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 74)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
OccupationBroadcaster, cultural historian, singer-songwriter, actor

Warren John Fahey AM (born 3 January 1946) is a folklore collector, cultural historian, author, actor, broadcaster, record and concert producer, visual artist, songwriter and a 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).


In 1988 Fahey sold his music publishing company, Larrikin Music, to Music Sales Corporation, and in 1995 sold Larrikin Records to Festival Music. In 2002 he established another record company, Undercover Music Australia.


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 for secondary education; initially he worked for ad agencies and as a youth worker. [1]

In 1970 Fahey began a folklore unit in Sydney where he collected material of cultural significance. [2] In 1973 he established Folkways Music as a "retail music outlet specialising in folkloric recordings and publications." [1] [3] 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." [3]

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." [4] The label's first album, Man of the Earth: Songs and Ballads of the Australian Mining Industry (1975), was credited to 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. [5] Fahey also produced the album. [5]

In 1975 he 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. [6] It was re-released in 1985, with the content described as "Traditional Australian seamen's and boatmen's songs." [6] 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." [2]

After the Down Under (song) court case, he suggested that the copyright owners of the Kookaburra (song), Larrikin Music, 'gift' the song to Australia. [7]

He 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. https://www.nla.gov.au/selected-library-collections/warren-fahey-collection</ref>

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

With his pioneering ensemble, The Larrikins, he has toured for Musica Viva and the Arts Council circuit for the past 40 years. He produced and hosted the entertainment at the first State Dinner in the new Federal Parliament House. He has represented Australia for the Department of Foreign Affairs in numerous Cultural touring programs performing in Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Thailand, Britain, Philippines and the first-ever cultural exchange tour to the South Pacific region. He has performed at the Commonwealth Arts Festival, Edinburgh, Vancouver Folk Festival, Auckland Arts Festival and the state festivals of Perth, Sydney Festival, Adelaide Festival, Darwin Festival. In 2006 he performed a song cycle world premiere performance of Andrew Ford’s ‘Barleycorn’ for the Brisbane Festival.https://www.australianmusiccentre.com.au/workversion/ford-andrew-barleycorn/15143</ref>

Since 2000 he 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.

In 2006 he was Artistic Director of the ten-day Australian Spotlight, Lorient Festival, Brittany, France, on behalf of the Australian Government. https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/art-and-design/france-celebrates-our-celtic-culture-20060726-gdo1fq.html</ref>

Since 2003 he has been a guest lecturer on various prestige cruise ships, notably Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas and Cunard. Mostly on Australian, New Zealand and Asian journeys however, in 2013, he was invited as a guest lecturer on two journeys in the Adriatic. In 2014 he commenced including Asian talks in his talks schedule. In 2016 he travelled with Seabourn (January) Los Angeles to Raratonga and in February with Queen Victoria on an Australian circuit.

He has performed in numerous countries, mostly with his ensemble, The Larrikins. In 2008, he took his group to Malaysia for Austrade and, in January 2009, to the Philippines for a DFAT cultural tour.

Warren sings and plays the concertina. He continues to ‘revive’ old songs by marrying them with either traditional or new musical settings. Despite this, he owns the rights to the well-known children's "Kookaburra song" through his company Larrikin records, and in a high-profile case that began in 2009, sued the group Men at Work for using its melody in 5 bars of their 93-bar song "Down Under." [8] Men at Work frontman Colin Hay believes the well-publicized case led to the untimely deaths of his father Jim in 2010, and the group's flutist George Ham in 2012. [9] Fahey writes songs where there are no songs to tell an aspect of the Australian story.

In 2010, he 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. [10]

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, most importantly, on his website. "http://www.warrenfahey.com.au"</ref>

In 2012, he was Artistic Producer for the Kings Cross Festival.

In 2013, Rebel Studios completed a one-hour bio documentary on his work titled 'Larrikin Lad' which was screened several times on SBS 'Studio' and released as a DVD by ABC Video. The documentary was selected to be screened on Qantas for four months of 2014.

2014 saw Warren 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). One film told the story of Rookwood as the Southern Hemisphere's largest surviving Victorian necropolis and four told the story of notable interments Roy Rene, David Jones & Anthony Hordern, Mai Quong Tart and newspaper baron John Fairfax. In 2015 additional heritage films were made on Rookwood's ANZAC connections, Louisa Lawson, Peter Dawson. In addition, Warren produced public events including Tales of Valour (commemoration WW1) and the 2015 Remembrance Day. In 2017 two more films were commissioned by Rookwood to commemorate the necropolis 150th anniversary - one general script titled 'The Sleeping City' and the other on the Mortuary Railway. [11]

As a features writer Warren Fahey continues to contribute to numerous newspapers and magazines including a stint as a lifestyle writer for Harper's Bazaar, Australian stringer for Conde Nast Traveler USA, Vogue Entertaining and Travel, The Bulletin Magazine, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Rhythms and various specialist magazines. He has written extensively for television and radio.

2015 Warren 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. http://www.warrenfahey.com/performance/dead-men-talking-stage-play/ The actors' toured west New South Wales and Victoria in 2019. They have been confirmed for the Adelaide Fringe Festival 2020. https://adelaidefringe.com.au/fringetix/dead-men-talking</ref>

In January 2016 Warren Fahey presented three sold-out shows - '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. https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/theatre/sydney-festival-celebrates-its-40th-anniversary--should-the-party-continue-20151223-gltsik.html</ref>

In 2017 he continued his work as a cultural historian and performer. A new book on the social history of inner Sydney 'The Good Old Bad Old Days' was published 2017. https://smsa.org.au/events/event/warren-fahey-for-cosha-the-good-old-bad-old-days/</ref>

In August 2019 he was Artistic Director for the Sydney Folk Festival, a three-day event staged in Sydney Central with over 150 performers.https://folkfednsw.org.au/event/sydney-folk-festival/</ref>






Festival performances


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  1. 1 2 3 4 "Warren Fahey". ABC Music (Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)). Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  2. 1 2 "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. Note: Warren Fahey is shown in the Larrikins photo; he is at left holding a lagerphone.
  3. 1 2 "Places". Tharunka . 22 (5). New South Wales, Australia. 31 March 1976. p. 17. Retrieved 18 October 2016 via National Library of Australia.
  4. "Larrikin Records". Music Australia. 13 August 2004. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2016 via National Library of Australia.
  5. 1 2 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
  6. 1 2 Fahey, Warren; Larrikins (1985), Limejuice & Vinegar, Larrikin Records, retrieved 18 October 2016
  7. "Larrikin Music Founder Speaks Out".
  8. "A Kookaburra Causes Trouble 'Down Under'". 1 December 2009.
  9. Cameron Adams (10 August 2015). "Men at Work's Colin Hay says Down Under lawsuit 'contributed' to death of his dad and bandmate". news.com.au.
  10. "Damned Souls and Turning Wheels". 12 August 2011.
  11. http://www.rgct.com.au
  12. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/arts/honour-for-larrikin-who-keeps-folk-songs-alive/story-e6frg8n6-1225848209404
  13. Australian Government - It's an Honour Search Australian Honours