Gore Country Music Club celebrates 50 years

Milestone . . . Cutting the 50th anniversary cake of the Gore Country Music Club (are from left) the inaugural president Evan Beale, inaugural vice president Bill Abernethy and life member Coral McCauley. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

A 1972 newspaper advertisement has had a pivotal role in the success of the Gore Country Music Club.

The club celebrated its 50th anniversary last weekend.

Club life member Max McCauley (86) said his wife Coral read an advertisement inviting people to attend a Southland Country Music Club meeting in Invercargill.

She told him about the event and encouraged him to go.

He was a keen singer and sometimes appeared on stage with visiting entertainers, including Maria Dallas, Mr McCauley said.

His first public appearance was in Lumsden when he was 5 years old.

‘‘The song I sang was The Yellow Rose of Texas and I yodelled with it.’’

Both his father and mother were good singers.

‘‘Music was in the house and that is what drove me more than anything. I just loved it,’’ he said.

He did not want to make the trip from Gore to Invercargill alone, so he asked his friend Bob Morrison to go with him to the meeting.

The next month they were joined by their friends Stewart Abernethy, Bill Abernethy and Evan Beale.

On the way home, they discussed that Gore should start a club.

Soon after, the Gore Country and Western Club was formed at a meeting at Gore’s La Cresta cake shop.


Mr Beale was elected first president of the club and Bill Abernethy the vice-president.

‘‘There was no way I wanted to be the president or anything,’’ Mr McCauley said.

‘‘All I wanted was to be able to sing.’’

The meeting closed with a sing-along.

Starting young . . . Gore Country Music Club member Kayla Mahon plays the guitar for club member Hazel Evans (5) as she sings during a walk up concert which was part of the club’s 50th anniversary on Saturday. PHOTO: EXPOSED PIXELS PHOTOGRAPHY

Mr Morrison, who is also a life member, said Mr McCauley was the only singer in the group of five who were the catalyst for the club.

‘‘Every singer needs an audience.

‘‘We may not entertain or sing or play, but somebody’s got to organise something in the background and organise events, and that is where we slipped in,’’ Mr Morrison said.

The club met monthly from then on and in 1973 held its first public concert.

Members decided to hold a talent quest in 1974, which attracted 38 entries.

This event was the beginning of the New Zealand Gold Guitar Awards.

In 1985 the club was renamed the Gore Country Music Club.

The club celebrated its 50th with events including a walk-up concert, a dinner followed by a performance by Eddie Low, and concerts by The Warratahs and Australian blue grass band The Hillbilly Goats.

Former Gore mayor Tracy Hicks was asked to be the club’s first patron, and life memberships were awarded to Julie Mitchell, Laurel Turnbull and Sue Stenning.

Mr Hicks said he was honoured to be made the patron of the club.

‘‘Country music is the heart and soul of this place.’’

The relationships that had been built because of country music had ‘‘put Gore on the map’’, not just in New Zealand but throughout the world, Mr Hicks said.

Recognised . . . Gore Country Music Club members (from left) Julie Mitchell, Laurel Turnbull and Sue Stenning were presented with life memberships of the club during its 50th anniversary celebrations at the weekend. While former Gore mayor Tracy Hicks was made the club’s inaugural patron. PHOTO: EXPOSED PIXELS PHOTOGRAPHY
Special guest . . . Eddie Low entertains at a concert during the Gore Country Music Club 50th anniversary on Sunday . In the background club member Peter Cairns is part of the backing band. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

President Julie Mitchell said while the club organised the New Zealand Gold Guitar Awards, there was much more to the club.

The club hosted monthly club meetings where club members performed and gained confidence as well as members entertaining at rest-homes and for fundraising shows.

‘‘The aim of the club is to support and foster country music.’’

The vision of the five men in 1972 in forming the club proved to ‘‘indeed be a very good idea’’, Mrs Mitchell said.

‘‘Who would have imagined where it would lead to today?’’ Mr McCauley said it was very satisfying to see the progress of the club, especially as many people had thought it would not last.

He always remembered the advice of concert convener Wilson Heaps.

‘‘‘Max, we’ve got to think big and hopefully one day we’ll be big’, and that’s exactly what happened.’’