He’s been based in Queensland for a while now but Albury always brings back fond memories for country music star Lee Kernaghan.
Albury is where he formed his first band, the Blue Devils, with some mates from Hume Public School.
It is where he took his first piano lessons, with Irene Bell, learning to play music by ear.
In the Kernaghan family’s Dallinger Road home his dad, Ray, introduced Lee and siblings Greg and Tania to country music, thanks largely to Slim Dusty on high rotation on the old family turntable.
Albury, too, is where he penned his breakthrough hit Boys From The Bush.
“It’s where it all began,” he recalls with modest pride.
On April 21 – 25 years to the month Boys From The Bush dominated Australian airwaves and topped the country music charts – Lee Kernaghan’s Boys from the Bush 25th Anniversary Tour will perform to a packed house at Albury Entertainment Centre.
“It’s really poignant coming back home to Albury, where my music began, as a nine-year-old boy getting piano lessons with Mrs Ball.
“She was quite elderly when she was teaching me but she taught me to play not by theory but taught me to play be ear.
“Not only did she teach me but my brother Greg to play the drums and my sister Tania to play the piano as well.”
Boys From The Bush and the Outback Club album a month later were not well received by the country music establishment, it wasn’t country they thought, but it introduced a new generation to country music.
The song was picked up as an official anthem by agricultural students, in places like Dookie and Gatton on the Darling Downs.
“Boys From The Bush was the song that launched it all.
“The early ’90s was like a revolution in country music and my music was aimed at a younger generation of Australians living and working in regional Australia.”
The song captures life and ritual of young people growing up in rural Australia.
“Young people working on the farm and coming in to town on the weekend, that’s all it’s about,” he says.
“I didn’t think that was a particularly interesting enough subject to write a song about but my record producer Garth Porter convinced me to do it.
“He said ‘Lee, you’re a boy from the bush, you’re father Ray drove trucks up in the Snowy Mountains Scheme, your mother Pam is a dairy farmer’s daughter from Berringama and your grand father Pat is a drover so start writing about where you come from and your mates and your life experiences’ – and that is what gave birth to The Outback Club.
“Once Boys From The Bush was written it sort of opened the door to write a lot more songs in that vein, like She’s My Ute, The Outback Club, Hat Town and that tradition continues on to this day.
“I don’t consider it so much as country music as it is music of our country, our people, our way of life and that what’s drives me and keeps me wanting to make records and touring Australia.”
The concert will cover songs from his new anniversary album released this month as well as the hits from his career which has notched up more than 30 chart toppers and about as many golden guitar awards, a couple of Hitmaker of the Decade awards, the Roll of Renown and an Australian of the Year award.
“It’s a long way from calling bingo at the Commercial Club and giving away microwave ovens,” he says.
“It’s more than a concert. It’s a party, a celebration and everyone’s invited.”
And when he gets to that song, as he will, expect some emotion from a passionate Albury boy.