Warren Fahey

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Warren Fahey
Warren as Banjo Paterson.jpg
Warren as Banjo Paterson. 2014
Warren John Fahey

(1946-01-03) 3 January 1946 (age 75)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
OccupationBroadcaster, cultural historian, singer-songwriter, actor

Warren John Fahey AM (born 3 January 1946) is an Australian folklore collector, cultural historian, author, actor, broadcaster, record and concert producer, visual artist, songwriter, and performer of Australian traditional and related historical music. He is the founder of Folkways Music (1973), Larrikin Records (1974) and a folk music ensemble, the Larrikins (1975).

Fahey has received numerous awards for his folklore efforts, including the 2010 Don Banks Music Award.

Early life[edit]

Warren John Fahey was born on 3 January 1946 and grew up in Sydney.[1] His father, George Fahey, and mother, Deborah (née Solomon), were each members of large families.[1] Fahey attended Marist Brothers College, Kogarah.[1]


Fahey has a distinguished career as a folklorist and collector of oral histories. His collection has been housed in the National Library of Australia since 1973. [2]

As a performer he tells Australian folk stories, recites bush poetry, and sings either solo or with The Larrikins, The Celebrated Knickers & Knockers Band, and the Australian Bush Orchestra. Lahey started performing in 1969 and has a repertoire of bush songs, early ballads, city ditties and associated folklore including poetry, drinking toasts and parodies. He presents entertainment programs based on his books at various Writers Week festivals as well as performances at folk and regional arts festivals. He plays an English Edeophone concertina.

Folklore unit and Folkways Music[edit]

In 1970 Fahey began a folklore unit in Sydney where he collects material of cultural significance.[3] His Australian folklore unit has been collecting and annotating Australian folklore for nearly 50 years and made available in his books, radio programs, concerts and, on his website. [4] In 1973 he established Folkways Music as a "retail music outlet specialising in folkloric recordings and publications."[5] The store supplied "records, books, sheet music and instruments" and commenced "as a means to financing its proprietor's collecting activities. It received no government assistance, and for its first year was subsidised by advertising work."[5]

Larrikin Records[edit]

Fahey founded Larrikin Records in 1974 "to publish and commercially release extended play recordings featuring Australian traditional folk music and songs for both educational and entertainment purposes."[6] The label's first album, Man of the Earth: Songs and Ballads of the Australian Mining Industry (1975), produced by Lahey, credited Fahey on lead vocals; Dave de Hugard on concertina, button accordion and fiddle; Phyl Lobl on guitar, Mike Jackson on mouth organ and spoons; Andy Saunders on 5-string banjo and guitar; and Tony Suttor on accordion.[7] Fahey also produced the album.[7] By 1995, the record company was one of the largest independent distributors in Australia,[8] and was acquired by Festival Records.[9]

Larrikin Records owns the rights to the well-known children's "Kookaburra song". In a high-profile case that began in 2009, Norm Lurie, then the managing director of Music Sales, Larrikin’s parent company, sued the group Men at Work for using its melody in 5 bars of their 93-bar song "Down Under."[10][11] After the Down Under (song) court case, Fahey suggested that the copyright owners of the Kookaburra (song), Larrikin Music, 'gift' the song to Australia.[12]

The Larrikins[edit]

In 1975 Fahey formed a folk music ensemble, the Larrikins, which issued an album, Limejuice and Vinegar (1977), with the line-up of Fahey and Suttor (on button accordion and Anglo concertina) joined by Ned Alexander on fiddle; Liora Claff on guitar and whistle; Jack Fallis on mandolin and guitar; and Paddy McLaughlin on banjo.[13] It was re-released in 1985, with the content described as "Traditional Australian seamen's and boatmen's songs."[13] Back in April 1975 the Larrikins undertook a tour of north-western Australia, to perform "folk-army songs, bush songs, bush poetry and yarns, bush dance music."[3] The Larrikins toured for Musica Viva and the Arts Council circuit for the past 40 years.[citation needed]

Other appearances[edit]

Fahey has performed at the National Folk Festival (2001, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009), Majors Creek Music Festival (twice), Victor Harbour Festival, Araluen Folk Festival WA and, in 2009, The Blue Mountains Festival, National Folk Festival and Cobargo Festival. In 2001, he hosted and performed at the Belongings Exhibition for the State Library of NSW for the Governor-General, and then at the re-opening of the Mitchell Library with a performance for the Governor of NSW and the Premier.[citation needed]

In 2006 he performed a song cycle world premiere performance of Andrew Ford’s ‘Barleycorn’ for the Brisbane Festival.[14] Lahey was artistic director of the ten-day Australian Spotlight, Lorient Festival, Brittany, France, on behalf of the Australian Government.[15]

Fahey is a regular broadcaster on ABC Radio.[16]

Art, film, and acting[edit]

In 2010, Fahey devised, scripted, recorded and co-produced (with visual artist Mic Gruchy) a major multi-screen art installation commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney titled Damned Souls and Turning Wheels, a history of Cockatoo Island.[17] In 2012, he was Artistic Producer for the Kings Cross Festival.[citation needed] 2014 saw Lahey return to collaborating with video artist Mic Grouchy to devise and create a series of films on the history of Rookwood Cemetery for the Rookwood Trust.[citation needed]

In 2015, Fahey and Max Cullen co-wrote and performed the two-hand stage play Dead Men Talking. Max Cullen plays Henry Lawson and Warren Fahey portrayed Banjo Paterson. The first tour covered the mid-NSW coast in a twelve-night tour. Since March 2015 through to May 2016 the play has been performed nearly 250 times including successful tours in NSW, Tasmania, ACT and Victoria.[18] The actors toured west New South Wales and Victoria in 2019.

In January 2016 Fahey presented three sold-out shows of 40 Ways To Love Your City celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Sydney Festival. These shows were staged in the Famous Spiegel Tent in Sydney's Hyde Park. [19] In August 2019 he was Artistic Director for the Sydney Folk Festival, a three-day event staged in Sydney Central with over 150 performers.[20]

Recognition and awards[edit]

In 2013, Rebel Studios released a one-hour bio documentary on Fahey's work titled Larrikin Lad which was screened on SBS and released as a DVD by ABC Video. The documentary was selected to be screened on Qantas for four months of 2014.[21] Fahey's awards include:

Selected discography[edit]

  • Navvy on the Line - Australian railway songs
  • On The Steps of The Dole-Office Door. songs and poems of the Great Depression
  • Game s Ned Kelly. the bushranger myths in song and ballad
  • Limejuice and Vinegar - Australian sea songs
  • Digger's Songs - Australian army, navy, airforce and land army song.
  • While The Billy Boils - double selection of bush songs
  • The Larrikin Sessions - Australian bush songs - live recording
  • Billy of Tea - a selection of bush songs
  • Man of the Earth - songs of Australian coal and gold mining
  • Larrikin History of Australia - various bush songs
  • Seven Creeks Run. compilation Australiana
  • Rebel Chorus. double album of Australian songs of social change
  • Australia - its land and its people - Australiana double album
  • Sing Us Anothery, Dirty As Buggery. Australian bawdy songs and poetry
  • Rooted in the Country. Australian bawdy songs and poetry
  • From Convict Chains to Shearer's Blades
  • Celebration of a Nation
  • Rare Convict Ballads and Broadsides.
  • Bushrangers, Bolters & Other Wild Colonials.
  • Give Me A Hut In My Own Native Land. pioneering settlement
  • Currency Lads & Lasses: Songs of Australian romance.
  • Songs of Drovers, Shearers & Bullockies.
  • Across the Seven Seas: the Australian maritime collection.
  • Lean Times & Mean Times: Australia in depression.
  • Solidarity Forever. songs of unity.
  • Australia's On The Wallaby. songs of pomp and circumstance.
  • Roll, Pitch, Whack & Boot: Australian sporting songs.
  • The Australian Bush Orchestra.
  • Down The Overlander's Trail - the roots of Australian country music.
  • Great Australian Bush & Folk Songs
  • Dead Men Talking

Selected publications[edit]

  • All At Sea - Australian Maritime Traditions, Bodgie Books. ebook 2017
  • The Good Old Bad Old Days - a curious history of Woolloomooloo, Potts Point, Kings Cross, Elizabeth & Rushcutters Bay, Bodgie Books 2017"[27]
  • The World Turned Upside-down - a history of the Australian Gold Rush, Bodgie Books
  • Australia: Its Folksongs & Bush Verse, ABC Books
  • Australia: Its Folksongs & Bush Ballads, ABC/Harper Collins
  • Sing Us Anothery Dirty As Buggery. - Australian bawdry, Bodgie Books
  • Manar: a Potts Point local history, Bodgie Books
  • Old Bush Songs - the centenary edition (with Graham Seal), ABC
  • Classic Bush Yarns, Harper Collins
  • Great Aussie Yarns, A&R
  • The Big Fat Book of Aussie Jokes: Australian humour at work in the 21st Century, Harper Collins
  • Ratbags & Rabblerousers - Australian political parody and satire in the 20th century, Currency Press
  • Diggers' Songs - the songs Australian diggers sang in eleven wars from the Maori Wars to the Gulf War, Australian Military History Press
  • When Mabel Laid The Table - the folklore of eating and drinking in Australia from colonial days to takeaways, ABC
  • The Balls of Bob Menzies - Australian political folklore from Federation onwards, A&R
  • The Songs That Made Australia - 107 bush songs, A&R
  • Australian Folksong Guide - the bush band, CBC
  • Eureka. - the social history of Australia as seen through song, Ominbus
  • Pint Pot & Billy. A selection of Australian songs, William Collins
  • Joe Watson - his life and times, Folklore Associates
  • While The Billy Boils, ABC
  • Folklore of the Australian Wedding, Bodgie Books
  • While The Billy Boils. Australian history (with accompanying 16 tape set), ABC
  • Tucker Track: the curious history of Australian food, ABC
  • Oxford Companion to Australian Folklore, Oxford University Press
  • The Stockman, Kevin Weldon Publishing
  • The Companion to Australian Music, Currency Press
  • Missing in Action, MUP
  • Australian Almanac 1989/1991/1992, Angus & Robertson/HC
  • Verandah Music, Curtin University
  • Folklore Essays (edited Graham Seal/Jennifer Gall) 2010 Curtin University Press


  1. ^ a b c "Warren Fahey". ABC Music (Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)). Archived from the original on 30 March 2015. Retrieved 18 October 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ "Fahey Collection | National Library of Australia". www.nla.gov.au.
  3. ^ a b "Folk Group Will Be Hit". Hamersley News. X (8). Western Australia. 21 April 1977. p. 14. Retrieved 18 October 2016 – via National Library of Australia. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link) Note: Warren Fahey is shown in the Larrikins photo; he is at left holding a lagerphone.
  4. ^ "Warren Fahey". Australian Folklore Unit. 2 June 2017. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
  5. ^ a b "Places". Tharunka. 22 (5). New South Wales, Australia. 31 March 1976. p. 17. Retrieved 18 October 2016 – via National Library of Australia. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ "Larrikin Records". Music Australia. 13 August 2004. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2016 – via National Library of Australia. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ a b Jackson, Mike; Fahey, Warren; Saunders, Andy; Lobl, Phyl; De Hugard, Dave; Suttor, Tony (1975), Man of the Earth: Songs and Ballads of the Australian Mining Industry, Larrikin Records, retrieved 18 October 2016 CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ Baker, Glenn (24 June 1995). Australian-Made Indie Label Larrikin Lives Up To Its Name. Billboard. p. 51. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
  9. ^ "Larrikin Records catalogue - MAAS Collection". Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
  10. ^ "A Kookaburra Causes Trouble 'Down Under'". 1 December 2009.
  11. ^ Lars Brandle, Australian Music Publisher Norm Lurie To Retire In 2011, BillboardBiz, April 15, 2010
  12. ^ "Larrikin Music Founder Speaks Out".
  13. ^ a b Fahey, Warren; Larrikins (1985), Limejuice & Vinegar, Larrikin Records, retrieved 18 October 2016
  14. ^ "Barleycorn : for folksinger, wind quartet and piano by Andrew Ford : Work : Australian Music Centre". www.australianmusiccentre.com.au.
  15. ^ "France celebrates our Celtic culture". The Sydney Morning Herald. 26 July 2006.
  16. ^ "The Maryborough Miner". SoundCloud. 11 June 2014. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
  17. ^ "Damned Souls and Turning Wheels". Vimeo. 12 August 2011.
  18. ^ "War Renfahey – A tribute to Australian Folk Music and its most representative musicians".
  19. ^ Taylor, Andrew (29 December 2015). "Sydney Festival celebrates 40th anniversary: Should the party continue?". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  20. ^ Elphick, Nicole (17 August 2019). "Sydney Folk Festival unites young and old". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
  21. ^ "Larrikin Lad - Warren Fahey". Welcome to Artfilms. 18 November 2015. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
  22. ^ "It's an Honour". Australian Honours. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016.
  23. ^ "Warren John Fahey". Australian Honours. 1 January 2001. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
  24. ^ a b Centre, Australian Music (1 March 2010). "Don Banks Award to Warren Fahey : News (Australian) Article : Australian Music Centre". Australian Music Centre. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
  25. ^ "Award Winners". Australian Bush Laureate Awards. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
  26. ^ "ASRA - Australasian Sound Recordings Association - Awards For Excellence". www.asra.asn.au.
  27. ^ "Warren Fahey for COSHA - The Good Old, Bad Old Days". Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts (SMSA).

External links[edit]