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Swanee in 2011
|Birth name||John Archibold Dixon Swan|
|Also known as||Swanee|
|Born||1952 (age 65–66)|
Glasgow, Scotland |
|Instruments||Vocals, guitar, drums|
The Party Boys|
He was born John Archibold Dixon Swan in Glasgow, Scotland in 1952. He is the older brother of singer-songwriter Jimmy Barnes, and musician and singer Alan Barnes, and the uncle of singer and stage performer David Campbell, Matthew Schlammel (who has a band called Schlam), and Jimmy Barnes' kids, Eliza-Jane 'E.J.', Elly-May, Jackie and Mahalia Barnes (who performed together as The Tin Lids). Swanee was recognised in the 2017 Australia Day awards with an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for his work with various charities. In 2017 he teamed up with war veteran Rob Pickersgill to form the Warrior Music Project, which uses music to better the lives of our military veterans, police officers and first responders.
Swan was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1952. He migrated to Australia with his family in 1961. When his mother remarried in the mid-1960s, he was the only child to keep the surname of his biological father, who was an adept boxer. Swan joined his first professional band, Happiness, as a drummer when he was fourteen. When he was seventeen, he enlisted in the Australian Army, and was discharged after two years of service. In early 1974 he was the drummer with The James Wright Band, moving on to Jim Keays' Southern Cross for a short time. By late 1974 he was playing in Adelaide band Fraternity. Brother Jimmy Barnes had replaced Bon Scott as Fraternity's singer but Barnes' stay was brief before he left to join Cold Chisel, and Swan took over on vocals. Swan also appeared live with Cold Chisel from time to time, providing backing vocals and percussion.
After Fraternity, Swan became the vocalist with Feather in 1977. This band had been known as Blackfeather in the early 1970s, but by 1977 no original members were left so the name was shortened. Feather recorded one single with Swan, "Girl Trouble", before he left in 1978 to establish himself as a solo artist.
Under the name "Swanee", by which he was already known, he released his first solo single "Crazy Dreams" in 1979. An album, Into the Night, and several other singles followed but met with little commercial success. In late 1981, however, his version of "If I Were a Carpenter" became a national hit, reaching no. 5. The single was a precursor to the 1982 album This Time It's Different that spawned another two hits, "Temporary Heartache" and "Lady What's Your Name", propelling Swanee to national fame. While later releases failed to achieve the same level of success, Swanee has remained one of Australia's best-known live acts. Over the years, his band has maintained a floating membership.
In 1986 Swanee featured in an advertising campaign for West End Draught, a South Australian beer. The brewer provided financial support to Swanee's tours and he in turn appeared in the company's TV commercials. The following year he replaced Angry Anderson as lead singer of The Party Boys, a touring band with floating membership, formed in 1983 by Paul Christie of Mondo Rock. Swan's tenure with the band proved to be the group's most successful period. A cover of the John Kongos hit "He's Gonna Step on You Again" was a No. 1 hit and was followed up by a version of Argent's "Hold Your Head Up" that also went Top 20. The band's self-titled album made the Top 5. Swan's deal with the band was originally only meant he would only stay long enough to record the album and complete a tour supporting it, but after being briefly replaced by Graham Bonnet he returned to the Party Boys line-up, and stayed until 1989 before going solo again.
Since 1990 Swan's recording career has been less than prolific, producing only two singles that year and an album, Heart and Soul in 1997, although he still maintained a constant live presence.
In 2007 Swan released the album Have a Little Faith (Liberation Records). The project was recorded with Nashville's best, and produced by leading expatriate producer /guitarist Mark Moffatt, now resident in Tennessee. Musician credits feature players who have been session men for Garth Brooks, John Fogerty, Billy Joel, Dolly Parton and Shania Twain among others. In 2009 he worked with fellow local artists, Ray Burgess, Tommy Emmanuel, John St Peeters and Marty Rhone to release a single, "Legends of the Southern Land".
In July 2014 Swanee released the album One Day at a Time (MGM Distribution), which is entirely his work in collaboration with Darren Mullan of Adelaide Recording Studio fame, and Tony Minniecon on 'Rescue Me'.
- "Girl Trouble" (single) (1977)
as Swanee (singles):
- "Crazy Dreams" (1979) (AUS#68)
- "Samantha" (1979) (AUS#90)
- "Ol' Rosie" (1980)
- "Linda" (1980)
- "Mathew" (1981)
- "If I Were a Carpenter" (1981) (AUS#05)
- "Temporary Heartache" (1982) (AUS#18)
- "Lady What's Your Name" (1982) (AUS#13)
- "Sail Away" (1983) (AUS#52)
- "Motor Down" (1983)
- "I'm Ready" / "Carrie-Ann" (1983) (AUS#72)
- "You Ought to Know" (1985)
- "Turn Away" (1985)
- "Lucille" (1990)
- "Blood is Thicker Than Water" (1990)
as Swanee (albums):
- Into the Night (1980)
- This Time It's Different (1982)
- Ready for Action (1983)
- Days Gone By (1984)
- Bushido (1985)
- Heart and Soul (1997)
- One Day at a Time (2014)
as John Swan
- "It Could Have Been You" (single) (1985)
- "You'll Do Something" (single) (1985)
- "Angel" (single) (1986)
- "Have a Little Faith" (album) (2007)
with The Party Boys
- "He's Gonna Step on You Again" (single) (1987) (AUS#1)
- "The Party Boys" (1987)
- "Hold Your Head Up" (single) (1987)
- "Gloria" (single) (1988)
- Ray Arnott – "Rude Dudes" (1979)
- Mickey Finn – "Mickey Finn" (1980)
- Kevin Borich Express – "Shy Boys Shy Girls" (1981)
- Jimmy Barnes – "Double Happiness" (2005)
- 2015 South Australia's Senior Australian of the Year.
- Pascuzzi, Carmine. "'Legends of the Southern Land' – a new Australian anthem". MediaSearch. Archived from the original on 19 October 2013. Retrieved 13 May 2017.
- [http://www.australianoftheyear.org.au/news-and-media/media-releases/article/?id=2015-sa-australian-of-the-year-recipients-announced 2015 SA
- 2017 Order of Australia Medal (OAM).