Runaway Success

John Williamson's Iconic Aussie Hit

‘Now I can’t fly but I’m telling you, I can run the pants off a Kangaroo.’

These are the beloved lyrics of John Williamson’s song, Old Man Emu, featured here in an original Australian release of the song’s sheet music.

John Williamson AM was born into a wheat farming family in 1945. In 1965 Williamson and his family moved to Croppa Creek, near Moree, where he spent long hours working on wheat country surrounded by emus. Inspired by this and the desire to write a uniquely Australian anthem, Williamson created his first original song Old Man Emu.

The song, presented as an interview with Old Man Emu, describes how the emu lacks the skills of other birds but can run faster than a kangaroo. It ends with the comedic twist of the emu trying to chase after a female.

Williamson began performing Old Man Emu locally and it soon became a crowd favourite. The song rose in popularity following Williamson’s appearance on the televised talent show New Faces, where he won, receiving a recording contract with Fable Records.

In 1970, Old Man Emu was released as a single and became a national hit. With the song’s success, this sheet music was produced in South Melbourne and began selling for just forty cents. The sheet music itself has clearly aged, including specific instructions that the sheet music is not to be copied on blackboards or lantern slides. 

Old Man Emu was awarded gold certification, the first of many awards for Williamson who pursued the song’s success to launch his music career. The song’s larrikin humour and theme of accepting differences have made it an enduring Australian icon still celebrated today.