Black Gold and White Satin
Col Hardy’s Performance Outfit
Shown below is a 1980s stage outfit worn by Kamilaroi performer Col Hardy (1940-). You could say its style is ‘a little bit country’ and ‘a little rock ’n’ roll’. Homemade, the plain white satin shirt is embellished with crystal beads, diamantes, and pearl buttons. The matching polyester trousers are belted, and the sparkly decorative buckle completes ‘the look’.
Col Hardy is one of Australia’s most celebrated performers – holding a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) award for his service to country music. Col’s achievement of this award was a long way from his humble beginnings in Brewarrina, NSW, where he grew up with eleven brothers and sisters.
During his teenage years Col worked alongside his dad doing hard-graft day-jobs like shearing sheep and putting up fences. But at night the family would gather around the radio and enjoy music from country stars like Slim Dusty and Tex Morton, as well as rock ‘n’ roll greats Johnny O’Keefe and Col Joy. Inspired by these performers, at age twenty, Col slung his guitar over his shoulder and entered a local talent competition. There he won first prize, setting his career in motion.
Throughout the 1960s, a time when most Aboriginal people were banned from clubs and pubs, Col toured with one of his heroes and fellow Aboriginal singers Jimmy Little as part of the All Coloured Show – a revue group featuring all-Aboriginal artists, co-founded, named and toured by Jimmy. The group played at country pubs and clubs in the hope of changing some of the racist attitudes faced by Aboriginal people in country towns.
By 1972, with the release of his first album Black Gold Col found a broader audience. And a year later Col won the acclaimed Golden Guitar award – the Tamworth Country Music Festival’s highest award. At thirty-three years of age Col was the first Aboriginal person to receive this accolade, after many years of challenging work to get there.
Col took out the Tamworth award for the release of his second album Protest Protest – a title that reflected Aboriginal peoples’ repeated calls for land rights and ‘self-determination’, which dominated this decade.
Col continues to delight audiences today with his gift for song, and his hard-won success has helped to pave the way for other Aboriginal performers that follow in his footsteps.