Jean Stafford – Inductee & 37th Recipient ACMF Roll of Renown
Born in Tasmania to a Tasmanian mother and a Navajo Native American father whom she never knew existed until much later in her life, Jean spent her earlier years in the hills of Meander, Northern Tasmania, where she learnt her craft as a budding country singer performing at local hotels country halls and dances.
It was from that rural area in Northern Tasmania to Nashville Tennessee, that Jean Stafford left an imprint for many of today’s younger artists. Her successful career accomplished from a remarkable journey, the road was long and hard for the silver-voiced girl who made her first public appearance on Tasmanian television at the age of twelve.
Jean says ‘Miss Kitty Wells was my first introduction to music. My mother ask me to pick something I would really like to buy so I chose a Kitty Wells record Seasons of My Heart and I literally played the grooves off of it on a small battery turn table mum had bought me.’
‘Later on when I became an artist myself I met Kitty and her husband Johnny and they gave me a brand new album to replace the old one, so to say the least I was surprised to not only be introduced to them but I can proudly say we have become very good friends through the years. I also got the pleasure to record a single with Kitty and appear on the Queens of Country Show in Queensland in 1998 with her.’
The single ‘It wasn't God who made Honky Tonk Angels’ was recorded in America with Kitty Wells and the Jordanaires and easily became a radio favourite here in Australia.
In 1975 Jean Stafford was the first Australian born to win the Female Vocalist of the Year Golden Guitar and subsequent multi-award winning Golden Guitars in 1980 & 1981. Jean was crowned Australia’s Queen of Country Music in Sydney in 1989 and in the early ‘90’s she was appointed an Honorary Commission as Ambassador to the USA by the Tasmania Government, and presented the Keys to the City of Nashville’ by the Mayor for Services to Country Music in the US, and an Honorary Citizen of the State of Tennessee by the Governor.
Spanning some three decades, Jean’s career heralds three Golden Guitars and a prestigious MO Award, Double Platinum and two Gold Albums for ‘Finest Collection’ and ‘That Say's It All’ and various Industry Services and Songwriting Awards. Back in Australia, her national television appearances on the Ray Martin Show delighted her fans and it wasn’t long before she became a household name in mainstream Australia and immortalised in the Australian Gallery of Stars Wax Museum.
Throughout Jean’s career she has endorsed a range of musical instruments none more special than her new Martinez Guitar. She said ‘ The very well respected Melbourne musical company Jade Music approached me to endorse a guitar, and worked with me to design a new Acoustic / Electric Guitar the Jean Stafford Martinez Signature Model released in 2005 and which is available in music shops around Australia.’
About the same time Jean released an entire album of self penned songs recorded exclusively in Nashville Tennessee with legendary musicians – steel guitar players Lloyd Green and John Hughey, Pig Robbins on piano, Gene Chrisman Memphis Drum legend, and Brent Mason, re-emerging after a six year absence from touring and recording with a strong and vibrant release ‘Let the Dance Begin’.
Her greatest success however was in the US in October 2006 when she flew to the States to accept the coveted Western Swing Female Artist AWA Awards in Dallas Texas.
And in 2007 she had chart hits for two songs with international airplay across Europe’s major radio stations – ‘Don't Bet Your Boots’ debuting at No 1 in the Top 40 and Single of the Week on the international MIAOTW Warner Bros affiliated charts, and charting at No 1 in Ireland and Denmark and in the Netherlands.
‘Don’t Bet Your Boots’, the only Australian Nomination in 2007 ECMA Awards Song of the Year and a Top 50 Finalist for European Country Music Association Awards ECMA Awards 2007 - Song of the Year amongst International favourites Alan Jackson, George Strait, Kenny Chesney, and Tim McGraw, is still sitting in the Top 100 nearly a year later.
In June 2007, Jean was presented in Australia by her publishing company Peer Music Sydney in recognition of her successes for the song Steelin’ The 2 Step and Services to the Steel Guitar across the world.
The career resurgence delighted radio listeners in Australia and for Jean fulfilled a lifelong ambition. However, it was not without a cost.
In an interview with Tourism magazine Tasmanian Life, Jean reflected on the loss of her close friend Jimmie Crawford, co-producer of ‘Let The Dance Begin’.
‘The news nearly broke my heart. My dear friend Jimmie Crawford passed away just a few short weeks after my return. We had been friends since the eighties when we toured with Slim Whitman. Jimmie was Slim’s steel guitarist. He loved my music and was the one who asked me to come to Nashville to record around that time, producing most of my previous recordings out of the USA.’
When asked ‘How has your music changed over the years? And how do your songs relate to your life experience?’ Jean said ‘I went though my time with Hadley Records with what I call real country, then changed my direction a little when I signed with EMI, but eventually I came back to what I loved to record best Pure Country, and that’s where my allegiance lies now. I believe it’s the first time Australia has been able to hear the real me.’
‘I liken my song writing to being in the same category as conceiving a child; I was there right when the idea was planted as a seed in my mind, as time went on that seed grew into a real life story, through adolescence into maturity when the music was added, then when it was recorded and mixed I felt the pride of seeing it as a fully grown part of myself. All the songs I wrote I can relate to, from parts of my life, and the lives of many others.’
Commenting on her image change, she said ‘When I was picking out the songs I would use for this latest album, I was going through some photographs from the past trying to decide what I was going to wear for the photo shoot. It just came to me one day; I will dye my hair. It was the change I needed. It not only gave me a whole new fresh look but I felt different so I took it a step further, added the hat again with the jacket and trousers and there I had it the image I wanted for myself and I’m very happy with it, I hope my fans appreciate I did it for all the right reasons.’
When asked Where to now? Jean revealed in a personal moment, echoing her own visions on life and exposing the truth behind ‘Let The Dance Begin’
‘You see, I believe strongly your life is patterned out for you. There are two ways you can go, one you can sit around and hope it will come to you which it won’t or you can take destiny into your own hand and be game enough to take a chance, believe in your self and believe in God and your Angels.’
‘Never fail to ask them for direction, and trust they will deliver and remember that the how of answered prayers is up to the divine wisdom of the creator. This is what I have come to believe over the years you only get back out of life what you put into it. If you want it bad enough and you are confident you can do it, then never give up climbing that mountain, the strength is within you, and your faith will help you master that strength. So with the good grace of God above I will keep pushing ahead and making music.’
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