The striking image of Dubbo RSL Sub-Branch president Tom Gray marching each Anzac Day with "spirit and pride" has moved a local musician to show his admiration through song.
Michael Davis was inspired to write Shiny Shoes and Medals about the retired navy member he's seen do so much for the community.
The chorus tells of Anzac Day meaning "shiny shoes and medals and a walk with Tommy Gray", a scene Mr Davis has watched many times.
"I can't explain how a man can make just a walk, which is what a march is, carry so much spirit and pride," Mr Davis said.
"Anybody who's seen Tom Gray march just knows, you can pick him out a mile off, there's just something about the way he holds himself when he marches that is just beyond words."
Mr Davis performed the new song as a surprise for Mr Gray at a luncheon for veterans on Anzac Day at the Dubbo RSL Memorial Club.
The musician said he had read a story in the Daily Liberal about the sub-branch president receiving a Thank You For Your Service Quilt a few months ago, and his wife suggested he should write a song.
Mr Davis's creativity was sparked by a song written 50 years ago that continues to resonate today.
"I've always liked the song Streets of London so I was singing Streets of London in my studio one day, and I just started to think about the old man who'd lost his way, and became homeless and lonely and I just thought 'I wonder what would have happened if he'd have met Tom Gray, if that would have been different'," Mr Davis said.
"And it just evolved."
Mr Davis said he used to work with Mr Gray's daughter, Lynda, who had shared that since his military service, her father had always prided himself on shining his shoes.
"And so I took those couple of things and I came up with the shiny shoes and medals, the theme, and a walk with Tommy Gray, and the song just evolved from that, I just needed to find some chords that sounded nice together," Mr Davis said.
"From there on, the song just fell out, it was embarrassingly simple to write from that point on, and that's because I was so inspired to write it."
With the help of other sub-branch directors, Mr Davis was able to plan a performance of Streets of London and Shiny Shoes and Medals for Anzac Day.
He also played the song in advance to Lynda.
"They're a wonderful family and he [Mr Gray] is such a legend in Dubbo, I've always thought so," Mr Davis said.
"What he does for returned soldiers and veterans and the people of Dubbo and even the other community things he's involved in, upper level.
"In my view he could win the Dubbo Citizen of the Year every year, he's just amazing."
The debut and solo performance of Shiny Shoes and Medals received a standing ovation.
"...when they stood at the end, I was quite chuffed," Mr Davis said.
"And I know they weren't standing for me, they were standing for him, but it was the occasion and I was very proud that I'd created that occasion.
"It made me feel fantastic, it was probably the highlight of my career, in terms of musical performances, that's for sure."
Mr Gray, wife Hilary, and daughters Lynda and Kelly were all present for the emotional occasion.
"It's hard to explain the pride I have in Dad on Anzac Day," Ms Gray said.
"To me, and I actually said this to him yesterday, that Anzac Day is Tom Gray, that's to me.
"Because when he's marching down the street, I get tears in my eyes and I can't breathe properly and it's just the pride.
"Then hearing that song yesterday, I could not get the smile off my face or the tears out of my eyes.
"He was happy, and grateful or gracious, but he probably had a bit of a slight - I don't know if embarrassment is the right word, but having so many other people there and having a song about him.
"All of us as a family are extremely proud of everything he's done in his life and he's just a one-of-a-kind person.
"To us as a family and also his friends and the community."
Shiny Shoes and Medals has also been recorded by Mr Davis and his band, Indistinct Chatter, and released on Spotify, YouTube and other platforms, and is expected to air in the next day or two.
Mr Davis said the band members had given up their time to perform on the recording.
"Wez Thompson from Hot Tracks Recording, he did all the sound engineering and he played the guitar solo, I didn't want to do the guitar solo, I wanted him to do it," Mr Davis said.
"...So the actual recorded engineered performance is quite different from the live performance.
"It's clearly the same song but the track itself is quite different.
"It's set up to be very much a country and western sort of folk song.
"Which is interesting for our band to even do that because it's just so not what we do, but they were all happy to do it, which was good."
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