Tributes are pouring in from all around the Australia following the Monday death of South Australian travelling salesman and country music broadcaster Wally Sparrow of Adelaide.
For more than two decades Mr Sparrow was an agricultural chemicals salesman, whose run included Mildura and the outback.
He was also a songwriter, recording artist, journalist, radio broadcaster and performer and appeared at a number of Mildura Country Music Festivals from 1991 to 1999.
During one of his early visits to Sunraysia he was impressed with the Possum Statue in Fotherby Park, Wentworth and was the first person to write a song about the recluse, who lived along the Murray River between Wentworth and Renmark.
On visits to Mildura he would fit in time for interviews on HOT FM which was then one of Australia’s leading country music radio Stations.
It was here that he gained the confidence and radio knowledge to take up a broadcasting role at Radio Adelaide.
It was his association with the editor of the Mildura Independent Max Thorburn which also saw him start up a weekly country music column in the South Australian Stock Journal.
The column ran for more than 12 years, followed by another 12 year stint writing on horticultural news and chemicals for the same publication.
Mr Sparrow completed his last country music radio shift on Radio Adelaide on Saturday morning but told a friend from Port Pirie who had lunch with him afterwards he was not feeling well and had an appointment to see his doctor on Monday morning.
Mildura Country Music Co-ordinator John Arnold had one of the last country music conversations with him on Sunday morning.
“I was in Adelaide at the weekend and I called him up at 11.24am and we spoke about country music for about 10 minutes,” Mr Arnold said.
Mr Sparrow suffered a heart attack overnight Sunday and passed away in the early part of Monday morning. He is survived by his wife Jenny and his son Ben Sparrow, who for several years would fill in for his father on his radio program if his father was out of town.
Ben is currently working in Japan but will be back briefly for a family wedding on Friday and then back again for his Dad's funeral. Mr Sparrow's other children daughter Sharon livesd in West Australia while a son Shane is deceased.
Wally Sparrow's brother (Charlie) and sister (Sue) live in Queensland.
Tributes to the contribution Mr Sparrow made to country music over more than 50 years have appeared on facebook from singers Adam Harvey. Evelyn Bury, Pam Clarke, Clair Hayes, Craig Robertson of New Zealand, Jodie Crosbie , Jamie Davis of Tasmania, Allan Caswell, Kel Ann Brandt, Olive Bice, Keith Jamieson, Jade Hurley, Laurie Muggleton, Sharon Heaslip, Billy Bridge and Kristy Cox from the USA..
Mildura radio broadcaster, Terry Iredale, who is Australia’s number one Blues broadcaster on the Community Radio Broadcasting Network, said that he remembers Wally Sparrow the travelling salesman and country music enthusiast from the days of the Silver Dollar Saloon at the former Mildura Settlers Club.
He was a foundation member of the South Australian Council for Country Music (SACCM)) and was presented with the Favourite Presenter for 2007 award at the rRadio Adelaide Awards for his "Country Brekky" program on Radio Adelaide."
In January 2008 he was inducted into Country Music Capital’s Hands of Fame at Tamworth, placing his hands into cement in Coca Cola Park. Previously in 1999 he had been inducted into the Barmera Hands of Fame, where he was a long time regular judge in the now defunct talent quest at the Riverland Country Music Festival.
For 12 years he reported on the latest industry news weekly to Dave Prior’s Coast to Coast program which was broadcast out of 2UE and at one stage was picked up by 30 stations around Australia.
He presented a program of country music once a fortnight on the ABC for a period of time and have been a regular guest on ABC, Coast FM, Hot FM Mildura and 4TTT in Townsville .
He was made a Tennessee Ambassador of Goodwill in Australia which was commissioned by the Governor of Tennessee, after his first tour of the area in 1997.
During that visit he was involved in a lot of media work and also worked with schoolchildren in Alabama and Tennessee.
As a result of his visit to Mechanicsburg, Ohio the Musicians Union formed a group that started off the Ohio Country Music Alliance.
In January 2008 he was inducted into Country Music Capital’s Hands of Fame at Tamworth. He was also a Golden Guitar judge for 12 years. As a singer he recorded three albums.
Mr Sparrow would have been 75 years of age on November 22.