Mike McClellan was fresh out of high school when he arrived in Armidale in 1963.
The man, who would hit the charts a decade later with Song and Danceman, had won a two-year scholarship to attend Armidale Teachers College.
It would be in music, rather than teaching that he would find his true calling, but McClellan, who is returning to the New England city to play a concert next week, says he holds many fond memories about the place.
“I was a city kid, educated at an all boys school, living away from home for the first time. I loved it,” McClellan said.
“I played soccer for the college and then represented New England.
“I sang with the college band, performed with the local dramatic society and directed Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest for the college, and studied, occasionally.
“College life in an academic town was, for a city boy liberated from the confines of a conservative middle class upbringing, exhilarating,” he said.
McClellan will play a concert at the Armidale City Bowling Club on Friday, August 3, playing all his hits and showcasing songs from his latest album No Intermission.
More than 40 years have passed since Song and Danceman was a national hit and voted Song of The Year by the music industry at its annual awards.
McClellan’s songs have earned him an honoured place within the history of Australian music and you'll still hear Song and Danceman, The One I Love and Rock'n Roll Lady on radio, along with several others from his extensive back catalogue.
Over the years, McClellan has regularly returned to Armidale to perform.
“I came back to Armidale to perform at UNE in the late 60s and early 70s having built a reputation on the university circuit as a folk singer - a term I was never that comfortable with because the music I was performing and beginning to write, albeit on an acoustic guitar, reflected a wide ranging eclecticism, not easily confined to one genre.”
When his debut album was released in 1972, it included a song called There Is a Place (often referred to as New England’s Hills) which would forever identify McClellan with Armidale.
“I still sing it occasionally, even after all these years, and doubtless will again on returning to Armidale.”
And then of course in 1974 Song and Danceman hit the charts and McClellan was back again, touring, with songs from two albums to play and a career taking him further from his teaching days.
“For all the changes that have occurred over nearly 50 years Armidale still remains special place for me – I feel it every time I come back.”
And McClellan still looks back at the teacher’s college with great fondness, and in particular, said the art collection, including the Norman Lindsay works in the building, left an impact on him.
“It was a constant source of inspiration for a kid who knew, even then, that while he loved teaching and was very good at it, there were other worlds he wanted to explore.”
And he did.