He grew up living in the San Francisco Bay Area cities of Belvedere, Brentwood and Berkeley, moving several times as his father was a school principal. He moved to Berkeley in 1947 as a teenager. Olivier lived in Berkeley for many years, and now lives in Oakland, CA.
Olivier has been part of the Berkeley folk music scene since the 1950s. He was influenced by folk revivalists such as Burl Ives, Carl Sandburg, and John Jacob Niles, who he saw perform on campus at Cal. Beginning in 1956 he hosted “The Midnight Special” on KPFA radio. He started a music instrument shop in Berkeley, The Barrel Folk Music Center, to serve the growing folk music community during the mid-1950s.
In 1958, Olivier, as a former student of UC Berkeley envisioned and created The Berkeley Folk Festival which became an annual event, directed and produced by Olivier, until 1970. Performers and workshop participants included Alan Lomax, Doc Watson and his son Merle, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Mississippi John Hurt, Almeda Riddle, Mance Lipscomb, Alice Stuart, and folklorists Charles Seeger and Archie Green. Associate festival producer John Chambless described Olivier as having produced the festivals almost single-handedly and with "enormous good taste." 
In 1974, Olivier's archive of folk festival materials was acquired by Northwestern University (ibid). This festival was the subject of history and American studies professor Michael J. Kramer’s research seminar “Digitizing Folk Music History: The Berkeley Folk Festival.” In May 2011, he spoke at Northwestern about his experience during the 60's (ibid).
Olivier has been described as one of the Bay Area's preeminent guitar teachers (ibid). He taught a young boy from El Cerrito CA named John Fogerty his first guitar lessons (ibid), and helped Kate Wolf perfect her guitar playing technique. He is the father of five children.
Joan Baez concert handbill, 16 April 1967 (Barry Olivier, Producer)
- Hurd Anyaso, Hilary. "Founder of Berkeley Folk Festival to Visit Northwestern". Retrieved 20 May 2011.
- DeWitt, Mark F. (2008). Cajun and zydeco dance music in Northern California : modern pleasures in a postmodern world ([Online-Ausg.] ed.). Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. p. 154. ISBN 1-60473-090-0.
- Lasar, Matthew (2000). Pacifica radio: the rise of an alternative network. Temple University Press. p. 99. ISBN 978-1-56639-777-3.
- Jackson, Blair (2000). Garcia : an American life. New York: Penguin Books. p. 45. ISBN 978-0-14-029199-5.
- Firth, Don. "Folklore: 1964 Berkeley Folk Fest : performers?".
- Chambless, John (18 July 1968). "Helix Interviews". Helix.
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