Australian country musician Reg Lindsay dies

Popularized local acts in '50s, '60s with syndicated shows

MELBOURNE, Australia -- One of the founding fathers of Australian country music, Reg Lindsay, died Tuesday in Newcastle, in New South Wales, after a long illness. He was 79.

Lindsay had been hospitalized since 2003 after a heart attack and a series of strokes. Following his recording debut in 1951 on the Rodeo label, Lindsay recorded more than 65 albums and 250 singles on a number of labels, scoring several hits on the Festival label in the 1970s.

His best-known hits included "Silence on the Line," "Empty Arms Hotel" and his versions of two songs by Californian singer-songwriter John Stewart, "Armstrong" and "July, You're a Woman Now."

Through the 1950s and '60s, Lindsay popularized local country acts through his nationally syndicated television shows "The Reg Lindsay Country Hour" and "Reg Lindsay Country Homestead."

He was one of the first to be inducted into the Australian Country Music Hands of Fame in 1977 and was elevated to Australian country music's highest honor, the Roll of Renown, in January 1984. He received the Order of Australia in 1989 from Queen Elizabeth II for services to music.

Lindsay toured the U.S. a number of times and was the first Australian to receive a plaque on Nashville's Walkway of Stars.

He is cited as an influence by a younger generation of country singers. "His classic hits sound as beautiful today as they did when Reg recorded them," said multiplatinum singer Lee Kernaghan, who calls him "a master interpreter of song."

Bob Kirchner, president of the Tamworth-based Australian Country Music Foundation added: "Reg was a giant of Australian country music. He was one of those people with true star quality, real talent, presence and charisma."

On Monday, Sydney-based Destra Music released a four-disc boxed set covering his 45-year career entitled "No Dress Rehearsal -- The Highlights." The label had been compiling the set for the past 12 months with Lindsay's wife and manager Roslyn, Destra CEO Ken Outch said.