Jim Low - singer/songwriter


I have lived on the Blue Mountains for over thirty years. When I first came to live here I started writing songs about the area and its history because I could not find anything already written. I was also inspired by the natural beauty of the place. Over the years I have introduced many of my “mountain” songs to the students I taught. In 1983 I produced, with Tom Christofides, a cassette entitled Mountain Tracks. It contained five of my songs about the Blue Mountains. One of these songs, about the early attempts by Europeans to cross the mountains, was used in a television documentary.

A few years ago, I was visited by Mike Leyland of The Leyland Brothers documentary fame. He was making a documentary about the early Mountain railways. He filmed me, at the back of my property, singing a song about the railway engineer John Whitton. The documentary was never finished but it was an interesting experience.

Another time, when a song of mine ended up on the cutting room floor, was during the making of a documentary on Mr Eternity, the man who spent much of his life writing the word eternity on the streets of Sydney and its suburbs. I spent the best part of a morning in Sydney being filmed singing my song Mr Eternity and being interviewed. The finished documentary has my head on screen for a few seconds. But like the Leyland documentary, I enjoyed the experience.

I started singing in restaurants in November 1975. I sang every second Friday and Saturday at a Blue Mountains restaurant at Faulconbridge. The following year I sang for a while on a Sunday night at The Brown Horse Inn at Wentworth Falls. It was at this restaurant that, a year or so later, I began singing every Friday evening for a number of years. I also later sang at Cheppys Restaurant at Blaxland on a Saturday evening. In the late 1980’s, when Cheppys changed owners and name, becoming The Mountain Gateway Restaurant, I resumed singing for a few more years until about 1989. The song “The Background Minstrel Show” documents my restaurant singing experiences.     

Over the years I have continued returning to the Binnaway area. It has been a great source of inspiration for many of my songs. On an early return visit I met up with Alan Chinn, who had a farm near Coonabarabran. As well as singing many traditional Australian songs, Alan was also writing wonderful songs about the area. Our friendship and mutual encouragement of each other’s song writing began then and continued up until Alan’s death in September 2010. His family kindly entrusted to me one of Alan’s beloved Maton guitars, his FG 100. Alan wrote many of his songs on this fine instrument. I play it nearly every day and remember my good friend. I have already written a couple of songs and tunes on it.

My songs have afforded me opportunities to meet some very interesting people. In the early 1970’s I had the good fortune to meet Rev Ted Noffs at The Wayside Chapel in Kings Cross and sing there a number of times. In 1975 Ted kindly invited me to sing a song I had written about the famous Australian aviator Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, when the latter’s son unveiled a plaque in honour of his father.

In 1992, Ian Jenkins and I released Journey’s End, a cassette containing six of my songs. One of these songs, “Towns on the Castlereagh”, won the Grenfell Festival of Arts Song Competition that same year.

My songs have been played by Ian McNamara on his ABC radio programme Australia All Over. One song, “At Bogan Gate”, was included on his CD Macca On Air in 1997. In December of that year I was invited to sing at two concerts organized by Ian. At one of these concerts, I was reacquainted with the late country singer and entertainer Smoky Dawson, a hero of mine since childhood.  

Late in March 1997 my wife and I began a series of house concerts, with Western Australian singer songwriter Bernard Carney as our first guest performer. Our last concert was in August 2002 after a dozen wonderful house concerts which included performers like Andy Irvine, Pat Drummond, Jez Lowe, Lowry Olafson, Bernard Bolan, Andy White and David LaMotte.

In 1999 I produced a collection of songs I had recorded between 1991 and 1997. They were on the CD Negatives of Glass.

In the early 1990’s, two children’s Australian history books of mine were published by Jacaranda Press. One was about the first settlement at Sydney Cove, the other about the early crossing of the Blue Mountains by Europeans. They were later reissued in 1997 by Heinemann Library as a single, hard-covered volume entitled First Settlement and Exploration. This book was placed on the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge List for Year 5 and 6 students in 2010 and again in 2011.