Reg McTaggart Tribute – Wakatipu Country Legend Bows Out

3 minutes read
Posted 28 November, 2023
Reg doing what he did best.2 copy

Reg doing what he did best

A highly-decorated local and national country music icon, whose music has been recognised all over Australasia for decades, passed away suddenly on 18 November, leaving a huge gap in the local entertainment scene.

Renowned as the Wakatipu’s country music legend, Reg McTaggart, 79, who farmed the Frankton Flats, has won big at Tamworth and NZ’s National Gold Guitar Awards, recording 11 successful albums, including 60 Kiwi songwriters, in a career spanning almost 60 years.

Quietly reserved and humble, Reg was not only renowned for his toe-tapping talent singing and playing guitar, but for his cheeky grin.

A quite achiever, he certainly didn’t make a song and dance about his own achievements - some international, like the 1989 Buddy Williams Award at Tamworth where he won top honours – Best Male Vocals, performing ‘Life Turned Her That Way’. That opened doors for a recording contract back home in Dunedin. “That’s how it all really kicked off,” son Des says. Reg recorded his first country album in 1990.

Heavily involved the NZ Gold Guitar Awards in Gore, Reg earned highly commended, and his late wife, Judy, won the National Professional Songwriting Competition there, Reg performing her original song, ‘Wake Me Up and Say Goodbye’. Reg also won New Male Vocalist and the duet section, with Denise Hayes, at the NZ Country Music Awards. In 1994 he was international guest artist at the Port Pirie Country Music Awards in Adelaide.

In 2004 he was inducted into Gore’s Country Music ‘Hands of Fame’, his imprint starring alongside other Kiwi country music greats.

The Southern Cross Music Association honoured Reg in 2016 as one of its great entertainment ambassadors for the industry in Australia and NZ on the T.A.S.M.A. Entertainment Honour Roll.

Reg has been a regular performing at music festivals all over NZ, including the Bay of Islands and Dargaville, and was made a life member of the Arrowtown Autumn Festival in 2009 for his immense contribution to that event. “Up until last year he attended every festival since it started in the 1980s, playing at concerts and dances and in later years shows, helping with sound and lighting,” Des says. “Even this year he did all the sound for the Arrowtown Anzac Day service.”

His father was also nominated for a local Heart of the District Award and founded the local Shotover Country Music Club.
Des’s younger memories are filled with his dad farming all day at Frankton Flats then playing gigs all over the region – Dunedin, Invercargill, Alexandra, Queenstown and Haast, four nights a week with his popular band, Kawarau Country.
“He played at all my friend’s 21sts and their weddings.”

Des admits to being “quite chuffed” when Reg played at his Wakatipu High School ball back in the day.

Reg, originally a farm manager in Balclutha, bought his first guitar aged nine and was playing in Dunedin dance bands aged 14. “Guitar and singing have always been a huge part of his life,” Des says. A kind man with a passion to share his love of music, he would regularly have young people at the family home teaching them to play guitar and sing. “He just did it for the love of it. He loved seeing the younger ones grow in their music.”

He did take a break though to pick up the curling stones during winter as part of the Arrow Curling Club.

Reg McTaggart’s passing will be a huge loss to local music and a memorial service will be held on Tuesday (28 November) at 1pm in Arrowtown Athenaeum Hall.


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