Knebworth music journalist enters country hall of fame

A veteran journalist and promoter who has interviewed and looked after some of the biggest names in county music has been inducted into the British Country Music Hall of Fame.

Tony Byworth of Knebworth, a well-known figure in the country music scene in both the UK and USA since the early 1970s, was given the honour in recognition of his work, alongside BBC broadcaster Bob Harris and band leader, the late Jon Derek.

During the 1970s his prolific output appeared in magazines on both sides of the Atlantic, including Record Mirror, Music Week and Billboard, and in 1977 he took over editorship of Country Music People.

He was also twice elected chairman of the Great Britain Country Music Association in the latter part of the decade.

In 1983 he founded Bythworth-Wooton to represent American artists in Britain, including country superstars Garth Brooks and George Strait in the 1990s.

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Now semi-retired he has brought old friend George Hamilton IV to perform in Knebworth, and continues to work with Bear Family Records and promote New Mexico singer-songwriter Will Banister.

On his 70th birthday last year, a flag was flown over the State Capitol building in Austin, in recognition of his support for Texan music.

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Tony said he fell into the music business on a trip to Nashville after being invited onto a country radio show.

“Billboard magazine then asked me to write an article about my trip and it snowballed from there.

Tony gave up his day job exporting goods and took on writing for Billboard’s sister music magazines back home.

“There was nobody really writing about country music in England at the time. Out of nowhere I was writing about music.”

He travelled frequently to Nashville, and interviewed many of the greats, including Johnny Cash – “a gentleman”, Willy Nelson, and Dolly Parton.

His contact with musicians in the States led to his decision to manage artists on UK tours.

“People kept coming up to me saying how do we get on in England? I decided that’s what I will do.”

On the changes in the music over his time in the business, he said: “Chris Christopherson said ‘if you think it’s country, then it is’. But I like steel guitars and fiddles. Hank Williams is the country music Shakespeare – the great poet of the 50s. But music changes – that is the nature of it.”

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