Shane Howard

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Shane Howard
Shane Howard.JPG
Performing at WOMADelaide, March 2012
Background information
Birth nameShane Michael Howard
Born (1955-01-26) 26 January 1955 (age 63)
Dennington, Victoria, Australia
OriginGeelong, Victoria, Australia
Occupation(s)Singer-songwriter, musician
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, acoustic guitar, didgeridoo
Years active1977–present
  • Uluru/RCA
  • BMG
  • Big Heart
  • ABC
  • WEA
  • Goanna Arts
Associated acts
  • Goanna
  • Gordon Franklin and the Wilderness Ensemble
  • Black Arm Band

Shane Michael Howard AM (born 26 January 1955) is an Australian singer-songwriter and guitarist, he was the mainstay of folk rock group Goanna (1977–85, 1998) which had hit singles with ""Solid Rock"" (September 1982, No. 3) and "Let the Franklin Flow" (May 1983, No. 12) on the Kent Music Report and their album, Spirit of Place (November 1982, No. 2). After their disbandment he pursued a solo career.


Early years[edit]

Shane Michael Howard was born on 26 January 1955 and raised in the Victorian coastal town of Dennington 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) north-west of Warrnambool.[1] He is the middle child of seven children of an Irish Catholic family living in a cramped factory cottage.[2] Their father, Leo Howard, was a worker at the local Nestlés powdered milk factory, for 48 years.[3] The Howards loved music, led by their mother, Teresa Howard, who played the piano and sang.[2]

I don't know a world without music. I don't know what life's like without music. It just was always there. I was a middle child, so there were older brothers and sisters and you just slotted into that. I guess, you know, singing at mass and singing at church were the first sorts of contact with that, and Mum would play the organ.

— Shane Howard[2]

According to Howard's younger sister, Marcia Howard, they were colloquially called, "The Von Trapp Family of the Western District", because they played and sang at local celebrations.[2] Howard attended St Joseph’s Christian Brothers' College, Warrnambool. "Elder brothers and sisters brought The Beatles, Dylan and Van Morrison and countless other influences into my already crowded imagination."[citation needed] His eldest brother, Eric, brought a guitar into the house and homework suffered thereafter.

After secondary education Howard moved to Melbourne, where he studied at Monash University for a year, before hitch hiking around Australia, busking and playing at folk clubs. During this time he worked in various jobs: picking grapes, picking ginger, screen printing, the railways, washing dishes and teaching. He studied Education at Deakin University, Geelong where he became their first Student Council president.


By 1976 Howard had enrolled at Geelong Teachers College, and was recruiting people for a new folk-rock band. Originally known as the Ectoplasmic Manifestation. In late 1977 the group changed their name to the Goanna Band (later shortened to Goanna).[4][5][6] Their set list included Bob Dylan and Little Feat cover versions. They performed at venues along the Great Ocean Road, in Victoria. Their line-up was fluid, with Howard as the sole mainstay; Australian music journalist, Ed Nimmervoll, opined that it was "as casual and non-competitive as a country town compared to the Big City. They were worlds away from whatever pop music was the going thing in the big city. Just doing their own thing. There was never a permanent line-up. Just Shane and his friends, picking up a following by playing to surfies and 'heads' along Victoria's coastal regions."[5] Rose Bygrave joined on keyboards and vocals in 1979.[4][6]

In May 1981, on a doctor's advice, Howard took a month's hiatus from performing and travelled to Uluru:

I had come from this beautiful inspiring aboriginal tradition, and the contrast between that and this harsh reality of conflict with western world 300 kilometres away, it marked me for all time. I saw an incredible injustice that needed to be dealt with. And also, I realised that this country that I grew up in, that I thought was my country, it wasn't. I had to reassess my whole relationship with the land and the landscape, and understand that we had come from somewhere else, and we had disempowered a whole race of people when we arrived.

— Shane Howard[citation needed]

While travelling back to Melbourne, Howard began working on a song, "Stand Y'r Ground" (which became "Stand Your Ground"). Its lyrics didn't match their folk-rock music style. He put it aside, and developed a different, rougher melody with new lyrics. When he arrived in Melbourne, he had a new song for the group to record, based upon his experiences at Uluru, "Solid Rock".[7] Goanna were the opening act on James Taylor's 1981 Australian tour, which eventually led to a record deal with WEA (Warner Bros.' Australian affiliate) in February 1982.[4][5] At that time, his sister, Marcia joined the group on backing vocals.[4][5][6]

In September 1982 "Solid Rock", from Goanna's debut album, Spirit of Place (November 1982), was released as a single.[4] Australian musicologist, Ian McFarlane, described it as "a damning indictment of the European invasion of Australia. WEA was reluctant to issue it as the first single, and indeed the band felt it had little commercial appeal."[4] Both the single and its associated album peaked at No. 2 on the respective Kent Music Report charts.[8]

By February 1983 the line-up was the Howards and Bygrave with Peter Coughlan on bass guitar, Graham Davidge on guitar, Warrick Harwood on guitar and backing vocals, Mick O'Connor on organ and Robbie Ross on drums.[6][9] Lisa Perry of The Canberra Times caught their local performance; she opined that they provided, "a night of solid Australian rock and roll... The throaty vocals of keyboards whiz [Bygrave] rang clear through some very slick guitar work from leader Shane Howard and guitarists [Davidge] and [Harwood]."[9]

In May 1983 Goanna used the pseudonym, Gordon Franklin and the Wilderness Ensemble, to release "Let the Franklin Flow" as a single, "in support of the Tasmanian Wilderness Society's campaign against the proposed damming of Tasmania's Franklin River."[4][10] (see Franklin Dam controversy#Blockade). At a live performance, Stop the Drop (for nuclear disarmament), at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl on 13 February that year, an ad hoc ensemble had Goanna joined by members of fellow Australian groups, Redgum and Midnight Oil, which recorded a live version of the track.[4][10] Howard, the song's writer, was credited as F. River.[11][12] The single reached No. 12 nationally.[8] The concert was simulcast on national TV and radio and it was released as a video recording, Stop the Drop: a Concert for Nuclear Disarmament in 1983.[10]

The group's second studio album, Oceania, appeared in April 1985, which peaked at No. 29 but the group disbanded in October of that year.[4][5][6][8] In December 1988 Howard explained the reasons for their split, "we tried to change and stop being so commercial, but we changed too much and it failed. We put so much energy and money into the second album and it was a flop. We never recovered from that."[13]

The Howards and Bygrave briefly reformed Goanna in late 1998, with a new line-up, to issue the group's third album, Spirit Returns, in November 1998.[4][5][6] They disbanded again by year's end.[5][6] In March 2003 Howard re-issued a remastered version of Spirit of Place, adding seven tracks of previously unreleased recordings including live versions of "Let the Franklin Flow", "Underfoot, Underground" and "Solid Rock".[14]

Solo career[edit]

In 1986 Howard began performing as a solo artist with his backing band, Shane Howard and Friends, composed of former Goanna members: Marcia, Simon Curphy on guitar, Joe Imbrol on bass guitar, and Dave Stewart on drums and joined by Joe Geia on guitar and vocals.[6][15] Also in that year he was a session musician on Redgum's final studio album, Midnight Sun (November 1986).[6] In the following year he formed the Shane Howard Band with Marcia, Curphy and Geia joined by a variable line-up: Amanda Brown, Peter German, Damian Howard (his youngest brother)on guitar,[3] Mick King, Roger Mason, Greg Pedley, John Watson, Bart Willoughby and Paul Worrell.[6][15]

Howard's first solo album, Back to the Track (December 1988), was recorded and produced by the artist at Sing Sing Studios, Melbourne.[6][15][16] He wrote eight of its ten tracks and provided lead vocals, acoustic guitar and didgeridoo.[17] It was issued on Uluru Music with distribution by RCA Victor.[6][15] The Canberra Times' Matt Cowley noticed "the title reflects the past three years of his life... his journey around Australia's outback was to see the 'real' people of Australia and hear their stories... According to Howard, his songs have cultural importance though he just writes his songs for himself."[13] A fellow reviewer at the newspaper felt that "[no] two tracks on this album are alike. Whether Howard is trying to confuse us all or show that he is indeed a diversely talented soul, he has succeeded in doing both. Blues, country, rock folk – take your pick, he does them all (and in a variety of combinations)."[17]

Howard signed with BMG Records and released his second album, The River, in 1990.[6][15] It was co-produced by the artist with Mark Moffatt; for the recording he used Ricky Fataar on drums, Ross Hannaford on guitar and Mark Punch on guitar.[6][15] In 1993 Howard made his first tour of Ireland supporting Irish singer, Mary Black, whose recording of Howard's song, "Flesh & Blood", was a Top 5 hit there. Howard returned the favour when he and Black performed together with Liam O'Maonlai at the 1994 Port Fairy Folk Festival introducing her to Australian audiences. Songs from this show are included on Howard's live album, "Live in Ireland, Australia and New Zealand" (1994).

In 2010 Howard released a new album Goanna Dreaming and toured nationally his band, featuring his daughter Myra Howard, Ruben Shannon (bass), Rory McDougall (Black Arm Band) (drums), John Hudson (guitar), and Amy Saunders, formerly of Tiddas.[18]

Howard's solo album, Deeper South, was released on 6 March 2015.

In 2017, Howard and John Schumann (ex Redgum) wrote, recorded and released a single together, titled "Times Like These".


In 2000 Howard was awarded a Fellowship by the Music Fund of the Australia Council in acknowledgement of his contribution to Australian musical life over many years. On Shane's 61st birthday, Australia Day, 26 January 2016 he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to the performing arts as a singer, songwriter and guitarist,to the recording industry, and to Indigenous musicians.[19]


Studio albums[edit]

  • Back to the Track – Uluru Music/RCA (December 1988)
  • The River – Uluru Music/BMG (VPCD 0827) (1990)
  • Time Will Tell – BMG (74321162432) (1993)
  • Clan – Big Heart/EMI (13 November 1996)
  • Beyond Hope's Bridge (CDBH0101) (5 August 2002)
  • Another Country – Goanna Arts (GA040406) (16 August 2004)
  • Songs of Love and Resistance – Goanna Arts (GA010606) (4 November 2006)
  • Driftwood – Rare and Unreleased – Goanna Arts (GA09010) (5 February 2010)
  • Goanna Dreaming – Goanna Arts (GA100101) (9 July 2010)
  • ...Other Side of the Rock – MGM Distribution (GA120101) (2012)
  • Deeper South – Goanna Arts (6 March 2015)

Live albums[edit]

  • Live in Ireland, Australia and New Zealand – Goanna Music (BH94001) (1994)

Compilation albums[edit]

  • Retrospective: Collected Songs 1982–2003 – Big Heart (GR040405) (2004)


  • "Back to the Track"/"Mother Earth" (1988)
  • "Just a Feeling"
  • "Walk on Fire"/"Love is a River" (1990)
  • "If the Well Runs Dry" (1990)
  • "Here and Now"/"Without You" (1990)
  • "Escape from Reality" (1991)
  • "I Shall Be Released" (1993)
  • "Flesh & Blood" (1993)
  • "Times Like These" (2017) (with John Schumann)


  • Howard, Shane (2009). Solid Rock. One Day Hill. ISBN 978-0-9805643-2-7.
  • Howard, Shane; O'Brien, Teresa (2010). Shane Howard Lyrics. One Day Hill. ISBN 978-0-9805643-5-8.


  1. ^ Pinnegar, Shane (13 March 2015). "Interview – Shane Howard, February 2015". 100% Rock Magazine. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d Warhurst, Myf; O'Brien, Teresa; Howard, Marcia; Lovell, Ian; Buchanan, Cheryl; Black, Mary (26 June 2006). "'Rock and a Hard Place' – Transcript". Australian Story. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). Retrieved 21 January 2017.
  3. ^ a b Dawson, Dave (10 September 2004). "Dave's Diary: Shane Howard". Nu Country. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Encyclopedia entry for 'Goanna'". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-072-1. Archived from the original on 24 June 2004.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Nimmervoll, Ed. "Goanna". Howlspace – The Living History of Our Music. White Room Electronic Publishing Pty Ltd (Ed Nimmervoll). Archived from the original on 27 July 2012. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Shane Howard at Australian Rock Database:
    • Shane Howard: Holmgren, Magnus; Pertout. "Shane Howard". Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 29 September 2013. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
    • Goanna(1977–85, 1998): Holmgren, Magnus; Pertout, Alex; Phillips, John; Baird, Paul; Howard, Shane. "Goanna". Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 29 September 2013. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  7. ^ "'Solid Rock' at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 29 January 2017. Note: For additional work user may have to select 'Search again' and then 'Enter a title:' or 'Performer:'
  8. ^ a b c Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book Ltd. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. Note: Used for Australian Singles and Albums charting from 1974 until Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) created their own charts in mid-1988. In 1992, Kent back calculated chart positions for 1970–1974.
  9. ^ a b Perry, Lisa (4 February 1983). "Concert: Naughty Rhythms' 'baggy trousers' music keeps crowd on its feet". The Canberra Times. 57 (17, 295). p. 12. Retrieved 29 January 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  10. ^ a b c "'Stop the Drop' concert t-shirt, 1983". Powerhouse Museum – Collection Database. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  11. ^ "'Let the Franklin Flow' at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 29 January 2017. Note: For additional work user may have to select 'Search again' and then 'Enter a title:' or 'Performer:'
  12. ^ "'Let the Franklin flow' [music] / by Gordon Franklin and the Wilderness Ensemble; music and lyrics by F. River". Uluru Music. Chappell Music. 1983. Retrieved 29 January 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  13. ^ a b Cowley, Matt (8 December 1988). "Goanna frontman returns". The Canberra Times. 63 (19, 421). p. 35. Retrieved 29 January 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  14. ^ Cashmere, Paul (14 March 2003). "Goanna celebrate 20th anniversary". Undercover News. Paul Cashmere, Ros O'Gorman. Archived from the original on 18 May 2005. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  15. ^ a b c d e f McFarlane, 'Shane Howard' entry. Archived from the original on 23 August 2004. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  16. ^ Howard, Shane (1988), Back to the Track, RCA Victor, retrieved 29 January 2017
  17. ^ a b "Good Times: Record Reviews". The Canberra Times. 63 (19, 448). 5 January 1989. p. 7. Retrieved 29 January 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  18. ^ "Shane Howard". Tanks Arts Centre Cairns. Retrieved 24 June 2012.
  19. ^ "Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia (A-L)" (PDF). Australia Day 2016 Honours Lists. Office of the Governor-General of Australia. 25 January 2016. Retrieved 8 February 2016.

External links[edit]