One of the founding fathers of Australian country music, Reg Lindsay, has died aged 79 after a long illness in Newcastle, in New South Wales.

Lindsay died yesterday (Aug. 5) after a long period of ill health. He had been hospitalised since 2003 after a heart attack and a series of strokes. Following his recording debut in 1951 on the Rodeo label, Lindsay recorded over 65 albums and 250 singles on a number of labels, scoring several hits on the Festival label in the 1970s.

His best known hits included "Silence On The Line," "Empty Arms Hotel" and his versions of two songs by Californian singer/songwriter John Stewart, "Armstrong" and "July, You're a Woman Now."

Through the 1950s and 1960s, Lindsay popularized local country acts through his nationally syndicated television shows "The Reg Lindsay Country Hour" and "Reg Lindsay Country Homestead."

He was one of the first to be inducted into the Australian Country Music Hands of Fame in 1977 - the genre's domestic "hall of fame" -- and was elevated to Australian country music's highest honour, the Roll of Renown, in January 1984. He received the Order of Australia in 1989 from Queen Elizabeth II for services to music.

Lindsay toured the United States a number of times and was the first Australian to receive a plaque on Nashville's Walkway of Stars.

He is cited as an influence by a younger generation of country singers. "His classic hits sound as beautiful today as they did when Reg recorded them," says multi-platinum singer Lee Kernaghan, who calls him "a master interpreter of song."

Bob Kirchner, president of the Tamworth-based Australian Country Music Foundation adds: "Reg was a giant of Australian country music. He was one of those people with true star quality, real talent, presence and charisma."

On Aug. 4, Sydney-based Destra Music released a 4-CD boxed set covering his 45-year career entitled "No Dress Rehearsal - The Highlights". The label had been compiling the set for the past 12 months with Lindsay's wife and manager Roslyn, says Destra CEO Ken Outch.

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