With a career spanning many years, international artist and local resident of Bulahdelah Trevor Knight will bring his talents back to the local area for a show at Club Taree on September 16. He tells us about his career and the friendship with John Denver that inspired this show.
Tell us about how your music career started.
I started back in the 1960s; I was a Folk singer travelling around England and America … Oh, how do I start? It’s a very long story (laughs), so I won’t elaborate too much. I basically fell in love with the guitar.
I saw a fellow called Pete Seeger playing on the television, and in those days I had never seen anybody who could entertain a huge audience with just a guitar and their voice. And it’s something I had always wanted to do … I thought, “I could do that: I would love to do that”. So I bought myself a cheap guitar, I went to America, and that’s when I met John Denver with the Mitchell Trio.
I worked with Paul Simons and people like that, who taught me a lot about performances and the values of understanding songs. I came to Australia in ’74 and won a thing called National Star Quest on Channel 9; from that, I worked on Super Flying Fun Show and Ray Martin’s Midday Show, for many years.
So with this new show that you’re bringing to Taree, Thank God I’m a Country Boy, you’ve said it’s not a tribute show, but it is to do with your good friend, John Denver.
I am not trying to be John. A lot of people say we are obviously very similar, because I learnt a lot from him and we were all living in the ’60s when all that music was happening, so we learnt from the same people. It’s not a tribute show; it’s a lot more then that … it’s a presentation, a celebration of a great writer and his music. I also feature Paul Simons, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, the other people who are great influences on me as well. Of course, I’m a songwriter – I have won a few Golden Guitars in my time, so people like to hear the songs that I have written and the stories that I can tell as well, so there are many facets to the show.
What is your favourite song to perform and why?
Every song I sing is my favourite. I don’t sing a song that I don’t believe in; I don’t sing a song that I don’t understand. So every song I sing is special to me and when I am singing a song, that song is my favourite at the time.
This show is coming to Club Taree in September. You have a local farm in Bulahdelah … tell us a bit about that part of your life.
Yes, the other part of my life is that I worked as a stockman. It was very romantic, and I have written some great songs about The Old Days of Khancoban. We used to break the horses in, and I could never really reconcile such a magnificent creature having to be broken. So over the past 30 years, I have developed techniques that understand the horse and teach us how we can train horses, not break horses.
So I live here in Bulahdelah; we have 17 Arabian Horses. I spend a lot of time going around doing workshops with horses as well. That’s another part of my life; I suppose it does fit in pretty well with my music, because it’s all the same sort of feeling.
Do you feel you live a bit of a double life?
I do, because I am out traveling and working in all these exotic countries, with a lot of people around me, then I come home and I am living on the farm; it’s peaceful and quiet, and I am surrounded by the animals and my lovely wife, Maya.
So it is a strange dichotomy of worlds. One minute I am in South Africa, and next minute I am in Bulahdelah. I know where I would prefer to be (laughs).
You’ve had many highlights in your lengthy career. What was it like performing for the Queen for the opening of Darling Harbour in 1988?
It was a great honour. I am a Royalist; I love the royal family – she is a lovely lady. I suppose my most vivid memory of that day was what she was dressed in; she is always immaculately dressed. She had a lovely little lemon coloured bowler hat and a matching suit. She is an incredibly charismatic lady. It was a great honour to play for her.
What is next for you?
I am off all over the place, actually. Just before the show in Taree, we are off touring the show around the Pacific Islands, going to Vanuatu and places like that. I do the show in Taree, and then on 19 September I am off to Hong Kong and go around Hong Kong, China, Japan for the same show. Then I’m coming home and working in Bendigo
As I say, it’s a bit of a varied life and varied audiences as well. One day I play to an American audience, next time English, and then the good old Aussies.
What can the local audience expect from this show?
I’d think a lot of fun. It’s a very genuine show; I do it because I believe in it. I am not just signing the songs. Hopefully, I can install a bit of happiness and a bit of emotion and a great insight. There are of lot of lovely facts about songs and about people, and all the different instruments I love playing. I love the ukulele!
There is such a wide variety of instruments. Which is your favourite and which on is most popular with the audience?
The ukulele is a lot of fun; it’s a wonderful instrument, and it’s been in my life for a lot of years. It’s a very serious instrument and people really love it. I have been playing it for quite some time, and suddenly I am seeing it come back into popularity; it’s always been the forgotten one of the musical family.
When it really comes down to it, the old Martin six string guitar is the instrument I love the most. My wonderful songs are played on either my six string or my twelve string; although, the banjo is a lot of fun as well!
It’s a great show; it really is a good show. I am not just saying that, because I really enjoy it – and I think people will get something out of it!
This story was published in issue 67 of the Manning-Great Lakes Focus