Wagga muso Dale Allison is one of the city’s most recognisable people. So how did he turn his life around from highly strung accountant to laidback Mr Nice Guy?
A young Dale Allison sat pondering his life. He couldn’t understand how his mate - who was a truckie - could be so happy. One of the most valued community contributors - and a man who continues to mould some of the city’s best musical talent was in slowdown. He lacked the X-factor.
“If I did one more tax return I would have gone nuts,” Dale admits.
“That’s what I thought. I couldn’t understand how this truck driver was so happy. He worked for himself, he owned his own truck. Driving trucks was all he seemed to do, but he was content. I just did not get it.”
Allison implored his mate to “go and work for Ron Finemore’s”. “At least then he would have less to do, he would get some of his life back,” he says.
It took him years to realise he was “black and white” - and that he was dead wrong about his mate.
“I closed the loop,” he says. “What I was missing was the X-factor. Driving trucks was this man’s life. It was a lifestyle choice. He was in love with it.
“And you know what? I’ve become the truck driver.”
Dale had just polished off a course of chicken at the Wagga Business Chamber’s Crow Awards when embarrassment and disbelief hit home. He looked on as the editor-in-chief of this newspaper recited the good deeds of the next person to be inducted into the DA’s Roll of Honour, which today hosts the names of 11 people - many with the titles OAM and AM.
“It was a good speech,” he says. “Listening to it you think ‘yeah, that’s what you’d expect to hear’ but when it’s you, it’s a totally different story altogether. It’s halfway between embarrassing and that can’t be right.
“When you look at the names on the shield you don’t feel like you belong in that company.”
Dale says he knows everyone on the shield. He considers them the “linchpins” holding Wagga together.
“These people don’t stop,” he says.
“I look up to them. They are almost like the linchpins that keep this place running.”
Sitting in the back office of his Baylis Street music store Allison realises it’s a contradiction to be laidback Mr Nice Guy and one of the “non-stoppers”.
“I have tried to stop,” he says. “It’s impossible. Once you get a certain amount of momentum up it’s hard to stop that. And you don’t want to stop it ‘cause you’re actually enjoying all the things that happen to you.”
Dale prefers the life term - coined with fellow muso Jamie Way - “impromptu”.
It means he goes from one thing to the next without any real rhyme or reason.
He’s on the city’s Australia Day Committee, he galvanised public support for an appeal after the fractious 2012 floods and he schmoozes with the movers and shakers on a whole range of matters.
While he’s “off on a tangent” he says his wife, Anne, has always been there.
“She’s been my bedrock. While I’m off doing all these things, she’s the one who’s always been there,” he says.
It’s noticeable he hates to talk about his individual contribution to charitable causes. He persistently steers the conversation in the direction of community and - importantly - people.
“Wagga’s always been very good at looking after itself,” Dale says.
“It’s never just one person. There’s quite a few people - quite a few events - that have knitted this place together.”
He says everyone has a job to do - and everyone does give back. How then does he explain being run off his feet going from gig to gig? (You can catch him anywhere from the pub to the Commercial Club to the nursing home.)
“I’m just an easy target,” he says. “People come to me because my name’s on the door. They come in and ask how to do something and I’ll say ‘right, let’s see what we can do’.”
The secret, Dale explains, is to “join the dots” and be the ultimate communicator.
“It’s the key to getting things done,” he says.
“There’s a lot of competition, but people do want to help each other.”
A whole generation has passed since Dale first took took to Wagga schools in 1987 to assist students with their HSC performances.
When he helps out now it’s a whole different world to ‘87.
New technology has radically shaken up the live music scene, there are new challenges in getting young musos to listen and learn the notes as well as performing in front of a crowd.
“The standard of music has dropped a little,” he says.
“With the advent of electronic music, DJs … the band you hear on the radio isn’t as good as it used to be.”
He concedes it’s easy for a rock‘n’roll guy to say that.
The litmus test for new musos, he says, is to embrace new technology and do something with it.
“The ones that really work with it are better,” he says, emphatically.
“Look at Jimi Hendrix in the ‘60s. No one could play the guitar like that. All of a sudden there’s Jimi Hendrix - that’s the start of that! And there’s Elvis - that’s the start of that!
“The only difference between them and Beethoven, in my opinion, is technology.”
The “mission” of his life is closing the loop for young musos.
In perhaps another reference to his truckie mate “the key” to unleashing their talent is to break down their barriers.
“What I really want to do is get young people into that mentality of giving their talent freely without trying to guard it too much and think ‘why would I do that? I’m not getting paid’.
“It’s about the people you meet after the show.
“I’ve met a lot of great old guys that will tell you a great story and with that you learn something and turn it into action in the next thing you do.
“The reward in that is better than money. It’s better than notoriety.”
DA Roll of Honour
2015 Dale Allison
2014 Judy Galloway
2013 Yvonne Braid
2012 John Studdert
2011 No winner
2010 Kay Hull
2009 Professor Gerard Carrol AM
2008 Michael Kennedy OAM
2007 Brian Kahlefeldt OAM
2006 Geoff Breust
2005 Gordon and John Braid
2004 Pat Brassil AM
2003 Dr Margaret Sheldon OAM