Jimmy LITTLE AO (1978)

Jimmy Little

1937 – Born James Oswald Little on the 1st of March at Cumeragunga Mission Settlement on the Murray River near Barmah, a member of the Yorta Yorta tribe.

1951 – Commenced his singing career.

1953 - Age 16 competed in Australia’s Amateur Hour with his dobro guitar.

1954 - The Jimmy Little trio is established in Sydney under Pat Ware’s management. Teamed up with Pat Ware as the Continental Duo.  They received 12 encores at the Grove Inn Hotel, Kingsgrove for their rendition of Slim Whitman’s ‘Rose Marie’.

1956 - On August 11, Jimmy cut his first tracks on a 78 for Regal Zonophone, “Mysteries of Life” and “Heartbreak Waltz”. Jimmy and Pat fly regularly from Sydney to Melbourne to appear on radio 3XY.The same year he marries his fiancé Marjorie Peters from Walgett. 

1957 – Songs written by Jimmy Little and Pat Ware are accepted by an American publishing company that supplied songs to Webb Pierce and Hank Locklin and more.

1958 - Records 4 sides with a single guitar for Columbia Records including ‘The Coloured Lad’. Jimmy swaps labels and goes to Australia’s own recording company “Festival”.  Records pop ballads for Festival with backing from Col Joye and the Joye Boys with Pat Ware on lead guitar.

1959 - Made his TV debut on Channel 7 with the Jimmy Little Trio on “Sydney Tonight”, “The Keith Walsh Tonight Show”. After the next few years he was a regular on Bandstand, Six O’Clock Rock and Sing, Sing, Sing.  He was the first aboriginal entertainer to appear on television. 

1959 – Featured on Roy Acuff’s “Grand Ol’ Opry Show” at the Sydney Stadium. Signed to Festival Records. 45 years later Jimmy is still making music with the Festival Mushroom Group who only recently celebrated their 50th year as a record company. Jimmy's first Festival recording was a 45rpm extended play record called "Ballads with a Beat" that reached top ten in the popular Australian music charts. This heralded a steady stream of extended plays, singles and albums throughout the 60s'.

Jimmy had begun an acting career in the late 1950’s with a major role in the film “Shadow of the Boomerang” in 1961. This was followed with his other roles on the theatre stage in plays such as "Black Cockatoo" and films by Tracy Moffatt as well as Wim Wenders film “Until the end of the World”.

1963 - Releases the chart topping "Royal Telephone", selling more than 75,000 copies it achieved gold record status and has now become one of his signature tunes. His nationwide profile grew through regular television appearances, radio airplay and constant touring.

1964 - Australian national magazine “Everybody's”, which was the bible of the teen scene in the early 60s' named Jimmy Australian Pop Star of the Year.

With his effortless, silky smooth vocal style atop the lush orchestrated arrangements of the early 60s', Jimmy began adopting a more traditional country sound as the decade progressed.

Mid 60’s - Performed a Royal Command performance at Elder Park for the Queen Mother.

1965 - Organised the first all aboriginal show in Sydney at Anzac House.

1969 - 2TM presents “The All Star Jimmy Little Show” at the Tamworth Town Hall with “The Singing Kettles, Johnny Heap, Geoff Brown, Gary Brown” plus others.

1970’s - Co-starred with Marty Robbins at the Mooroopna (Vic) Country Music. Shared equal billing with Charlie Pride.

1972 - Although mostly recognised for country musical style, he kept his fondness for big orchestral sounds alive in his 1972 album 'Winterwood'.

1974 - He quickly followed that with his top ten hit single 'Baby Blue' in 1974, and subsequent releases continued in this vein.

1978 - Double album set 'An Evening with Jimmy Little' - live at The Sydney Opera House. Released his 21st album signed under Festival and was travelling with the Jimmy Little All Star Country Show.

Inducted into the Hands of Fame in Tamworth.

1983 - He recorded the single, “Beautiful Woman” with American producer Ricky Fataar. As it is in the tradition of reggae music Jimmy aimed to inspire indigenous youth as a role model and as a mentor/teacher for the indigenous adult education course at the Eora college for performing arts in Redfern. Today Jimmy remains committed to indigenous education and continues to use his recognition and success as an entertainer, spending considerable time as an indigenous ambassador for the Department of Training, Youth and Educations literacy and numeracy indigenous education program.

1985 - Was asked to teach at the Eora Centra, a training college for Aboriginals in Redfern, Sydney.

1989 - As well as appearing in Tracy Moffatt's The Night Cries and the opera Black River, his teaching and community work earned him the title of NAIDOC Aboriginal of the Year in 1989.

1990 - South Australian Country Music Festival Awards- Inducted into the Hall of Fame.

In the early 1990s he rejoined the Country touring circuit as a member of the “Kings of Country” revue.

1991 - Had a roll in the film “Until the End of the World” with Sam Neil, William Hurt and Ernie Dingo.

1992 - Performed at the “Tamworth on Parad” and “Kings of Country Roadshows”.

1994 - In recognition of his outstanding career in country music he was elevated to the prestigious Tamworth Roll of Renown. releasing his 14th album, Yorta Yorta Man

1997 – Mo Awards wins The John Campbell Fellowship Award.

1998 – Jimmy and Pat Ware recommence their joint song writing and songs are recorded by other country artists including Christina George and John Vaughan.

1999 - At the insistence of Brendan Gallagher, a musician and producer, they recorded an album of mainly alternative and classic Australian rock songs from the 1980s. The resulting album “Messenger” was an immediate success reaching the top ten of the alternative music charts and introducing Jimmy to a new young audience through extensive airplay on the youth network Triple J FM. “Messenger” achieved yet another gold record for Jimmy.

At the 1999 ARIA Music Awards “Messenger” won 'Best Country Album' and 'Best Adult Contemporary Album', with Jimmy also being inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame. At the 1999 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Music Awards, he won 'Best Male Artist of the Year' and 'Best Single Release of the Year'.

2000 - Entertained our Olympic Athletes during the Sydney 2000 festivities. Singing his way non-stop across the Sydney Harbour Bridge with 250,000 other Australians, Jimmy also raised his gentle voice for reconciliation along with other entertainers lending their songs to a desire for change.

Became ambassador for the Department of Education, Training and Science and travels to the Kimberley, The Alice and to Newcastle encouraging indigenous kids to stay at school.

Jimmy’s original first recording of “Heartbreak Waltz” is featured in the film “Six O’Clock Swill”.  The movie was entered at the Cannes Film Festival and featured on television in France, Germany, Austria and Ireland.

As Jimmy entered the sixth decade, he was diagnosed with serious kidney disease. After a spell in hospital he began a regime of daily self dialysis four times a day and returned to limited live performances. While on tour Jimmy visited renal clinics and community centres across Australia entertaining the staff and patients and spreading his message of hope as living proof of a productive life while on dialysis. He appeared in Television programs promoting good health awareness in Northern and Western Australia where kidney disease is rampant.

2001 – Another of his early Regal Zonaphone recordings of “Sweet Mama” featured on the CD  “Long Way to the Top”.  The same song features in the TV Video for children’s program “Worst Best Friends” for channel 10. Jimmy released the critically acclaimed “Resonate” CD which featured a collection of beautiful songs crafted by some of Australia's greatest songwriters.

2002 – “Messenger” album achieves huge sales resulting in world trip promoting the record.  Signs in with ABC Records while Festival requires a further album before releasing Jimmy from his contract. Diagnosed with kidney failure.

Won the Golden Gospel Award at the Australian Gospel Music Awards for his lifetime support of Australian spiritual music. Becomes an ambassador for literacy and numeracy for the Department of Education. Given an honorary doctorate in recognition for his work in indigenous education.

2003 - CD release “Down the Road” on ABC records marked Jimmy's long awaited return to country music and his latest album “Life's what you make it” released by Festival/Mushroom records sees him reunited again with “Messenger” producer Brendan Gallagher. He was a guest of the Wiggles on their children's DVD "Wiggly Wiggle World".

2004 - After nearly two years on dialysis Jimmy received a kidney transplant in Feb 2. The operation was a complete success and following a six month convalescence, Jimmy returned to the nomadic troubadour lifestyle he thrives on.  Founded the Jimmy Little Foundation to bring healthier futures to indigenous children.

A public vote named him a “National Living Treasure” and Jimmy received an Australian Order (AO) for his life in the entertainment industry and his ongoing work with indigenous education and health. Awarded an honorary doctorate in music as was Peter Sculthorpe. This was in recognition of "Their joint contribution to reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians". Received the Classic Rock performer MO award of 2004. He released his 34th album, "Life's what you make it" , a collection of unique and poignant versions of songs by contemporary writers as diverse as Red Hot Chili Peppers, U2, PJ Harvey, Neil Young, Brian Wilson, Elvis Costello and Bruce Springsteen.

2010 - A documentary entitled "Jimmy Little’s Gentle Journey" was completed and shown on ABC TV.

2011 - Present with a Golden Guitar for "Lifetime Achievement". Jimmy’s wife Marjorie passed away in July. Jimmy retired from entertaining.

A wax sculpture of Jimmy is in the Big Golden Guitar Wax Museum.

Jimmy's "Star" is in the Gallery of Stars in the forecourt of the Tamworth Regional Entertainment and Conference Centre.

2012 – Jimmy passed away on the 2nd of April.