By Luke Voogt
Long-time guitarist Gary Jones honed the musical skills that won him Geelong’s Best Busker over decades playing in a chicken shed on the Mornington Peninsula.
“I was singing to a captive audience,” the new Connewarre local laughed.
“That’s where I’ve written a lot of songs, I would sing to the chickens. It was just my way of escaping a 24/7 job as a farmer.”
Gary moved to a Connewarre farm two years ago with wife Jenny to be closer to her Geelong-based family.
He was still buzzing after winning this year’s trophy in central Geelong on Saturday.
“I’m just singing a song to the sheep at present,” the 60-year-old said when the Indy phoned.
“My favourite part (of the competition) has been stepping out and being part of Geelong – we love it here!”
Gary originally had no idea Jenny had entered him, he admitted.
“I didn’t even know it was on this year!” he said.
“She puts me into all these things – she’s my number-one supporter I suppose.”
Jenny also entered Gary in Tamworth Country Music Festival’s novice song-writing competition, where he made the semi-finals recently.
She and youngest son Harrison joined him onstage during Saturday’s competition.
“Their microphones weren’t turned up very loud but it was lovely to have them there,” he said.
Gary began playing guitar 40 years ago and would sing to kids as a primary school teacher before becoming a chicken farmer.
“I used to sing at parties and do a few fundraisers on the Mornington Peninsula for the tennis club,” he said.
Now that he was “semi-retired” he hoped to make a “proper” country album, he said.
“I write country songs about Wimmera, Victoria, but I also like to sing the golden oldies like The Rolling Stones and The Temptations.”
Gary played a cover set on Saturday including a Rolling Stones hit for one very happy audience member.
“I think he was a homeless fella,” he said.
“His claim to fame was cleaning out Mick Jagger’s room once, so it made his day.”
The six other finalists impressed Gary with their talent and he thanked event organiser Steve Thew “for giving us old chaps a chance to get out there and sing”.
“It’s a great idea, it could really take off in Geelong,” he said.
“I think it’s particularly good for young artists to have some exposure – having a microphone stuffed in front of their face, in front of other people.
“I might get my wife and couple of people we met on the day and start making some music in Geelong – so we’re looking forward to that.
“If I get all the painting finished at my house – painting bricks isn’t fun.”