MJF Annual Award

The recipient of Merimbula Jazz Festival Annual Award is a muso whose has made a significant contribution to the festival over a period of time. Its a “whos who” of some of the great musicians who have made the Merimbula Jazz Festival the wonderful event that it is.

The Merimbula Jazz Festival Award is presented annually to someone who has contributed to the ongoing development and longevity of jazz music, in all its various forms, and the continuing patronage of jazz festivals.


Bassist Tony Buckley was born in Sydney on 30 May 1937. He commenced formal music lessons at age ten on piano, discontinuing several years later and then restarting and intensifying training again at age 17 on double (string) bass. Development as a young musician embraced playing in student orchestras and theory training at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

During the 1950’s and later, he worked and toured with several commercial entertainment units involving vocalists Frank Ifield, the late Bobby Scott and Johnny O’Keefe, the big dance Bands of the late Bob Gibson, the late Bill Barrett and the late Bobby Limb and Dawn Lake Club Band. Whilst in the midst of all this Tony also joined in a number of smaller dance bands and registered club floor show bands which utilized the services of most of Sydney’s noted and up and coming jazz musicians (many who have since passed away). Tony also participated in the historic Kings Cross ‘El Rocco Jazz Cellar’ scene playing with several groups including the Warren Leroy trio, John Pochee and friends.

These connections led to Tony’s overall interest and development playing jazz, and in the year 1965 he moved to Melbourne until 1969 where he linked up with Vibraphone player Keith Stevens. This in turn led to ensuing friendships with other Melbourne jazz players such as Alex Hutchinson, Alan Richards, Kim and Anita Harris, Graeme Steele, Ron Anderson, Neil Taylor and the late and great drummer David May. On returning to Sydney Tony worked the Registered Club circuit again with various jazz gigs here and there and in 1982 became associated with traditional jazz when joining the Nat Oliver Jazz Band led by Oliver Hetherington. Since then he has also played with most of Sydney’s prominent musicians and jazz bands from time to time including Jiri Kripac’s Harlem Swing, Mike Hallam’s Hot 5 and Hot 6 and Bill Haesler’s Robber’s Dogs Jazz Band. Tony has also played in the company of many other notable Sydney musicians including Bob Barnard, Trevor Rippingale, Jack Wiard, Paul Furness, Jim Elliott, Paul Baker and the late Eric Holroyd just to name a few.

Some of Tony’s most memorable music experiences have seen him playing some years back at ‘Quad Cities’, edging the Mississippi River in the USA, with a group of Sydney musicians including Jim Elliott, and the late Ken Flannery, Adrian Ford, Brett Lockyer and John Fearnley at the BIX Beiderbeck Memorial Jazz Festival and also backing the Mills Brothers vocal quartet and vocalists Vic Damone and Billy Daniels at the old Kings Cross Sydney Chevron Hotel.

During his 63 years love affair with the bass Tony has been heavily influenced by many great overseas bassists such as the late Ray Brown, Red Mitchell, Neils Henning and Orsted Pederson as well as Ron Carter, George Mraz and Garry Peacock who are still playing to this day. So is world class Bruce Cale Tony’s wonderful talented ‘Aussie’ bassist friend now located in Katoomba NSW.

It must be said that Tony’s involvement with music, embracing most genres, including jazz, and attendance at numerous Jazz Festivals throughout Australia, including the long running Merimbula Jazz Festival, has been a lengthy one. At 80 years of age he is still playing, loving his music and importantly listening to the marvellous musicianship advances demonstrated by so many young and older players throughout the world.

Past Winners

Madam Pat Thompson
Keith Sadler
Roy Gillot
Ron Lucas
Jiri Kripac
Pierre Kammacher
John Ansell
Alex Hutchinson
Paul Ingle
Ian Williams
Kevin Partridge
Dave Drummond
Nyn Hamilton
John Judge
Maurie Fabrikant
Barry Hanley
Gordon Benjamin
Margie & Tony Fullerton
Des Camm
Saul Richardson
Russell Sheridan
Stan Delle Virgin
John Cursley
John Moffatt
Bill McLean
Rob Young
Ron Anderson
John Morrison
Alan Richards
Ione & Alan Harbourne