Tommy Emmanuel’s fascinating past – that saw the family settle in Parkes in 1967 after years on the road – has sparked the interest of Sydney filmmakers.
Director Jeremy Dylan and producer Jaime Lewis are in the final stages of piecing together a documentary on Tommy’s life, calling it the Endless Road.
Jaime was in Parkes last Friday browsing through family photos and gathering any last minute information at the Henry Parkes Museum.
She also met with Tommy’s little brother Darcy Emmanuel, who still lives in town.
The idea for the documentary came about when Tommy’s management approached Jeremy, who’s also a music journalist.
Jeremy had previously worked on Tommy’s tours and has known the superstar guitarist since he was a child.
Tommy’s manager were aware of Jeremy’s articles, films and podcasts on various musicians and artists, and met up with him in Nashville in September 2015.
“Jeremy made a film on Americana artist Jim Lauderdale a couple of years ago,” Jaime said.
“They (Tommy’s manager) saw it and liked it, and they said ‘you know what Tommy has had a pretty interesting life’.
“And his story is fascinating, there are so many different iterations...and he’s so in demand.
“He’s gone from a session musician, moving onto a solo career, then stepping away from electric to acoustic and going back to the music he grew up with and the time of the finger pickers.”
Jeremy and Jaime began filming the documentary in January 2016, where the pair extensively toured the US, accompanying Tommy on his tour and even travelling on his bus for two weeks.
They travelled to the UK to interview Tommy’s two eldest daughters, then followed Tommy to Cuba.
They’ve also travelled around Australia, which included the visit to Parkes and a visit to the Maton Factory in Melbourne where they manufacture Tommy’s favourite guitar.
The one and a half hour film will also tell of the strong relationship Tommy had with “Mr Guitar” Chet Atkins, who became his father figure until his passing in 2001.
Chet named Tommy a CGP – Certified Guitar Player, a title he only gave out to four other guitarists he admired and felt contributed to the legacy of guitar playing.
“There are only three alive, I would dare say Tommy would be the youngest,” Jaime said.
The documentary on Tommy wouldn’t be complete without interviews with Barry Gibb from the Bee Gees, Olivia Newton-John, Monty Python’s Eric Idle, grammy award-winning country star Jason Isbell, John Oates from Hall and Oates, famous in the guitar world Steve Vai and Joe Satriani, and of course big brother Phil Emmanuel.
“We wrapped up filming in November, we’re now in post production,” Jaime said last Friday.
“I’m in Parkes archiving photos of Tommy’s childhood, posters and anything we are missing in the film.
“It’s fantastic to be in Parkes where he grew up, and Darcy has done a tremendous job preserving Tommy’s history and the story of the travelling Emmanuel Quartet.”
While Jaime was in town, Darcy took her on a tour of their childhood home, former primary school Middleton Public School and the public mural in Clarinda Street.
Since the Emmanuel family moved around for so long, Jaime said they chose to focus on Parkes because it was where they settled after their father Hugh Emmanuel died.
Tommy has just celebrated his 62nd birthday (on May 31).
“But you wouldn’t know it,” Jaime laughed.
“He’s like a big kid and he’s showing no signs of stopping.
“He’s been in Nashville for 14 years...people will remember him from the 80s and 90s. From this documentary they’re going to learn his roots as a child and how his music career exploded since leaving Australia in the mid 90s.
“And he’s had a career resurgence thanks to You Tube.”
The documentary Tommy Emmanuel: Endless Road is due for release in early 2018, with Jeremy and Jaime making plans for its premiere to take place in North America.
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