Australian metropolitan corporate commercial radio chain programmers have been ambushed by their worst nightmare.

U.S. radio - from where they take their riding instructions - has adopted the music of expatriate Australasian country superstar Keith Urban.

Urban has topped U.S country charts on debut with fifth album Be Here.

And he has soared past rappers, rockers, hip hoppers and other radio riff raff to reach #3 on the prestige Billboard rock charts.

Be Here sold 148,000 copies in its first week of release leaving him just behind Green Day's American Idiot that debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 and Nelly's Suit at #2 in its second week of release.

Urban's album pushed several major artists down the country chart.

Tim McGraw's Live Like You Were Dying slid to #2 and Alan Jackson's What I Do to #3.

Other debut discs - Gretchen Wilson's Here for the Party and Big & Rich's Horse of a Different Color - were #4 and #5

Brad Paisley's Mud on the Tyres fell to #6, followed by Jimmy Buffett's License to Chill at #7 and Kenny Chesney's When the Sun Goes Down at #8.

Urban's momentum from the new album spiked sales of his previous project, Golden Road that moves up one position to #9 after selling two million copies in two years on the chart.

Urban also scored a platinum album for his self-titled U.S. solo debut disc.

Willie Nelson's Outlaws and Angels culled from a TV show featuring Keith Richards, Merle Haggard, Toby Keith, Kid Rock and others, debuted at #10.


Urban's latest single Days Go By - his 5th #1 hit and eighth consecutive #5 smash - has also topped U.S. country charts for four weeks.

To make matters worse for the Australian radio roosters, who refuse to play his music, Urban's hot album debuted at #11 here on the official ARIA charts.

Regional and city TV advertising and variety show cameos fuelled a sales spike - an amazing indictment on the moat mentality of the hits and memories mausoleums.

Commercial radio's sole recognition of Urban was to set a putrid pack of humourless comedians onto the nation's biggest country music export.

He also suffered inanities of tedious TV twerps in diverse variety show cameos oh so necessary to fill the vast vacuum of country music on city radio.

Urban, now 36, spent more than a decade working the skull orchards, honkytonks and bars before ascending to arena status.

He sang on demos and wrote with peers as he strutted his stuff in Guitar Town corrals as he advanced from unknown to front man with The Ranch for his second album.

Ironically, his success has also been a gold mine for fellow expatriates Barry Coburn and singing spouse Jewel Blanch Coburn - a fellow child prodigy as a singing actress in Hollywood and beyond.

The Coburns have promoted Urban's lucrative publishing catalogue since his arrival in Music City in 1992.


Despite hostility from Australian music industry power brokers and pariahs trying to peddle recycled rockers, video vamps and reality show eunuchs Urban's huge success prompted a national tour with his new band in February of 2005.

Instead of the cavernous tennis court in the Yarra traffic jungle where Urban suffered sound problems early this year as support to Texan temptress Leann Rimes, the singer performs at the historic Palais Theatre in St Kilda on February 26.

Urban follows fellow stars Kasey Chambers and Lee Kernaghan into the theatre that has hosted artists diverse as the Dixie Chicks, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Leon Russell, Dwight Yoakam and Amazing Rhythm Aces.

CLICK HERE for the Nu Country gig guide for national concert dates and booking details for the tickets on sale in October.


Canadian music writer Greg Quill, who once toiled in Melbourne and Sydney bars in the seventies with his acclaimed band Country Radio, gave Urban the benefit of his wisdom in the Toronto Star.

"He won't be touring Canada until sometime in 2005," wrote Quill whose tunes such as Gypsy Queen have been recorded by Geelong born Adam Harvey - recent Canada tourist - and others.

"Urban who migrated to Australia in 1967 and grew up on his parents' farm outside Brisbane - capital of that nation's most conservative state in the 1970s and '80s and home to country music station 4KQ - is still a bit of a risk in Canada."

Quill wrote that winning major Nashville awards and credibility didn't guarantee the success of Urban in Canada.

But conquering the Aussie pub and club jungle was a huge bonus.

"Persistence and years of training in Australia's unforgiving pub-rock circuit, where he had honed his chops, slashing at his electric guitar in ways few Nashville purists would even dare, and sweating out long nights pushing his own compositions out front and centre, alongside the great country rock standards the crowds had come to hear, eventually attracted serious attention in conservative old Nashville."

Urban played guitar on Canadian Paul Brandt's most recent album, and recorded The Hard Way, co-written by Cape Breton's Gordie Sampson on Be Here.

"Our drummer brought an advance copy of Gordie's new Sunburn CD to rehearsals, and I played it to death. I recorded another of his songs, You (Or Somebody Like You), and we're putting that out on the European version of the CD, or on a DVD," Urban told Quill whose Country Radio worked with progressive country acts The Dingoes and Saltbush in the early and mid seventies.


Urban spoke recently of his embryonic days in Nashville when he worked the beer and wine mines.

He gained a local following for his regular performances with his band, Four Wheel Drive, at Jack's Guitar Bar, a tiny bar located south of downtown.

"I think my most memorable night was Kix Brooks coming to see us play," Urban says. "The place didn't hold many people. He'd been to some event with his wife, and he showed up as we were already playing. I remember seeing him at the door. He didn't know what the cover charge was. He pulled out this big wad of cash and stuck it in the guy's hand and walked in the door. I think he gave us, like, 75 bucks or something. It was like, 'Here's a large sum of money, little man!'

With no seats available, Brooks finally found a spot on the floor right in front of the stage.

"That grubby old floor," Urban recalls.

"I just thought, 'Holy hell! Kix is sitting right there on the floor.' And he stayed there for the whole show. At the end of it, he came up and said, 'We want to take you boys out with us for some shows.' And I'm like, 'Yeah, great. Sure, sure. Yeah, I'm sure you'll be calling us.'"
Urban soon discovered Brooks was a man of his word after he called to hire them to open four shows for Brooks & Dunn.

The singer has come a long way since the release of his solo debut single in 1999 after the breakup of The Ranch.

The single, It's a Love Thing, peaked at #18 on the chart and Your Everything hit #4.

In 2000, he landed his first No. 1 single with But for the Grace of God.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Except for Australia where radio programmers are nailing their computer doors shut to prevent country music being heard in the cities and stuffing up their demographic driven paranoia.

With supreme irony the market Urban targeted in the U.S. is the 25-45 demographic - the wet dream of Australian radio chains corporate clones.

CLICK HERE for a previous Urban feature from the DIARY on 14 September 2004

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