Darren ‘Smokie’ Dawson
Various venues, Victoria, New South Wales, 2015, 2016, 2017

As the next performance of Stereo Stories draws closer (this Sunday 20 November), I begin preparing for my brief role in the show: re-visiting my piece, reading it aloud, and even briefly casting my mind back to the events which inspired the story. And I recall the times I have read the story in front of an audience – a real, live audience. For when I suggested to Vin Maskell – creator and curator of Stereo Stories – that I might have a yarn suitable for publication on the website, never in my wildest dreams did I envisage how my short tale of a doomed teenage relationship would give me such a great rush every time I took to the lectern to share it.

Stereo Stories run the gamut of human emotions: alternating from bleak, to angst-ridden, to humorous, to  whimsical. But always deeply personal, as suggested by the catchphrase “A Song. A Place. A Time.” The concept is simple: writers sharing a story about a place and song in their life. Writers well-known (Anson Cameron, Andy Griffiths, Brian Nankervis, Rijn Collins) and maybe not so (Maria Majsa, Lucia Nardo, Zoe Krupka). The live shows are a wonder to behold, as the writers’ words are given greater depth and clarity by the excellent Stereo Stories band. I am eternally grateful for the support and encouragement that the other writers, the band, and Vin have offered.

I remember the first time I presented Before Too Long, backed by singer/guitarists Stephen Andrew and Jack Gramski, and the thrill it gave me that the crowd laughed in all the right places and that the applause was warm and generous. I recall the build-up to my first reading of the story at the Williamstown Literary Festival in 2015: the rehearsals with the band at Vin’s place, and the nerves as the crowd in the Williamstown Town Hall kept building.

How many times have I read it? Well, there have been two Willy Lit Fest shows, a late night show at Victoria University, readings at the Newport Folk Festival, and a memorable gig at the new Geelong Library earlier this year.

Smokie and the band. It's a happening thing! Photo by Eric Algra. Geelong Library. February 2016.

Smokie and the band. It’s a happening thing! Photo by Eric Algra. Geelong Library. February 2016.

It has also been read a couple of times when I have been unavailable. Vin even read my story on Lindy Burns’ ABC 774 program, when he and Jack went on air to promote the Willy Lit Fest show. Of all the wonderful stereo stories, he read mine! I was grateful if only to see the pride on my wife Margaret’s face.

For the final live show of the year, the Stereo Stories troupe is returning to the Geelong Library on Sunday November 20 as part of the Word For Word Festival. (If you have not seen Stereo Stories live, I suggest you add it to your bucket list). Will this be the last time I read this particular stereo story? Maybe. But if it still gets a chuckle, and someone in the audience still gets something out of it – who knows?

This story was first published on our partner site The Footy Almanac, as The Glory of Stereo Stories

Smokie will be part of our next show, but won’t be reading Before Too Long. He’ll be reading two stories: a gorgeous tribute to his wife via an OzRock classic,and Stephen Andrew’s story about being on RockWiz with a broken neck, via another (but slightly lesser-known) OzRock classic.

Our next show is at the Williamstown Town Hall on Saturday 17 June, part of the Williamstown Literary Festival. Cabaret seating (330 tickets) booked out. General admission balcony tickets now available.


My parents were children of the Beatles generation. I had little choice but to love music. Regular contributor to partner site The Footy Almanac. My Stereo Stories debut was Before Too Long by Paul Kelly.