Country and western music legend Tex Morton presents this popular 60s Saturday night music show. The Auckland studio audience is seated on hay bales in a barn-styled set and provide the chorus to the musical numbers. The Hamilton County Bluegrass Band, The Country Touch Singers and Square Dancers, Jan Butler, fiddler Colleen Bain, and resident guest singers Kay and Shane perform. Tex himself sings a novelty number about the good ol’ days, and applauds Butler: “Isn’t she a redheaded little spark? I wish we had colour television!” The times they have a changed!
Hosted by one-time mod Ray Columbus, That's Country was one of the highest rating shows of the early 80s. This 1982 episode features veteran Kiwi country performers (John Hore, Patsy Riggir) and trans-Tasman pop star Dinah Lee. The opening ensemble number features Canadian singer Glory-Anne Carriere and US duo the Gypsy Mountain Pickers, along with Australian Jade Hurley (who still bills himself as the King of Country Rock). Check out the rhinestone cowboys and girls as they belt out the theme song, then settle in for solo performances. Yee-ha!
Champion shearer Godfrey Bowen returns to Akers station at Opiki, Manawatu where he set a world record in 1953 by shearing 456 sheep in nine hours (shown in archive footage). He shows off his biceps (not far from the 23 inches they used to be) and explains the Bowen Technique which revolutionised shearing by reducing the number of blows required to remove a fleece. Bowen talks about how his life changed (travelling the world and an MBE) and there's footage of Agrodome with its trained sheep, which he opened in Rotorua, with his brother Ivan.
This Country Calendar episode profiles Billy Riddell, one of the few remaining drovers who was still moving herds the old fashioned way in the mid 1970s: “on the hoof” (the art of droving was being supplanted by rail and livestock trucks). The episode accompanies Riddell on a ‘drive’, as he moves a herd of cattle along the East Coast. Riddell’s narration recalls stampedes, river crossings, losing dogs and stock out to sea, the joys of butter, and why townies shouldn’t be on the roads: “the roads were there before cars were even blimmin' thought of”. He also reflects on a drover’s life.
Country GP was a major 80s drama series that charted the post-war years 1945 to 1950 in a rural central South Island town. Using fast-turnaround techniques that anticipated later series like Shortland Street, 66 episodes of Country GP were shot in 18 months at a specially built set in Whiteman’s Valley, Lower Hutt. It was groundbreaking as the first NZ series to cast a Samoan in a title role (Lani Tupu as Dr David Miller); but it also provided a nostalgic look back to an apparently kinder, gentler time than mid-80s New Zealand with its major social reforms and upheavals.
Made by the NZ Broadcasting Corporation in the mid 1960s, this half hour TV documentary sets out to summarise New Zealand. More than a promotional video, it takes a wider view, examining both the country’s points of pride and some of its troubles. In a brief appearance Barry Crump kills a pig, although the narration is quick to point out that the ‘good keen man’ image he epitomises is also a root of the country’s problem alcohol consumption. The result is patriotic, but certainly not uncritical. Writer Tony Isaac went on to make landmark bicultural dramas Pukemanu and The Governor.
The Country Touch was a widely popular country and western music show from the 60s, that screened on Saturday nights. Produced by Bryan Easte for NZBC the show was filmed on an Auckland hay barn set and featured musical numbers, from folk, fiddles, and banjos to bluegrass, introduced by the legendary Tex Morton. Regulars included The Hamilton County Bluegrass Band, Brian Hirst’s Country Touch Singers (with a team of 20 square dancers), and Kay and Shane. Has Auckland ever been this close to the Appalachians?
The iconic all-things-rural show is the longest running programme on New Zealand television. With its typical patient observational style (that allows stories of people and the land to gently unfold) it’s an unlikely broadcasting star, but New Zealanders continue, after 50 plus years, to tune in. Amongst the bucolic tales of farming, fishing and forestry, there are high country musters, floods, organic brewing, falconry, tobacco farming, as well as a fencing wire-playing farmer-musician, a radio-controlled dog, and Fred Dagg and the Trevs.
The quarter acre dream is in full flower in this colourful celebration of Kiwi gardening. Director Conon Fraser surveys the symbols (tool sheds, trimmed edges) and rituals (broken window, cricket ball), and muses on the role of gardens: from civic pride to “escape from the house”. A wide range of public and private landscapes are honoured, both reverentially — a time-lapse of blooms in Wellington's Lady Norwood Rose Garden — and whimsically — eg talking pests, and a couple rolling on the lawn in front of a knitting oldie. The film won top prize at a US Horticultural Society Festival.
Long before “country people die on country roads” came this 1951 road safety film targeting rural audiences — specifically children between five and 12. Compared with the carnage of 21st Century road safety campaigns, In the Country is quaint: a traffic safety instructor tests a class to see what lessons that they’ve remembered, and the kids then demonstrate safe crossing, so they can get home in one piece to feed Chalky the horse his carrot. It was filmed at and around Te Marua School near Upper Hutt, and helmed by pioneering National Film Unit director Kathleen O’Brien.