Thirteen Things We Love About Farnesy

BY MEL BONDFIELD

The NFSA is celebrating John Farnham with a new online exhibition titled John Farnham: The Voice, featuring some rare moments from his outstanding career.

John Farnham is one of Australia's most beloved artists and has been entertaining Australian audiences for more than 50 years... on stage, in concert, on your TV screens, in advertising and film.

Head and shoulders shot of John Farnham wearing a black leather jacket looking at camera with head slightly tilted.

John Farnham publicity image, 1987. NFSA title: 673140. Courtesy Seven Network.

Having lived life in the public eye since age 17, John Farnham's life may seem like an open book. However, as we delved into our collection to research his career for our new online exhibition and curated collections, we discovered some fascinating facts that you might not know about 'Farnesy'.

DID YOU KNOW...

  1. Although regarded as one of Australia's favourite sons, John Peter Farnham was actually born in England, in Dagenham, Essex on 1 July 1949. He came to Australia with his parents and sisters when he was 10 years old. Farnesy officially became an Aussie citizen shortly before being awarded the 1987 Australian of the Year award.
  2. John worked as a plumber's apprentice after leaving school. After being discovered by manager Darryl Sambell, he decided to take time off from plumbing to pursue a singing career. Needless to say, Farnesy never finished his plumbing apprenticeship.
  3. Whispering Jack, John's 12th studio album, is the highest-selling album in Australia by an Australian artist, having gone 24x Platinum. 
  4. The name 'Whispering Jack' came about after John was introduced by a jazz club host in America as 'Jack Phantom'. Following that, he called himself 'Whispering Jack Phantom' while doing a running commentary of a local pub pool game. He was inspired by the nickname of 'Whispering' Ted Lowe, a famous snooker and billiards commentator on the BBC show Pot Black.
  5. John has had a number one record in Australia in five consecutive decades from the 1960s to 2000s, with number one singles in the 1960s, '70s and '80s and number one albums in the 1980s, '90s and 2000s.
  6. One of John's good friends is US pop singer Richard Marx, who credits him with changing his musical life after the first time he heard 'You're the Voice'. Since then, the pair have toured together, holidayed together and share a love for fishing.
  7. John has won a huge number of industry awards, including a staggering 20 ARIAs, more than any other solo artist; he was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2003.
  8. When John was still in school he formed his first band with two friends, calling themselves The Mavericks. They played local dances and socials until John was spotted by the manager of Strings Unlimited and was invited to join their band.
  9. John once owned a restaurant in Melbourne called Backstage, with his It's Magic co-host, Colleen Hewett.
  10. One of the earliest influences on his singing career was Canadian crooner Paul Anka, who had hits in the 1950s like 'Diana' and 'Put Your Head On My Shoulder'. 

     

  11. Glenn Wheatley, John's manager, struggled to get 'You're the Voice', the first single from Whispering Jack, played on the radio until the FM stations gave in to public demand. The song went on to reach number one on the Australian charts for seven weeks, while the album Whispering Jack stayed at number one for 25 weeks!
  12. During the recording of 'You're the Voice', John decided he wanted a bagpipe solo after being inspired by the AC/DC song 'It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)'. He and producer Ross Fraser also recorded a car door slamming in a garage for the sound of the drums in the song's intro.
  13. John met his wife Jill when he was starring in the Australian production of the musical Charlie Girl. Jillian Billman was one of the dancers in the production. The pair have been married since April 1973 and the news cameras were there to capture the chaos on their wedding day: 

To discover more about one of Australia's finest singers, take a look at our online exhibition John Farnham: The Voice and our curated collections, John Farnham and More John Farnham