"A soldier in a uniform in a fade 8 x 10/ a brave man who went off to war/ and never came back home again/ classified MIA, what happened to my granddad is still a mystery today." - Missing In Action - Adam Harvey-Rod McCormack-Jerry Salley.

Geelong born trucking troubadour Adam Harvey has mastered the art of songwriting rapidly in his rise to the top.

Harvey's laconic manner belies the sharp incisive mind that has turned tragedy into triumph so many times in his short career.

The singer has performed with mentors such as Don Williams and peers diverse as Canadians Jason McCoy and Corb Lund.

And now he is about to share stages with another idol - singing Texan actor and icon Shotgun Willie Nelson.

"I can't wait! I feel like I'm supporting the Pope! This has to be the greatest gig in the world," says Adam

But Harvey's creative peak could be a sleeper song on his sixth album, Can't Settle For Less on ABC-Universal.

Missing Heroes could do a lot more for Harvey's psyche and career than merely add to his six Golden Guitar tally.

The song is a melancholic mountain of nostalgia with all the necessary ingredients of a stone country standard.

And, unlike so many manufactured tearjerkers, it's a true story that had its source in the city of Geelong where Harvey was born 30 years ago.

It's the tragic story of a Geelong boy who enlisted in World War 11 at 17 and never returned.

The traumatic tale of Harvey's maternal grandfather Stewart Hogan - a Rat Of Tobruk - who died on the Kokoda Trail.

Harvey's mother never met her dad - all she had was a black and white photo kept by her mother who also died recently.


But Mrs Harvey was recently reunited with the father she had never known when she was watching Nine Network show, A Current Affair.

"They did a show on New Guinea and the Kokoda Trail, showing old footage, and there, right before her eyes, was her father in this old footage," six time Tamworth Golden Guitar winner Harvey told Nu Country on the eve of a tour of his home state.

"It really floored her. She rang and told me what had happened. I got off the phone and thought if that's not a song there's not a song anywhere. I sat down over a beer and wrote the song. Those songs write themselves."

Harvey included Missing Heroes on his new album that was released in January after he won best male vocalist for the third year in succession at Tamworth.

"Granddad was in the 6th Division in Tobruk, he was a Sgt Major," Harvey revealed.

"He was only 17 when he enlisted. He was born in Newcombe and worked at several jobs including being a fisherman. When war broke out he enlisted. They shipped them all to New Guinea and that's where it all ended. Mum spent years going through the old war memorial archives trying to trace his last steps and where he was shot. She kept running into brick walls and finally gave up."


"He sat tall in the saddle/ up on the silver screen/ when I was just a boy/ he was the man I couldn't wait to be/ wish he was still around/ we sure could use a few like him/ to look up to right now." - Missing Heroes.

Harvey hopes to use the archival footage featuring his grandfather in a video clip of the song.

"We got into Current Affair and they've been really nice and helped mum out so has something to remember her father by," says Harvey who headlines the 16th Bunyip Country Music Festival on Sunday February 27 at the start of a Victorian tour after concerts with Willie.

"My grandmother married my grandfather, who was born in Newcombe, and used to run the ABC café in Geelong where Spotlight is now."

Harvey has been enthused with audience response to his song.

"I have had people come up to me and say 'God, I like the song because it reminds me of my grandfather. Others say 'I got misty - my husband is away at the moment peace keeping or we know people who've got kids that were killed in the Tsunami or they're missing. There are so many people a song can relate to even though it was a personal thing for me. That's a great thing for me to see how it impacts."


Harvey had a major health scare on his first Canadian tour in 2004.

That was after the singer appeared live on the Nine Network Today show that was being filmed at Montebella about two hours from Montreal.

"My old heart almost packed it in when I was speaking at this seminar on Australian country music in Edmunton," Harvey explained.

"I thought I was having a heart attack when I went to the toilet. They raced me to hospital in an ambulance and said it was an aortial fibulation. They zapped me with a paddle. I thought I was going to cark it. When I came to in hospital the nurses were laughing. They said 'we had people reciting recipes when they come to but the first thing you said was I love beer."

Harvey confessed his illness was diagnosed as a combination of too much alcohol and too little food.

"The doctors said it was a lifestyle thing, fatigue." Harvey added.

"They said to stop drinking as much to eat properly. I'm getting old now. I was almost 30 at the time."

Harvey hasn't changed his pace - he returns to Canada for two more tours in 2005 to promote his albums first released on Open Road in 2004.


But Adam may have to tone down his music when he performs at the Beijing Music Festival in China in May.

"I've got to send all my lyrics to government," Harvey confided.

"If there's anything offensive you're not allowed to sing those songs - if I send them the Pubic Hair song and Beauty's In The Eye of The Beer Holder that will be the end of the trip.

I'm not sure about new song God Made Beer. Really I'm going in blind but it's a great opportunity. They'll either hate me or really dig it and there's a lot of them. If it works we'll sell about a million records."

So how did Harvey land the China tour?

"The Chinese delegation came to the Tamworth festival and they came to a few of my shows," Harvey added.

"Guess where we went for dinner. The Tamworth Council took the delegation, who had just arrived from China, to the local Chinese restaurant. The Chinese said you look like Elvis, the girls think you are sexy. We would like you to come over. I was treated like the Elvis of Colac."


Fred Koller

When Harvey visits Nashville, Austin, Texas, and Canada he soaks up local culture while writing and performing.

And occasionally he helps long neglected peers collect royalties from Australia.

Harvey has written a brace of tunes with Fred Koller who cut four solo discs after being a prolific partner of the late Playboy cartoonist, childrens' author and hit writer Shel Silverstein.

The singer chose the Koller-Keith Whitley tune I Want My Rib Back for Can't Settle For Less.

"I'm a huge Keith Whitley fan," Harvey says of the late singer who fuelled Koller's royalty trove with Gene Watson and Kenny Chesney who also cut the song.

Whitley, 33 and third husband of Lorrie Morgan, died on May 9, 1989 with a massive blood alcohol reading of 4.77% after ascending from Kentucky bluegrass scene at 13 with Ricky Skaggs in the Lonesome Mountain Boys.

But it was his pure country songs that drew his music to Harvey.

"We spent a bit of time with Fred but none of our co-writes have made my albums," Adam added.

"But he wrote the hit single for Paulini from Australian Idol. He was asking us about it. He got some letter in the mail that said congratulations you've got a #1 hit here in Australia.

Keith Whitely

He showed it to his publishers and they said not worth worrying about, it's only Australia. I said to Fred 'get onto that, that's not country. That's pop - there's a bit of beer money for you. He'd never heard of Paulini and his publisher said it wasn't worth claiming the money for it."

Fred is famed for comedy songs such as Guns Made America Great and Elvis Was A Narc cut by Pinkard & Bowden and Fourth Wife Blues, Room 309, Margarita Hell, Daddy Was A Sensitive Man and King Gets A Day Job for Rev Billy C Wirtz.

John Prine also recorded his tune Let's Talk Dirty In Hawaiian.

Pat Alger, Mary Black, Forester Sisters, Nanci Griffith, Kathy Mattea and Alison Krauss cut Goin' Gone and Mattea also did She Came From Fort Worth.

Jeff Healy, New Grass Revival and John Hiatt recorded Angel Eyes and Griffith and Don Williams also covered Lone Star State Of Mind.

Other Australian artists to cut his songs include Gina Jeffreys, Bachelor Girl and The Seekers.

For a full catalogue of his 300 plus songs visit www.fredkoller.com


Dick Feller
Harvey also recorded Dick Feller's evocative narrative Orphan Of The Road after he and producer Rod McCormack met the writer in a Nashville bar last year.

I also caught Feller, now 62 and a six-album veteran, performing at Old Time Pickin' Parlour on a 1978 Nashville sojourn.

"We became friends with Dick on the recent tour," Harvey revealed.

"A lot of people don't know who he is. He wrote Some Days Are Diamonds Some Days Are Stone - a hit for the late John Denver. Rod and I sat in this little pub in Nashville and over in the corner sitting there doing a solo stint was this bloke.

We were having a beer. No-one is paying any attention to him and Rod said isn't that Dick Feller. Sure enough it was. He plays there a couple of nights a week. He was blown away because we were big fans of his music from Australia. He gave us some of his CDS. Orphan Of The Road is one of the prettiest songs - a beautiful story. It's a carnival song. Before Johnny Cash died he did a couple of albums - just him and his guitar. I thought he could have done a good job on this. We were lucky enough to cut this song."

Feller recorded it on his 1974 album No Word On Me that featured My Baby Ran Off With A Coal Miner (And All I Got Was The Shaft.)

Feller is best known for offbeat tunes such as #25 hit Biff The Friendly Purple Bear,The Credit Card Song and Making The Best Of A Bad Situation.

Johnny Cash had a #1 hit in 1972 with Feller song Any Old Wind That Blows and Tex Williams had #30 hit in 1971 with his tune The Night Miss Nancy Ann's Hotel for Single Girls Burned Down.

Jerry Reed also had a #1 hit with Feller tune Lord, Mr. Ford in 1973 and Bobby Bare scored with Some Days Are Diamonds before Denver topped charts with it in 1981.

Feller and Reed also wrote the memorable East Bound And Down for 1977 movie Smoky and the Bandit.

Further info - http://www.dickfeller.com/home.htm


Harvey says the biggest thrill of his career was meeting with one of his idols - singer, writer and author Tom T Hall at his home outside Nashville.

Hall once earned infamy for turning the Gordon Parsons tune Pub With No Beer into Bar With No Beer on one of his albums and is now writing and recording bluegrass.

"I'm a huge Tom T Hall fan," says Harvey.

"He's the reason I'm singing country music. When I first heard Old Dogs, Children & Water Melon Wine I realised what I wanted to do for a crust. We rang his office. He's retired but he still writes. He opens the door of his house and says come in. I'm star struck and sitting in his lounge room. I had this hound dog in my lap because he and his wife Miss Dixie breeds them. The house is full of them. We had a cup of coffee and sang his old songs.

Adam Harvey with Tom T Hall

He played me Life Don't Have To Mean Nothing At All. I loved the song - it was one of the best days of my life. I had to put it on the new album. There's a hidden meaning that happiness ain't always getting everything you want - people are always out there wanting bigger and better. If you are just happy with what you want that's the secret. I didn't get the guernsey for the game keeper's job. I would love to go and do a duet with him - don't know if he'll be in it. He and Miss Dixie - his lovely wife - have a little studio in his house. They are lovely people. I have got all his books."

Hall, now 66, once employed vivacious Virginia born country singer Danni Leigh, now living in Austin, as his gamekeeper.


"When the good times roll count the number of your friends/ when the chips are down count again." - That's What You Call A Friend - Adam Harvey- Rod McCormack- Jerry Salley.

Harvey and McCormack wrote this album's first single, That's What You Call A Friend, with another prolific Nashville writer who has also collaborated with Adam Brand, Melinda Schneider, Gina Jeffreys and other Australians.

But this time the session was in Australia - not Nashville.

"There's a great old saying you can count your real friends on one hand," says Adam,
"if you have a couple of friends who can stick by you in life you are real lucky, that you can borrow a quid from when you're short. I was thinking about that a lot. I was in the fish and chip shop and they have that Chicko roll poster on the wall - there's that nice looking girl on the motorbike with the tag let the good times roll. I thought 'when the good times roll count the number of your friends/ when the chips are down count again.' That was how the song was born in the Bateau Bay fish and chip shop. Jerry Salley came out to Australia to a songwriters' retreat in the Hunter Valley. I said 'what about a song about good friends?' He's a sentimental writer - he likes those old sentimental kind of songs. I met Jerry through Rod. We hit it off straight away. He's a real traditional writer - a man's man. He loves all the old standards and morals of the old days, a good fellow, I feel funny about co-writing with someone I don't know. You've got to bare your soul and be able to say that line's terrible and vice versa."


Harvey attributes bad beer and loneliness for the The Biggest Fool.

"Rod and I were sitting around in a Nashville drinking bad beer and missing home," Adam recalled.

"I said if heartache is the measure blame that on Budweiser. We then took it to Jim McBride who is a great friend, a down to earth bloke. He has written hits for manyb artists including Alan Jackson. His specialty is those heartbreak songs, that's what he does best. When we go to Nashville we have song ideas and keep the songs for the writers to match it. We go to David Lee Murphy if we have a party or drinking song. We wrote Working Overtime (on a good time) with David Lee. He's the perfect guy. Jim's the sentimental heartbreak guy. It's a little pattern we've got and he's doing allright for a quid."


Harvey was initially reluctant to cut the George Edwin Varble-Leslie Ann Winn song Cadillac Tears without lyric changes.

"I heard Kevin Denney singing it on the radio over there but it never did any good," Harvey explained.

"I thought what a great song. I was a little worried about a Cadillac being an American car and the Australian country music police might have crucified me. At the end of the day a good song is a good song so I didn't change the name."


Harvey thanks his good wife Kathy - a one-time native of Terang near Warrnambool - for the Once Upon A Long Time.

And history may repeat for Harvey who thanked Kathy - mother of their two children - for his latest Golden Guitar with this snapshot on the awards show.

I'm so excited'. It was exciting,'' Harvey said.

"It helps keep the wife in handbags or whatever she likes.''

Harvey takes up the story.

"Kathy was reading a story to the kids and got the title wrong," he said.

< Adam Harvey with wife Kathy

"She said Once Upon A Long Gone Time, I said 'what did you say then, hang on a minute and I'll write that down.' It sounds like an old fairy tale. We did a nice swing song around it, a romantic song. It turned out to be a heartbreaker so we finished it with Jim McBride."


Harvey is realistic about his overseas touring.
He is happy to build his career in Canada with reciprocal touring with Jason McCoy and Corb Lund to promote albums he has released.

But he is unwilling to follow peers Keith Urban, Jedd Hughes, Catherine Britt, Jamie O'Neal, Sherrie Austin, Audrey Auld Mezera, The Greencards and others to live in the U.S.

"I spoke to Universal South, MCA and producer Tony Brown," Harvey confided.

"They said you've got to live here mate, you look great, you sing great but you've got to live here. Unless you live here, forget about it. They're funny, the Americans, they only want to know about America.

Adam Harvey with Jason McCoy>

Anything outside they don't care about. Living there is something that plays on my mind but I'm not sure I want to raise kids over there. I've got two great kids - we love where we live on the Central Coast of NSW. But we're at a fork in the road."


That fork in the road leads south into Victoria in February and March with Corb Lund.

"Corb Lund did well at the Canadian country music awards," says Harvey.

"We got on pretty well, he's a great fellow which is important to me. I'm going to tour over there with him. I have two lots of seven weeks tours in Canada. It's a long time away but it's going to be worth it - a great opportunity."

Harvey performs at the Lake Charlegrark country music festival in the Grampians on February 19 and 20.

The singer then honours a long-standing commitment to Bunyip festival promoter and dairy belle Joy Batchelor who booked the singer when he was an unknown novice.

Harvey headlines the 16th Bunyip festival on Sunday February 27.

Also on the bill is former Star Maker winner Travis Collins, Diana Corcoran, Renee Stewart and many more.

Admission is Adults $15 - children free. Phone 03 - 56295388 for more details.

CLICK HERE for Harvey's March dates with former Canadian rodeo rider Corb Lund from our GIG GUIDE.

top / back to diary