John took a two year leave from the plumbing apprenticeship he would never return to. It was time to pursue his singing career. Darryl Sambell
was from Adelaide and knew the music scene better there than in Melbourne, therefore John's first gigs were booked at The Princeton Club,
St. Clair and Halfway Out. Three gigs on the same night and he received $20 for each performance. John's first appearance was also in Adelaide on the daily pop-mine show 'Kommotion'.
Darryl scored John a session for the Ansett-ANA commerci Susan Jones . The theme was written by Peter Best and was recorded by four different artists. These were pressed to an EP by Astor and distributed in a picture sleeve.
The EP's were used for promotional purposes and given to customers who flew Ansett-ANA at the time. Apparently John was paid only $40 for
what has today become a mega rare EP. EMI producer, David McKay first became aware of John from his regular appearances on the pop show,' Kommotion' and immediately recognised his talent. John’s signing to EMI for release on the Columbia label was facilitated by a private performance before McKay, backed by
the band, Zoot. This was when his career really started to take off and he recorded Sadie.
Life would never be the same for John Farnham. Sadie was very cleverly marketed. Publicity stunts included advertisements placed in newspapers for cleaning ladies, and an Electrolux vacuum cleaner making an appearance at the launch. A huge success, Sadie reached No. 1 in December and stayed there for 6 weeks, remaining on the chart for 23 weeks, the largest selling single by an Australian artist in the 60's, selling a huge 180,000 units.
Following the success of Sadie the single, EMI/Columbia issued Johnny's first album also titled Sadie, achieving Gold Status. Johnny's second album Everybody Oughta Sing a Song was also released in 1968. On April 15th, 1969 the ABC screened a one hour 'Johnny Farnham' TV special.
In June 1969 John becomes King of Pop - a crown he held for five years
In September 1969 One went to number one and John hits the road around Australia on the Operation Starlift concert Tour with Russell Morris,
Ronnie Burns, Johnny Young, Zoot, Doug Parkinson In Focus, and Masters Apprentices.
In December 1969 Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head becomes John’s third number one smash hit.
In January 1970 John starred in the pantomime Dick Whittington and His Cat, playing the lead role of Dick Whittington.
In June 1970 the Looking Through A Tear album went gold within weeks of its release and in
October Comic Conversation became a national top ten hit
Looking Through A Tear was followed by Christmas Is Johnny Farnham.
Many singles were released but failed to chart, in
fact, he was kept out of the charts until October 1972.
However, John, ever popular still won many awards. Four more albums in 1971 – Johnny, The Best Of Johnny Farnham (World Record Club with two different covers) and Everybody Oughta Sing A Song was re-released
with an on-stage picture cover Together was recorded with Allison Durbin.
Several singles were also released but
failed to chart.
John also recorded a track for the UNICEF 25th Anniversary album. In 1971 John starred in the musical Charlie Girl where he met his future wife, Jillian Billman.
In 1972 John was crowned King Of Moomba and released the album Johnny Farnham Sings The Shows.
Finally, the single Rock Me Baby gave John his first chart success in nearly three years, climbing to No.13. The single that followed Don't You Know It's Magic also made the top 20 and won an award for 'Most Outstanding
Performance' of a Composition award at the World Popular Song Festival in Tokyo.
On April 11th, 1973 John married Jillian Billman at St. Matthew's Church Of England in Glenroy, Melbourne.Details had been leaked to the press and screaming fans were everywhere.
Jill had to be carried in as fans tried to rip at her dress. The photographer hired for the day disappeared with the negatives and was never seen again.
Released shortly after his wedding, the album Hits Magic Rock N'Roll was released and later that year, the live album Johnny Farnham Sings The Big hits of '73 Live.
John spent most of 1974 performing in Pippin.
He also starred along with Colleen Hewitt in a 13 part variety show called It’s Magic.
Johnny Farnham Sings The Shows and Hits From The Movies was released.
In January of 1975 John hosted the first color transmission of ABC's Countdown.
There were initial plans to go to the United States in 1975 to try to give his sales and career a boost, but those plans were shelved and John stayed in Australia.
John travelled to Darwin in May to perform in a relief concert to aid victims of Cyclone Tracy. Although extremely popular, the record buying public
deserted John and once again singles failed to chart.
John recorded his last album for EMI, JP Farnham Sings in July.
In September 1975 John guest stars as bank robber Tom in an episode of the TV Cop Series Division 4.
Personal differences began
to stifle the relationship between John and manager, Darryl Sambell. The rift that had been slowly growing between them ended the partnership nine years and three days after it started. On 12th January 1976, it was made public that John and Darryl had split.
In June, 1976 John did a fundraising show along with other celebrities to help Italian earthquake victims.
EMI no longer wanted to record John, however they released Johnny Farnham's Greatest Hits album to cash in on John's previous success.
Festival records signed John. The relationship was short lived with only two singles being released. John really just wanted to stay home with Jill, buy a house, a car and settle down. He believed if the worst came to the worst he could survive
in the industry by playing the clubs and doing TV spots.
John approached Kenn Brodziak to take over as his manager and received a fairly regular income under Kenn's management.
By 1977 John's career was starting to pick up, he was
hosting Opportunity Knocks'and narrating the ABC wildlife series Survival.
John stared in Bobby Dazzler, (1977-1978) his own sitcom on the Seven Network about a young singer on the verge of a major career breakthroug. He playing the part of pop star Bobby Farrell.
John continued his ongoing commitment to 'good causes' by participating in the 'Yooralla Telethon’; he did two commercials, for the 'Red Cross Doorknock Appeal', and the 'Channel 10 Christmas Appeal’.
John was performing regularly on the 'Don Lane Show' and 'Denise Drysdale Show'.
His last performance in 1977 was the Melbourne 'Carols By Candlelight'.
John and Jill were able to spend a lot of time together, even holidaying overseas. But John still couldn't get a recording contract. He began to feel unhappy with himself, playing the same old songs, in front of indifferent bands. Things were slowly going downhill, and he began to stagnate, he wasn't being fulfilled. John really wanted to sing, that's what he was, a singer.
The only work John could
get was acting roles. He appeared in a play called 'Roberta' which Kenn did not really want him to do, so he quoted an enormously high payment figure, asked for the No.1 dressing room and a part for Jill. It was accepted.
In 1978 he narrated 'Survival' a wildlife series on the ABC.
John and Jill visited their friends Colleen Hewett and husband Danny Finlay in the USA in 1978. After negotiations, Danny took over as Johnny's manager. Danny believed John's act was tired, and that he needed new songs. Danny cut down John's exposure to
re-shape his career. To earn a decent living, John made numerous appearances on 'The Don Lane' show and played the Sydney clubs.
still dissatisfied and wanted to get into rock, rather than cabaret. A business venture between Danny, Colleen and John, Backtage, a restaurant in Melbourne, failed miserably, and they suffered badly financially. John lost his holiday farm, but his accountant managed to save the family home.
John was hit with an outstanding tax bill. The financial pressure was mounting.
In 1979 John and Jill returned to the USA on holiday and visited Las Vegas where 'The Little River Band' was playing at the 'Aladdin'. They met up with old friend Glenn Wheatley, LRB's manager, who arranged for them to see the show.
John was really impressed with LRB's success and after the show he went backstage.
John approached Glenn about getting a band together to make an album. He thought Glenn could get him back into mainstream music once again. After six months of thought, John told his close friend Danny that he was going over to the 'Wheatley Organisation'.
John and Jill’s first son Robert was born on 27th September.
Glenn signed John to the WBE Records on January 1st, 1980 and suggested Graham Goble do an album with John.
At the time John was
perceived as a Cabaret artist, and Graham was locked into the current music scene. The 1980 album Uncovered made everyone think twice about John Farnham; he still had 'the voice'. The album sold 55,000 copies. It had taken only three weeks to record.
The first single from the album was Help, John's own arrangement of 'The Beatles' hit gave John his first chart success in nearly seven years.
It also changed a lot of people's minds about John. He had shown them that he was no longer just that fresh-faced plumber’s mate who sang Sadie. It made everyone, the public and those in the music industry take note.
John's popularity was rising again. John and Glenn put together 'The John Farnham Band' and they went on the road to do a tour of the pubs.
In 1980 John starred with Debbie Byrne in Farnham and Byrne. Two more singles were released and John was presented with the Mo Award for 'Entertainer Of The Year'. The Best Of John Farnham (CD) and The Best Of Johnny Farnham (LP) with the same tracks but different covers were released by AXIS.
On February 2nd, 1981, the Little River Band, were having some in-house problems and held a meeting, which resulted in them agreeing that
they wanted John Farnham as their new lead singer. John was approached by Glenn and accepted.
November 1982 the LRB single The Other Guy was in the U.S.top ten.
1984/1985 John sings title and soundtracks songs for American films Fletch, The Sluggers Wife, Rad, Savage
Streets, Voyage Of The Rock Aliens, Beyond My Reach and Hell Tracks.
In February1985 John’s composition Playing To Win titles LRB’s second album with him as lead singer.
LRB released 3 albums with John and toured the world. They received popular acclaim, but after what was four turbulent years, John announced
he was leaving the band to pursue a solo career.
While Glenn Wheatley searched in vain for a record deal and a record producer, John began the search for songs. Months rolled by, and still no producer in sight. John started working songs with sound man Ross Fraser. There was still no producer some months later so John and Ross decided they would produce the album themselves.
Glenn Wheatley mortgaged his house to bankroll the album, Whispering Jack. The first single You're The Voice restored John Farnham to Number One for the
first time in 17 years.
On 20th October 1986, John's first solo album in six years, Whispering Jack was released and was a huge success, spending an incredible 27 weeks at No.1 and at last count has sold in excess of 1.7 million albums, 17 times platinum in Australia alone. John scooped the awards at the 1987 Aria Awards, winning a total of six awards. The album was also an international success, reaching the top three in Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland. It remains Australia's highest selling album by an Australian artist.
In April 1987 You’re The Voice reached the U.K. top ten. John achieved number ones in West Germany, Scandinavia and
Canada and the top ten in Italy and Spain.
May Whispering Jack was the first compact disc manufactured in Australia and celebrated by a special release made of Kalgoolie gold.
1988 was a busy year and another special one for John as his second son James, was born on 17th January.
John was announced Australian Of The Year for 1987 and his next album, Age Of Reason was released which debuted at No.1. In March 1989 John visited U.S.S.R. to launch the Greenpeace album Breakthrough, alongside The Edge, Annie Lennox,
Peter Gabriel, Chrissie Hynde and David Byrne
In July at the Princes Trust concert in London, John performed Age Of Reason and You're The Voice. before the Prince and Princess of Wales.
In August Communication, a collaborative single with Danni’Elle Gaha, reached No.13.
Waltzing Matilda is performed by John at the last-ever VFL Grand Final
Chain Reaction was released in 1990, it followed its predecessors and debuted at No.1. The Chain Reaction tour broke attendance records
across the country.
In 1991 an album of live performances from between 1985 and 1991 was released titled Full House.
John took on the role of Jesus in the 1992 production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Both the arena spectacular and the album were highly successful.
John was awarded the Australian Music Awards Crystal Trophy for Outstanding Contribution to the Industry.
John continued to release albums and tour in the 90's. First 1993's Then Again followed by Romeo's Heart' in 1996. He toured in support of
both albums with the highly successful 'Talk Of The Town' and 'Jack Of Hearts' tours.
1996 also sees John honoured with the Order Of Australia for Services To Music and Charity.
In 1997 John's 30 year career was celebrated with the release of the albums Anthology 1, 2 and 3. In the same year he is recognised as the Most
Broadcast Australian Recording Artist by the Phonographic Performance Company Of Australia.
In 1998 he toured with Olivia Newton-John & Anthony Warlow in The Main Event.
John celebrates his 50th birthday in 1999 with the I Can't Believe He's 50' tour and the album Live At The Regent Theatre. A concert on John's birthday at The Regent Theatre was a huge event in Melbourne; large screens projected the concert to the adoring crowds in the street and it was televised nation wide. John was awarded 'The Key To The City' by the Lord Mayor
of Melbourne and he ended the year with a concert held in East Timor for the INTERFET troops.
In July 2000 33 1/3 was released and debuted at No. 1. Along with Olivia Newton-John he performed Dare To Dream at the opening ceremony
of the Sydney Olympics.
The Man Of The Hour tour followed in November and December and the concerts sold out across the country.
The Last Time album was released on October 7th, 2002 and sold 350,000 copies.
John embarked on his final large scale tour also titled THE LAST TIME in Melbourne on November 7th.
The concerts showcased John's amazing career. It was the biggest tour ever undertaken in Australia, crossing the nation for 210 days before concluding at Rod Laver Arena on 15th November 2003. It was quoted in Billboard as the 7th highest grossing touring act of that year …in the world.
John concluded major touring holding every attendance record in the country, in fact more than 1,000,000 people have seen him perform at Rod Laver Arena alone and he continues to maintain the record for the highest selling Australian album of all time, Whispering Jack.
John said at the beginning of The Last Time tour that he still intended to perform live to audiences in the future, and to continue to record ... he just wouldn't ever tour on a large scale again.
The One Voice CD & DVD showcasing John's greatest hits and clips was released on October 20th, 2003 and has sold over 400,000 copies.
Luckily for his fans, John Farnham was true to his word, and in December 2003 he performed at Twin Towers for 3 shows.
It was New Zealand's turn in February 2004 when John performed at the annual Mission Estate Winery. In March he took to the stage at Tempus Two winery and Barossa Under The Stars, followed by Sirromet Winery in May.
In February 2005 John did a series of concerts with Tom Jones. Their Together CD was released on 20th March followed by the DVD release on 24th April.
From May to June John starred as Teen Angel in the highly successful Australian production of Grease, The Arena Spectacular.
Dairy Farmers chose John Farnham for their "Creating Greener Pastures" campaign designed to provide support and benefit for farmers, rural and regional communities across Australia.
I Remember When I Was Young:Songs From The Great Australian Songbook was released on 6th November 2005, a collection of interpretations of Australian classics that were written and performed by Australian artists over the last 40 years.
A series of concerts was performed in early 2006 with The SSO and MSO orchestras, a percentage of revenue received from the 'I Remember When I was Young' concerts went to the Dairy Farmers 'Creating Greener Pastures' program to help farmers and their communities.
February 18th saw John perform at the Wollongong Entertainment Centre with the Farnham Band. Following shortly after, John and Stevie Nicks joined forces for magical double-bill shows in Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and New Zealand.
John performed four songs at the finale of the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games Closing Ceremony.
100% of proceeds of the Spirit Of The North concert in June 2006 went to assisting recovery of cyclone devastation through the Dairy Farmers Creating Greener Pastures Program.
March 14th 2009 saw John perform at the Sound Relief concert in Sydney to raise funds for bushfire ravaged Victoria and flood victims in Queensland.
A roar went up when the crowd heard the opening thunderclaps of “You're The Voice” and Coldplay's Chris Martin announced.....“Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome to sing the Australian national anthem, John Farnham. The whole stadium sang along to You're The Voice. It was an incredibly spine tingling experience and the highlight of the entire day.
After an absence of more than two decades You're The Voice re-entered the ARIA charts in April 2009.
Fans begin an online petition to encourage John to tour. The WE WANT JACK BACK petition had more than 21,000 signatures in 10 days. On May 27th 2009 at the Lyrics Theatre in Sydney, John announced his Live By Demand tour to take place during September and October of 2009.
Plans for a new album were also announced as well as a 3 box set titled The Essential John Farnham.
2010 began for fans on 29 May when John performed at the Airnorth Kimberley Moon Experience concert in Kununurra.
In July it was announced that John has been chosen for the entertainment at Luna Park's 75th Birthday in October. Following that John performed his first ever a Day On The Green shows with three concerts in VIC, NSW and WA. The tour also included two new outdoor concert venues, RACV Royal Pines Resort on the Gold Coast QLD and Coopers Brewery in SA.
Indoor shows included Canberra, Wollongong, Newcastle and Tamworth.
JACK, John's first studio album in 5 years was released on October 15th and debuted at No.2.
It was announced on June 8th 2011 that to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Whispering Jack, John would embark on a national tour from October – November. Commencing in Adelaide on Tuesday October 4th the tour took in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth. Ten concerts quickly grew to twenty-eight. John as always, was still in demand!
Before taking to the stage, John entered the studio in July to put down tracks for an acoustic/unplugged album of hits from all eras of his career. The Acoustic Chapel Sessions along with a DVD was recorded live and released on September 30th.
To top off 2011, John and the band performed after the V8 Supercars race in Sydney on December 3rd. The last song of the night, Long Way To The Top left the crowd cheering as loud as the cars had roared around the track!
2013 began with a performance at the opening of the Star Event Centre at Star City in Sydney on January 24th and due to demand a second show was added on the 25th.
2013 continued with John being voted as Australia’s finest singer of all time. The votes were submitted by a panel of his peers and in response John said "Just to be in the company of the people on that list will do me .. I'm blown away”.
John was inducted into the Aria Hall Of Fame and his performance of You're The Voice on the night was mind blowing!
He was amongst the faces of 10 famous bands and artists to be immortalised on Australian postage stamps (John for for the second time) and the stamps sold out almost immediately.
The Dainty Group announced in November 2013 that John would perform in a co-headlining tour with Lionel Richie across Australia and New Zealand in March 2014, opening in WA on March 2nd and concluding in Auckland on 23rd March.
On October 18th, 2014 John headlined the Decades Music Festival at Pine Rivers Park, Strathpine QLD. The act on before him was none other than The Seekers.
John had a busy 2015, he shared the stage with Olivia Newton-John on The Two Strong Hearts Tour which began on the 4th April at the Sandalford Winery in Margaret River concluding in Sydney on 19th April.
With no time for resting, John headlined the River4Ward charity concert on 23rd April on the banks of the Yarra River in Melbourne. Monies raised were directed towards the building of a specialised youth cancer centre in Melbourne.
June 15th saw John inducted into the The Age Music Victoria Hall of Fame, which was celebrated on November 20 with a concert at the Palais Theatre headlined by John."I am extremely proud to be on this list. I am a proud Victorian, now I am even prouder," Farnham said at the launch at the Palais Theatre.
The "Two Strong Hearts Live" DVD was released on August 21st and reached No.1
2015 concluded with concerts in November and December, two for One Electric Day, five Day On The Green Concerts and the closing of Qantas Credit Union Arena (formerly known as Sydney Entertainment Centre).
Colleen Hewett asked John to be involved in a music video for Violence Free Families, the Rotary Initiative, he didn't hesitate! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiFnXgY__24
John was the headline artist for Cruise N Groove 2016, setting sail October 9th. John performed two shows, one each on October 15th and 16th.
John and his long-time friend Olivia Newton-John, collaborated on a Christmas Album, Friends for Christmas, which was released on November 11th. Duets included Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Baby It’s Cold Outside, Silent Night, White Christmas and Winter Wonderland.
A busy 2017 , John was the headline artist for the Red Hot Summer Tour 2017, performing nine shows across Australia between January and March. He also squeezed in a special show at Jupiters, Gold Coast on Feb 23rd.
There was also One Electric Day, two shows at the Wollongong Entertainment Centre, one at the Derwent Entertainment Centre, A Weekend In The Gardens in Melbourne, Rottnest Island and two A Day On The Green shows.
Sadly Stuart Fraser was diagnosed with cancer and John headlined a fundraising concert on June 28 to support Stuart, Olivia's Wellness Centre and Support Act.
On July 30th the Queensland Music Festival held a special concert to raise awareness for Domestic Violence. It was titled You're The Voice. In a well kept secret, John appeared at the end of the night to sing You're The Voice, backed by an amazing choir of hundreds, it was a spine chilling experience.
On August 18th, Age of Reason and Chain Reaction were released on vinyl.
John once again performed at Olivia's ONJ Gala held on September 8th.
Later in the year he performed in Geelong, Werribee, Wollongong, Barossa Valley & Kings Park.
2018 proved to be just as busy, starting with By The C in Hervey Bay in February, followed by seven Red Hot Summer Tour dates up to the end of March.
July there was The Watpac race concert in Townsville, the incredible Red Hot Bash in Birdsville and One Tropical Day in Darwin.
In August, John was a special guest at Celine Dion's concert in Melbourne on August 8th and performed a duet of "You're The Voice" with her.
Later in the month John joined Client Liaison in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane for three songs during their Client Liaison Expo Tour.
The response to John was overwhelming with the crowd singing along and giving him a standing ovation.
In October John performed an exclusive concert at Gardens By The Bay in Singapore for Imagine Cruising culminating in a spectacular light show at the end of the concert.
Hay Mate: Buy a Bale — A Concert For The Farmers’ was held at Scully Park in Tamworth, on Saturday, 27th October. The concert organised by Glenn Wheatley and headlined by John was to support Australia’s drought-stricken farmers, and raised over $2 million.
The inaugural music festival, Anthems was held at the National Arboretum in Canberra in November where John was the headliner, followed by four A Day On The Green concerts in SA, NSW and Qld and the last concert of the year in the Yarra Valley.
2019 began with the cancellation of The Eagles show in Dunedin and the postponement of shows in Auckland and Wellington and the cancellation of By The C concerts due to illness.
John bounced back quickly and was soon headlining Red Hot Summer Shows in Batemans Bay, Baulkham Hills, Mt Gambier, Noosa, Rockhampton & Cairns, bringing us to the end of April.
John celebrated his 70th Birthday on 1st July with a private dinner at his favourite restaurant in Melbourne.
The National Film & Archives produced an exhibition to celebrate the occasion.
John performed at the Mt Isa Rodeo 60th Anniversary in August and the 70th Anniversary of The Toowoomba Carnival Of Flowers in September.
In October John returned to Singapore where he performed two shows at Gardens By The Bay for Imagine Cruising.
John was the headline act for the One Electric Day and Live in the Vines concerts across Australia. After the cancellation of his shows earlier in the year, John finally made it to New Zealand and played to packed houses in Auckland and Wellington.
Hay Mate - A Bush Christmas Concert which was organised by Glenn Wheatley, was held at Mornington Racecourse in mid December. It raised a staggering $4.60 million, John's set was said to have sparked at least $1 million alone.
Falls Festival was held between December 2019 and January 2020. John was the oldest artist to ever perform at the popular festival. Despite being almost four-times the average age of his crowd, he put on a legendary show!
At the fundraiser concert Fire Fight Australia on 16th February 2020 in Sydney John was joined on stage by Brian May, Olivia Newton-John and Mitch Tambo for a very special performance of You're The Voice, where Birri Gubba man Mitch Tambo sang the second half of the song in Gamilaraay.