Roger Knox Biography
“The Johnny Cash of Australian Country would have to be Roger Knox”
ROGER KNOX BIOGRAPHY
My introduction to Roger Knox was during an impromptu bush lunch. He shared with excitement, an absolute passion and pride for his culture and Country. Although we talked for hours he failed to mention he was a well known, if not iconic entertainer and singer. Checking in with community later, I discovered Uncle Roger is an absolute legend across Aboriginal Australia – a revered Aboriginal Song-man, family man and Brother criss-crossing remote and regional Australia uplifting and healing communities as he passes.
With a career spanning 50 years Uncle Roger continues to contribute to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities through his music and storytelling. During his career he has explored different genres: Gospel singer in the church; cabaret singer in the early days around Oxford St, Sydney; Rock n Roll; and Country Music. He has used his arts practice to champion Aboriginal musicians long passed – musical heroes whose only footprint was an oral one. With a song for every occasion Uncle Roger travels across Country sharing his songs and stories, collecting new ones as he goes.
An outback tour with the “Bryan Young Show” nearly cut short Roger’s career just as it was taking off. A tragic plane crash in 1981 resulted in shocking burns and injuries for Roger and the death of his drummer. After six months in the Adelaide burns unit and 2 years recuperating in bed, he struggled to walk or to return to the stage. His Gomeroi Country – Toomelah Aboriginal Mission Station – called him home. His Aunt Hannah cared for him, using bush medicine and song. Reinvigorated, he walked out of there 3 weeks later, a changed man. His healing experience connected him deeply with his Country, community and culture and despite badly burnt hands preventing him from playing bass, Roger continued on, focussing on his voice.
Quietly spoken and humble, Roger leads by doing. As family patriarch, his sons gathered around him upon his return from Toomelah and The Euraba Band was born. Today, Euraba boasts 3 generations of family musicians. His eldest son Buddy Knox is a well know blues guitarist and singer and among his children and grandchildren are professional dancers, actors, musicians, song writers and session musicians. An advocate of clean living Uncle Roger strives to be the best he can be always giving 100%. In the late 80’s and 90’s Euraba regularly played “Rock without Grog” and “Rock against Racism” concerts across Australia. Standing proudly as a sober Aboriginal man and entertainer, his community respect him for it and aspire to be like him. Uncle Roger remains the driving force behind his family embracing arts and culture as a way of life. It is their everyday life!
Touring America and Canada in the 1990s and more recently in 2012 and 2014 Roger witnessed and recognised within him the same struggles experienced by Americas First Nation people. October 2012 he played to an audience of over 37,000 at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco receiving a standing ovation. His newly released album at the time, Stranger in My Land was released in America to rave reviews. The genre was a revelation particularly in America where Country music and Black politics are not parallel art forms.
“This album isn’t just a fascinating cultural artefact; it’s a powerfully moving musical statement that demands attention” – www.exclaim.ca
“…Knox is helping to shape a tradition most of the world doesn’t even know exists, his country’s very worthwhile Aboriginal C&W scene” – www.thevinyldistrict.com
Choosing to sing about his Aboriginality, Black struggles, land rights, colonisation, culture and Black history; his early tours were not fancy clubs and venues. He spent years voluntarily touring the jail circuit of Australia’s East coast. He sings songs that protest against the injustice he witnesses. His struggles are their struggles. Too often, Rogers’s cultural responsibilities also include funerals and Sorry Business. Driving many hours to perform a favourite song he supports grieving community members. By sharing his empathy, strength and laughter he gives others the strength to face their pain and hurt. It is community halls and around campfires where Uncle Roger meets with community and it is here they remain sitting, singing his songs – etched into their collective memory, long after he leaves. His honeyed baritone heals as it passes through communities and he stands for many, a symbol of strength in overcoming adversity. With their struggles reflected back to them, Roger sings songs that lend hope to others, as they witness his dignity and tenacity in overcoming his own challenges,
Uncle Roger has fought hard to build opportunities for young emerging artists. His tireless efforts have resulted in accessible platforms in the mainstream. Such opportunities were not available to him or performers of his era. His focus on building cultural capacity and his love for his own people drives him forward, motivating him to leave a positive and uplifting legacy for younger artists to aspire to. The yearly Tamworth Aboriginal Cultural Showcase is the result and it runs in parallel to the Tamworth Country Music Festival. Every year he attends, gently pushing young talent forward, building their self-confidence and applauding appreciatively reflecting their emerging talent back to them.
As an active board member of the Friends of Myall Creek Memorial for 20 years it is through Rogers’ contribution, the Myall Creek Memorial Day has expanded, and is now set to become a National Centre for Reconciliation. His input has actively promoted the use of the Gamilaraay language to retell the Myall Creek story and the memorial walk now features a Sound Trail sharing with those who pass the site’s history and Roger’s music. More recently Uncle Roger is engaged in Karulbo – a committee in the Southern Downs region furthering social justice and community outcomes. Their efforts in 2023 will result in a conference exploring the Yes/No vote for The Voice for our upcoming referendum.
Wherever he goes Uncle Roger brings out the best in people, facilitating calm and co-operation. His voice soothes, his music relaxes and people settle. Moving forward with a positive spirit, Roger Knox shares messages of resilience and connection. He continues to inspire those he comes in contact with by actively contributing to the ongoing reinvigoration of Aboriginal cultural identity, encouraging self-pride and the appreciation of its cultural arts and heritage.