John Farnham AO b.1949

John Farnham

John Farnham

In 1972 the Sun newspaper’s ‘likeable English migrant’ was Melbourne’s ‘King of Moomba’.

In 1980 ‘Johnny’ Farnham was teamed with ‘Debbie’ Byrne for another ABC TV musical series, Farnham and Byrne.

From 1981 until 1984 Farnham replaced Glenn Shorrock as lead singer with the Little River Band.

From 1981 until 1984 Farnham replaced Glenn Shorrock as lead singer with the Little River Band.

 

Kenn Brodziak’s big, bright musical Charlie Girl was next. An enormous success, it established Farnham as far more than a teenage pop idol. It was also where he met his future wife, Jillian Billman, who was a dancer in the show. In 1972 the Sun newspaper’s ‘likeable English migrant’ was Melbourne’s ‘King of Moomba’. In 1973 he co-starred with Colleen Hewett in another musical for Kenn Brodziak, Pippin. The following year he and Hewett made It’s Magic, a musical series for ABC TV. In 1975 Farnham appeared in a dramatic role in an episode of the Crawford police series Division 4. Two years later he and veteran comic Maurie Fields shared top billing in a TV comedy series called Bobby Dazzler. In 1980 ‘Johnny’ Farnham was teamed with ‘Debbie’ Byrne for another ABC TV musical series, Farnham and Byrne. For a short while they ran a restaurant called Backstage in Spring Street, Melbourne, next to the Princess Theatre. In 1980 Farnham joined Olivia Newton-John, Paul Hogan, Kelvin Coe, Roger Woodward, Helen Reddy and a galaxy of other Australian stars in a gala Charity Concert at the Sydney Opera House in the presence of  HRH Queen Elizabeth.

From 1981 until 1984 Farnham replaced Glenn Shorrock as lead singer with the Little River Band. This was a move from pop and middle-of-the-road into rock. They released three albums, but it was not a particularly fruitful association, but Bullamakanka, a film in which Farnham had a small role, was a total disaster. By now, Farnham was being managed by Glenn Wheatley. Together they devised a new solo career for Farnham, starting in 1986 with a new album, Whispering Jack. It sold more than one million copies, and remained the number one album on the ARIA Chart for 27 weeks. It also had the distinction of being the first Australian-made CD. The featured single, ‘You’re the Voice’ was a hit in several European countries, as well as in Australia. From 1981 until 1984 Farnham replaced Glenn Shorrock as lead singer with the Little River Band.

Next came the hugely successful Jack’s Back tour. It remained Farnham’s biggest grossing tour for 15 years. In 1998 Farnham toured with Olivia Newton-John and Anthony Warlow in an arena concert called The Main Event. The ensuing album went multi-platinum. The next year he celebrated his half century with a tour called I Can't Believe He’s 50. Joining him were Kate Ceberano, Ross Wilson, James Reyne, Merril Bainbridge, Human Nature, and Nana-Zhami, the band formed by Farnham’s son, Robert.

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Biographical references

Clark Forbes: Whispering Jack – The John Farnham Story, Hutchinson Australia, 1989
Ian McFarlane: The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop, Allen and Unwin, 1999
Noel McGrath: Noel McGrath’s Australian Encyclopaedia of Rock, Outback Press, 1978