The Nev Nicholls Story
Born on th 16th September 1930 at
Millthorpe in the central west of NSW, Nev Nicholls spent his childhood on a farm at Tallwood.
Tallwood is not a town merely a district of small farms and in the depression years it was a
grind for the whole family to eke out an existance.
In the early forties the family moved to a larger property in the Blaney area. Despite the move
the work load never changed.
On a mixed farming property there was always the daily grind, milking cows, planting crops.. peas,
patoes, corn, wheat, turnips etc. And also tending a flock of sheep, shearing, crutching and lambing,
it finally found a breaking point for our Nev.
After travelling to Sydney on his motor cycle to appear on "Australia's Amateur Hour" and later on
"Tim McNamara's Talent Quest" the call of the big smoke got to be too strong.
Nev had been playing guitar since the age of 11, learning mainly on songs of Buddy Williams
whose influence is apparent in Nev's early records.
Alan Crawford, manager of Southern Music Publishers, discovered Nev at a studio where he was recording
some songs on acetate. He signed him to a publishing contract and also introduced Nev to Regal
Zonophone Records who also signed him up.
Having a record around helped to get established in Sydney and his early efforts included some
appearances on the "McKean Sisters Show" on radio 2KY. Nev recalls his first meeting with
"Slim Dusty" on one of those occasions, that was in the days before Slim and Joy were married.
In 1957 Nev did his first country tour with
"The Reg Lindsay Show" up the north coast of NSW. On that show were: Reg Lindsay, Heather McKean,
Rick & Thel Carey, Judy Stone and comedian Freddy Merideth also part of that troupe was Chad
Morgan. Chad and Nev shared a caravan for the two weeks and when the group returned to Sydney the
touring bug was alive and well. Reg had a lot of commitments and was not in a position to embark on
extended tours at that time so Nev, Chad and Rick & Thel enrolled Kevin King in a new show
which was called "The All Star Western Show" which also included fiddle player Peter Mollerson.
After little more than a year there were many personality clashes and that show broke up.
The result of the break up saw Nev and Kevin re-joining "The Reg Lindsay Show".
Reg was then ready to tour again and that show included Reg, Heather McKean, Judy Stone, Kevin King,
Elvis look alike, Freddy Mauger, and comedian George Nichols (no relation).
Judy Stone fell ill at Charters Towers and was replaced by Jacqueline Hall. Shortly after that
Heather McKean, who was pregnant, dropped out of the show and returned to Sydney to await the birth
of her daughter.
Times were getting harder for travelling shows and when the show arrived back in Sydney Nev dropped out.
Back in the big smoke Nev worked the pub circuit and did guest spots in the ever growing club industry.
Photo: Reg Lindsay & Nev Nicholls
In 1968 Nev got a call to audition for a night club job in
Kings Cross and that led to a ten year stint at the famous "Texas Tavern".
The Texas Tavern wasn't a job. It was an unforgettable event. Playing for American servicemen on R&R from Vietnam,
meeting celebrities who were making appearances at the Chevron Hotel across the street, and being accepted in
the local population, as country music had never been accepted before.
This is why Nev wrote "I Like Beer".
People who made up part of Nev's band, "The Country Playboys" sounds like a whos who of the best
performers in the country. Over the years people who were part of the action were:
Guitar Players: Phil Emmanual, Dave Longmore, Gary Brown, Farmer John Hayton,
Mick Hamilton, Kenny Kitching, Laurie Allen, Peter Bazley.
Base Players: Allan Tomkins, Les Young, John Dunn, Mike Fahy,
Johnny Heap. and Drummers:Steve Hopes, Laurie Webb, Paul Kniepp, Tony Stan and many more.
Guests who dropped in and did a spot here and there included: Diana Trask, Charlie Pride,
Tom T Halls Band "The Storytellers", Buddy Emmons the worlds best steel player who was
touring with Roger Miller.
Not forgetting the local guest artists who appeared on a weekly basis including:
Jade Hurley, Roland Storm, Johnny Devlin, Laurel Lee, Carter Edwards, Terry Kaff
and many others far too many to enumerate. Female singers were: Jan Kelly,
Nikki Bradley and Lorraine Delaney.
Five Years into the Texas tavern Nev signed with RCA records
to do an album of truckin' songs. "Keep On Truckin'" was the vanguard of more than twenty
albums in the years to follow. These albums yealded five "Gold" albums and also an
instrumental which won a "Gold Guitar" in the "Australasian Country Music Awards"
All good things usually come to an end and the Texas Tavern gig finished in 1978 when new owners took over.
The next project was a National Radio Show
"The Nev Nicholls Road Show" which had a successful run on more that 90 radio stations
throughout Australia from 1978 to 1988. To compliment the show he also launched a travelling show under
the same name and he toured that show all around Australia starring at various times, Gary Brown,
Phil Emmanuel, Lisa White, Debbie Lee Rae (now known as Kaye Payne) and Cowboy Bob Purtell.
In the 90's the show was extensively backed by "The Silver
Wings Band", he did tours with the Brisbane group "Buckskin" and "Fusion"
out of Wollongong. In Northern Queensland the band to supply the music was "Paper Train",
In Melbourne "Freight Train", Tasmania "The Good Old Boys" and in Western Australia
In Queensland for shows Nev became friends with the President of the Townsville Country Music
Club, Dick Nettlefield and together they hatched a plan for the "Champion of Champions"
event that has now been running for twelve years, very successfully.
As a further string to his bow Nev launched his own
record label "Nicholls 'N Dimes" where two winners from Townsville's big festival scored a record deal with the label,
"Saddle Tramps" band and also the "Gottani Sisters".
The sisters have since moved to America and have been working consistently touring as backup
singers with some of the big names of country such as "George Jones" and "Janie Frickie".
Other people to cut records on the label were: "Reg Lindsay", "Cowboy Bob Purtell", D'Arcy Le Year",
(now part of the Wolverines) "Lisa White" & "Desree Crawford" and many more. Including
"Our Buddy" the "Buddy Williams" tribute album which had the biggest names in
Australian Country duetting with Buddy.
People like: "Slim Dusty", Gordon Parsons", Smoky Dawson", "Shirley Thoms", "Alan Hawking",
"Kevin King", "Reg Lindsay", "Tex Morton with sister Dorrie", "Johnny Ashcroft & Gaye Kahler".
Fast forward to the late 90's and "Massive Records" have released a lot of Nev's LP's on CD that are
enjoying a new lease on life. Buddy Tribute album now deleted
In 1992 Nev was inducted into the "Australasian
Country Music Roll Of Renown" at Tamworth, the most prestigious award in Australian Country Music.
Nev had always been a prolific writer and besides recording vast numbers of his own songs he had also
had many covered by other artists among these are: "Reg Lindsay", Chad Morgan", Frankie Davidson",
"Johnny Garfield", Terry Gordon", "The Wayfarers", "Truckin Stevens" and by no means least his long
time friend "Lucky Grills". Lucky and Nev shared an album in 1998, a truckies album of course,
titled "Ya Wanna Screw Driver".
Together with all his activities and four marriages behind him it's little wonder Nev says
"If I had my life to live over, I don't think I'd have the strength".
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