John Williamson is returning to the Gympie Music Muster this year in celebration of 35 years of mates, music and making a difference, writes Belinda Peters.
With a career spanning more than 40 years, 350 songs and 40 albums, and more accolades than he cares to mention, Williamson was one of the first performers to grace the Muster stage back when it was built of bush timber and borrowed Queensland Rail tarpaulins on country music trio The Webb Brother’s 100-year-old property at Thornside.
John has been a Muster regular ever since and has seen it grow from a humble celebration of country music to a huge four-day festival at its permanent home at Amamoor Creek State Forest in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.
“I certainly performed at every second one since then and a few more. I guess I’m the veteran there now, now that Slim’s gone,” says John.
“It has changed over the years. I wouldn’t miss it anytime they want me there. People have been going for years, they’ve got their little private bars set up and collections of old mates, so it must be a lot of fun for them.”
This year’s event will feature more than 120 artists in more than 300 performances from Thursday August 25 to Sunday August 28.
Joining John on the line-up for the 35th Muster are a host of country music stars including Kasey Chambers, Beccy Cole, The McClymonts, Shane Nicholson and Adam Harvey. John says the Muster’s atmosphere and growing, enthusiastic audience is what makes it a unique place to play.
“Everyone there is definitely into what we do. They’re all camping, and my music, most of our music, works around the camp fire. The Muster is a great thing to do, because you get to a whole lot of people in one show.”
“It’s also one of those few occasions you get to catch up with your old mates.”
As well as providing a rollicking good time for performers and audiences alike, the Muster is a not-for-profit charity event, which has raised in excess of $15 Million for charities Australia-wide since its inception. This year’s charity partner is Mates4Mates, helping recovering Australian Defence Force personnel with mental and physical injuries as a result of their service.
While Williamson never announces ‘big tours’ he still tours throughout the country every year, regularly reaching remote audiences as well as those closer to home.
In fact, one of his most recent shows was in his purpose-built shed on his property at Springbrook in the Gold Coast Hinterland, where he held two intimate shows to 200 people at the start of June.
“It’s just word-of-mouth. I don’t really advertise, just put it on the website. I think roughly a third of the audience come every year now. They just like it so much, because it’s a beautiful spot. The view from the shed, all you can see is bush.”
“They get to see my personal shed and all my collections and all my old cars. Old utes, really.”
When The Retiree last spoke to Williamson, he said retirement was not in his plans and now at the age of 71, he says while there are still crowds coming to his shows and he can still perform, he’ll keep going.
“I do see myself retiring, but they won’t let me. They keep turning up! I think I’ll retire when I start really losing it or I can’t play the guitar, can’t see or I can’t remember the words. I think that’s when you got to pull out, but that’s not happening yet.
“I am getting deafer every year, but that’s about the only problem!”
“I’ll probably get a bit smarter and not do as many shows. That’s one of the reasons why the Gympie Muster’s good, because you can get to a lot of people without spending a month to do it.”
For details on this year’s Gympie Muster line-up and to buy tickets, visit muster.com.au
Read our previous story on John Williamson here.