How Reg Lindsay reached the stars

How in a song called Armstrong, Reg Lindsay talked about the Moon


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THOSE WERE THE DAYS: Reg Lindsay flanked by Johnny Chester and Jimmy Little.

THOSE WERE THE DAYS: Reg Lindsay flanked by Johnny Chester and Jimmy Little.

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Hit song written to mark the 1969 lunar landing resonates almost half a century later.

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ONE small step by Neil Armstrong led to a career-defining leap in the life of Australian country singer Reg Lindsay.

The Apollo 11 commander's descent from the lunar lander Eagle onto the Moon's surface on July 21, 1969 inspired the song Armstrong, which Lindsay recorded in 1970 and became his biggest hit.

Lindsay died in 2008 but the song lives on in the memory of countless Aussies who watched awestruck on that momentous day half a century ago.

His widow Ros said Reg had reservations about the song, which had been sent to him by prolific writer John Stewart, formerly of the Kingston Trio, who wrote Daydream Believer for the Monkees and had a hit in the late '70s years with Gold.

FROM THE BUSH TO THE STUDIO: Reg on the air.

FROM THE BUSH TO THE STUDIO: Reg on the air.

"It wasn't a country song and he didn't think he could do it," Ros said. "But his father (a big supporter throughout his career) said, 'Reg, you can sing anything' and so he did it - and did a mighty job with it."

His dad was right. Armstrong peaked at number six on the Go-Set National Top 60, remaining in the charts for 16 weeks, and reached eighth spot on the Australian Singles Chart in 1971.

Ros said Reg was a versatile performer. "He was always at trailblazer. He would do a ballad, then an up-tempo country song, he even did a few Cajun songs and some rockabilly - to Reg, good music was good music. He didn't didn't have blinkers on when it came to writing or recording."

Surprisingly, the song never charted in the US, but it remains influential nevertheless: it is included in a time capsule at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Lindsay and Stewart had met in the US, where Reg became one of the first Australians to be invited to perform at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry, the home of country music.

They remained in regular contact throughout their lives (coincidentally, Stewart died just seven month after his friend), with the American continuing to send him material, including July You're a Woman. This proved another hit for Reg and earned him a Golden Guitar for best male vocalist at the 1974 Country Music Awards of Australia.

As well as being heard on radio, Reg was a big name on Australian TV, hosting The Country and Western Hour and his own program, Reg Lindsay's Country Homestead, for almost 20 years in total.

For service to country music, Reg received the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1989.

Veteran producer Warren Fahey said Reg was "always a gem to work with and modest to boot". "Armstrong was a big hit in Australia - we were all a bit moonstruck at the time! Radio loved it and Reg got a lot of traction out of its success."

Reg died from pneumonia on August 5, 2008 - the same day Neil Armstrong was born - leaving a remarkable legacy of 60 albums and more than 500 compositions.

Fans can hear Armstrong again on a recent re-release of the album of the same name. Digitally remastered on CD for the first time, it includes a string of songs by well-known artists including Gordon Lightfoot, Kris Kristoffersen, Joe South and Roger Whittaker.

To coincide with the lunar walk, Ros has compiled a 70-minute DVD containing footage from 300 of Reg's shows, some of it never seen before, plus interviews from the likes of Jade Hurley, Bert Newton and more. The introduction is by Adam Harvey. $30 including postage. To order go to reglindsay.com.au, call Ros on 0412-967-863 or email info@reglindsay.com.au

The Senior is giving away a package containing the CD and DVD. See below for details on how to enter online.

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