream radio.

And, unlike they grizzled, grey haired geriatric grinches who sneer at huge success of our younger artists - here and overseas - he is supportive of his peers.

It will be of interest to see how much mainstream exposure Keith earns here during his tour.

Urban plays the Palais on Saturday February 26 with Sam Hawksley - the prolific Orange born country writer - who dabbles in pop.

That's the same night former Nu Country FM DJ Moana Kerr and her band Sunshine Harvester launch their self titled debut CD at Wesley Ann Hall, nee Ruckers, on Beer Can Hill in Northcote.

Also on the bill is Glaswegian Alex Legg whose album Healesville received rave reviews on its release many moons ago.


Newcastle novitiate Catherine Britt's fame flame will be fanned by the furore in the U.S. over her marketing in raunchy male magazines.

Veteran country music expert Chet Flippo touched on the scanty apparel of Catherine and peers to compete with pop princesses.

"So, if I were a high-powered manager or publicist in Nashville and I had a promising young female singer and I wanted to raise her public profile, here's what I would do. I would let one of the cheap tits-'n'-beer lad magazines photograph her in her barest skivvies," Filippo wrote recently.


"I would make sure that the magazine picks only the most stereotypical interview quotes from my artist, like the ones about her dad being in and out of jail or drinking moonshine -
or any other hick subjects. Then the magazine would put her on its cover - but along with seven other promising young female country singers. That line-up of "sexy sirens" would certainly make a huge impression on the magazine's young, male, one-handed bathroom readers, none of whom listen to country music. And it would certainly endear her to all the country fans who don't read tits-'n'-beer magazines.

Then I would express shock and outrage when the magazine sends out to the media a video on the making of the magazine cover. Well, isn't that what you would do?

It's what their handlers just did for Catherine Britt, Jennifer Hanson, Kerry Harvick, Lauren Lucas, Shelly Fairchild, Jessi Alexander, Jamie O'Neal and Tift Merritt. They're all over FHM magazine, which drips with typical insults about Hee Haw and Garth Brooks.

"Catherine Britt is the most talented newcomer to hit Nashville in years - period.

Tift Merritt has a major Grammy nomination - and it's not for her underwear. Britt and Merritt deserve better than this. So do Jennifer Hanson and all the other young women."

"When it comes to an artist's public image, sexy is one thing. A cattle call is another.

Maybe I'm a prude, but I think these talented young women are not just meat on the hoof and shouldn't be treated that way and shouldn't be taught to think of themselves that way. Media in this country has become in many ways coarse and cheap. Country music doesn't have to be that way."

Fair comment you might say but even Merle Kilgore's publicist Kirt Webster bathed in the posthumous publicity when Kid Rock was arrested for punching out a disco DJ after Kilgore's wake at swanky Nashville restaurant-bar The Palms.

Kid Rock was there with a star-studded group that included Hank Williams Jr., whose career Kilgore had managed, Hank's ex-wife Becky (White) Williams, daughter Holly Williams, Travis and Theresa Tritt, Aaron and Thea Tippin and John Rich and Kenny Alphin of Big & Rich.

''Merle wanted to go out with a bang, and he did,'' Webster said. ''Merle's name is in the press one more day, thanks to Kid Rock.''


Catherine's dad Steve - a fan of Chet's writing and support for Catherine - has no qualms about the marketing or criticism.

"Chet's comment about Catherine is a big call from a great music critic/writer," says Steve.

"The FHM shoot certainly is interesting - the photo of Catherine I think is a really nice photo, but the whole concept is a bit strange. The mag is out in shops that import from the US today - see what you think."

Also in local shops is the February issue of popular English magazine Country Music People featuring Catherine on the front page.

The magazine features a four-page interview by editor Craig Baguley - once again proving the singer is better known overseas than in her homeland.

See our GIG GUIDE for details of all above tours and gigs.


Legendary Texan singer-songwriter and actor Billy Joe Shaver has suffered another death in his turbulent career.

Bobby Brown, guitar/fiddle/mandolin player in Billy Joe's band, died of a heart attack in a Florida motel room while touring with Billy Joe last week.

Shaver's former Webmaster Matt Western reports there was no suggestion of dope.

"Shaver played Dan Electros in Houston on Saturday February 19 with all proceeds to Bob's family," Western revealed.

The death was also a big shock for former Nu Country DJs Nipper Mack of Very Handsome Men and Colin Weidner.

"Nipper & I met Bob at the Tommy Alverson Gathering in Texas last year," reports Weidner.

"We had a beer with him after Billy Joe's spot. He was a nice little bloke. Remember it well. We were listening to the sounds of Gary P. Nunn at the time. Hard to put an age on him but I'd reckon somewhere around the 45-50 mark. Bob was the guy who really held the band together with his multi-instrument talents."

Brown's death follows shortly after that of fellow Austin pedal steel guitarist Big Jim Murphy played with the late outlaw Johnny Paycheck and Asleep At The Wheel.

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