66-year-old wins first Dolphin Award, records first album
OCEAN Shores resident Ivan Perger, 66, received his first NCEIA Dolphin Award last week, in the Folk category.
It's not a bad record for someone who learned to play his first instrument only six years ago.
Born in Croatia, he arrived in Sydney with his family when he was four.
It was just over 26 years ago that Mr Perger moved to Mullumbimby, and to Ocean Shores 18 months ago.
An electrician by trade, he was given a ukulele when about to turn 60.
"I was sitting at a cafe with my friend Stan, who is an instrument maker and woodworker. He asked me if I had an instrument and I said I didn't," he said.
"He went into Michael's guitar shop and came out with a purple ukulele for me."
That was the beginning of a love affair with music.
The musician has a 26-year-old son, Zac Perger, who is wheelchair-bound and blind, and has a number of other disabilities.
Mr Perger admits the first years caring for Zac were hard, but he and his ex-wife share the caring duties and Zac has become a great supporter of Ivan's music career.
"He learns my song's lyrics by heart way before me, and he tells me when a new song needs more work," he said.
It was Zac's love for country music that took the family to Tamworth in 2000 after the Make A Wish Foundation gave Zac the opportunity.
"We met some fantastic artists like Glenny Rae and Slim Pickens. Slim became a good friend and he offered me his home studio to record my first album."
Raw and Grizzled, Ivan Perger's first album, saw the light of day two years ago to great reviews, especially from Rhythms Magazine critic Martin Jones.
Thinkin' Out Loud, his second release last year, didn't just get nominated for Album of the Year at this year's NCEIA Dolphin Awards, but confirmed the singer-songwriter as one of the Northern Rivers' finest artists.