Her hallway is full of Elvis Presley memorabilia, but the king of rock and roll is going to have to make room for Maree Wheeler's trophy after she came home with several awards from the annual Rangitikei Country Music Awards earlier this month.

Maree came home with awards for best gospel, first in female section and third in traditional as well as the trophy for first overall at the Sunday competition of the two-day event which took place over the weekend of June 3 and 4.

Organised and hosted by the Rangitikei Country Club at the College Hall in Marton, the two-day festival was in its fifth year and included 97 acts from all over New Zealand.

Club organiser Bronwen Newman says that Saturday's event was the Diamonds Awards, for all musicians who had previously placed first, second or third, while Sunday's competition was for acts who hadn't already placed.

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"Taranaki was very well represented and Maree did very well indeed to win. There were some fantastic acts."

Maree says she first heard Elvis sing when her parents played a record of his when she was four years old.

"I loved his voice straight away, and from then on have enjoyed his music. He's just brilliant, he can do anything, from rock through to country. He sang it all and sounded so good."

Her love of singing also dates back to her childhood says Maree.

"I've been singing since I was a child, but only really got into joining country music clubs about 18 months ago."

Before, when singing at karaoke nights, Maree says she often chose country music songs to sing to. At home, she sings with her daughter, Shamika Hoeta, 12, and says Shamika also enjoys country music.

"That's the great thing about the style of music. It suits everyone, there's a real focus on the words and they have real meaning, which helps you put emotion into it when you sing. It tells a story and the music doesn't overpower the words or the feelings in the song."

Maree is a member of several country music clubs around Taranaki and says she recommends joining a club to anyone interested in singing or playing country music.
"You meet great people and can enjoy good music, good singing and good company all in one place."