Reg Lindsay

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Australian country musician who has also covered rockabilly, bluegrass and boogie.
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Singer Reg Lindsay was the premier international star to emerge from the Australian country music renaissance that followed World War II. The first Aussie ever to appear at Nashville's landmark Grand Ole Opry, he was later awarded his own plaque along Music City's Walkway of Stars, and effectively paved the way for contemporary Australian country sensations like Keith Urban and Kasey Chambers. Born in Sydney in 1929, Lindsay was given a harmonica at the age of two, and after mastering the instrument he moved on to banjo, mandolin, guitar, and fiddle. Despite his aptitude for music, Lindsay initially dreamed of a career as a cattle rancher, but in 1951 he claimed top honors in an amateur talent contest sponsored by Sydney radio outlet 2SM, winning a recording deal with the Rodeo Records label. Lindsay's profile also increased in 1952 when Sydney's 2CH named him to host his own country music radio showcase -- later that year, The Reg Lindsay Show jumped to rival 2SM, where it aired for a decade and launched the careers of a number of Australian country talents.

In 1954 Lindsay wed Heather McKean, one-half of the popular duo the McKean Sisters, whose own Aussie country classics include "The Gymkhana Yodel," "Yodel Down the Valley," and "The Morning Mail" -- still, despite his public recognition and relentless touring schedule, success as a performer continued to elude him. Lindsay made the leap to television in 1964, relocating to Brisbane to host The Reg Lindsay Country Hour. The series aired for eight years, culminating in the 1971 chart smash "Armstrong," a tribute to U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong that was originally penned by Kingston Trio alum John Stewart. Lindsay was no slouch as a composer himself, writing more than 500 songs during the course of his career and recording roughly 60 albums -- his other hits include "July, You're a Woman," "Silence on the Line," and "Empty Arms Hotel." After launching the television hit The Reg Lindsay Country Homestead, he concentrated on cracking the U.S. market, and in 1974 made his Opry debut, dividing his time between North America and Australia for more than a decade.

In 1989, Lindsay was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his services to the nation's musical culture. During an appearance at the 1995 Tamworth Country Music Festival, he suffered a brain hemorrhage, followed by a heart attack the next year. Lindsay spent the remainder of his life in and out of hospitals, finally succumbing to pneumonia on August 5, 2008.