A famous Tamworth icon turns 30
22 January 2018
And The Big Golden Guitar is still as photogenic as ever!!
If Warwick Bennet and Max Ellis were able to collect a 10 cent royalty every time anybody took a picture of the Big Golden Guitar, they reckon they would have a pile of cash.
"Of course it's only a guestimate," laughs Warwick, "but since we opened the Big Golden Guitar 30 years ago, "we estimate there could have been more than a million pictures taken of our baby."
It was January 22nd, 1988, when Slim Dusty, the King of Australian Country Music, together with the head of NSW Tourism, Commissioner Paul Crombie, supported by a huge crowd of enthusiastic fans, officially unveiled the 12 metre high, fibreglass Golden Guitar in front of the newly built Country Collection with its Wax Museum and souvenir shop beside the Longyard Hotel.
Modelled on the already famous Golden Guitar trophies of 2TM's Country Music Awards, the Big Golden Guitar, was made in Tamworth by Len Surtees, closely following the original design by Harry Frost.
According to Max, over the years the most frequently asked question has been "why hasn't it got strings?"... the answer being, of course, that it is a facsimile of the cast bronze trophy which doesn't have strings.
Incidentally, even in 1988, Slim's tally of Golden Guitar trophies was well into the 20s and he still leads the scoring to this day with 38 wins overall.
It's hard to believe now but when the project was announced, there was a short flurry of negative publicity, mostly from one nearby resident, but that quickly subsided and today, the Big Golden Guitar has become a much loved symbol of Country Music Capital.
Acclaimed as one of Australia's most recognisable "Big" icons, it shares the spotlight with a handful of other famous big statues such as the Big Merino at Goulburn and the Big Banana at Coffs Harbour.
Over the past 30 years, it's been featured in countless newspaper, TV, radio and magazine stories, advertisements, tourism books and material and even telephone directory covers and at least one movie.
Since Warwick, a former Mayor of Tamworth and tourism chief, and Max, one of the founders of the Tamworth Country Music Festival, built the Golden Guitar with Margaret Bennet managing the shop, it's been owned and operated by Wendy and Noel Bennet and is now owned by Tom Coulton and managed by Caroline Singleton.
It is a major tourism centre and attraction now with a wax museum, a cricket museum, a busy cafe and country music souvenir merchandise.
Importantly, it provides Tamworth with a year round country music presence.
And one only has to stand for a short time beside the towering icon to realise just how many visitor pictures are taken every few minutes of the Big Golden Guitar.
Some travellers even stop outside the centre fence, hop over and take a quick snap before continuing on their journey. Others make a group celebration of the occasion.
Either way, the Big Golden Guitar has become a powerful symbol of Tamworth and its Country Music image... so much so that two years ago, Tamworth Regional Council moved its Tourist Information Centre into the shadow of the Big Golden Guitar and it's been enjoying record traffic ever since.
Picture below (by Bob Kirchner). Caption: Warwick Bennet AM (right) and Max Ellis OAM in front of the Big Golden Guitar they opened on January 22, 1988.