When you think of the guitar or musicians in Gunnedah, one name stands out – Steve McCauley.

Steve first picked up a guitar as a university student in the ‘80s, not knowing how to play or read music. His initial motivation was to use it as a way to get into parties, but he quickly mastered the instrument, and found himself strumming across campus. After finishing uni, he began his teaching career in Coonabarabran while continuing to pursue a passion for his ‘banger’.

His big break came when Gunnedah musician, The Swamp Doctors’ Fred Koeford, asked him to fill in for his band’s guitarist at a local gig.

“I was bloody nervous, as at that stage I think I really only knew how to play two songs,” Steve said.

Despite his nerves and limited repertoire, his performance must have impressed Fred as he offered him a full-time gig with the band.

“He handed me a cassette tape with about 40 songs on it, said ‘learn these, we will see you in Gunnedah’,” Steve recalled.

Like a good wine, Steve continued to improve with age and he and the Swamp Doctors were quick to become the premier performers across the region playing at almost every event, from weddings to high school formals. The band rocketed its way into the role of supporting act for some of the country’s most famous including The Angels, Mick Fleetwood and Rose Tattoo.
“It was so nerve-racking to play with the likes of these performers,” Steve said. “They were ‘true’ musicians, and here I was, self-taught not even knowing if I was playing the correct chords for a lot of the songs”.

In 2007 he competed in and took out top honours at the Battle of the Bands competition in Tamworth. The best guitarist on day won themselves an Alan Tompkins guitar and a trip to Nashville, USA, to play with fellow Australian acts – an experience Steve remembers being one of the most eye-opening of his career.

“The bars are tiny in size and unlike in Australia where you get paid for gigs, in America you play for tips only. If you played ordinary, you didn’t get paid,” he said.
Steve returned to Australia with a new mentality, “from then on, to me it was all about playing well rather than having the crowd go off. I needed to play great”.

After the breakup of the Swamp Doctors, Steve teamed up with another Gunnedah talent, Trev Stacey, to form the band, Streamline. They were extremely successful locally and worked alongside some of Gunnedah’s well-known musical expats including Katrina Burgoyne and Anthony Snape. Steve enjoyed the more relaxed muso life that accompanied the local gigs and when he was approached by the Department of Education offering him a role to mentor a few children he gladly accepted. Steve retrained for the position and now travels the area teaching music and how to play the guitar to vision-impaired students.

Next Saturday (June 1) will see the Gunnedah Conservatorium host ‘Steve McCauley- A Retrospective’ held at The Civic. It is described as an intimate acoustic night of original music and interpretations of classic rock and country.

Steve will be joined on stage by some of the finest musicians he has played with.

“I chose all the acts, I have even picked the songs they will be performing,” Steve said. “Even though the show is named after me, it is definitely all about the performers on the night. I am looking forward to it.”

Book your tickets to Steve’s upcoming concert here: https://events.humanitix.com/steve-mccauley-a-retrospective 

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