Warren Fahey (b. 1946) was born in Sydney and educated at Marist Brothers College, Kogarah, and Sydney Technical College. His family was musical and he became an enthusiastic performer and listener of folk music while still at school. He performed at Sydney pubs, was a member of the Sydney Bush Music Club and was the Executive Officer of the New South Wales Folk Federation. He organised the first Port Jackson Folk Festival in 1970 and for a time was Executive Officer of the Australian Folk Trust. With Colin McJannett, he set up the Australian Folklore Unit and in 1973 he spent 10 months travelling round eastern Australia recording traditional songs and folklore.
In 1973 Fahey established a specialist music shop in Paddington—Folkways Music—and in the following year he launched Larrikin Records. Larrikin Records produced nearly 500 albums, mostly of Australian music and including not only folk music but also jazz, country music, classical music and Indigenous music. Among the artists who featured in the recordings were Robyn Archer, Eric Bogle, Kev Carmody, John Dengate, Mike Jackson, Jeannie Lewis and Margret RoadKnight. Fahey sold Folkways in 1993 and Larrikin Records in 1995. Throughout his business career he continued to perform and he also wrote the scripts for a number of major programs for ABC Radio. They included Great Australian Legends, The Song Carriers and While the Billy Boils. He directed the annual Larrikin Festival of Music.
In recent years Fahey has been Deputy Manager of the Festival Mushroom Group and founded Planet Productions. In 2004 he began a project to record the folklore associated with Sydney. Fahey has also devoted a lot of his time to research and writing. His books include Pint Pot and Billy: A Selection of Australian and New Zealand Folksongs (1977), Songs that Made Australia (1984), When Mabel Laid the Table: The Folklore of Eating and Drinking in Australia (1992), Ratbags and Rabblerousers: A Century of Political Protest, Song and Satire (2000) and Classic Bush Yarns: Australian Outback Humour, Tall Yarns and Bulldust (2001).
In 1974 the Library, assisted by The Ian Potter Foundation, purchased from Fahey his collection of folkloric recordings. In 2004 Fahey donated his personal papers under the Cultural Gifts Program. In the same year the Library purchased his Larrikin Record Library. Since 2004 he has donated a large number of field recordings that he made in the 1970s and also a few recent oral history interviews.
The original Fahey Collection consists of 79 tape recordings. Fifty-nine of the recordings were made by Fahey when he travelled around New South Wales and Queensland in 1973 recording folk musicians and retired miners, drovers, teamsters, stockmen, farmers, bagmen and others. The recordings contain folk songs, dance music, folklore, customs and beliefs, children’s games, riddles, and contemporary songs and poems. They were mostly recorded in regional centres such as Bathurst, Lithgow, Forbes, Glen Innes, Grafton, Toowoomba, Maryborough and Townsville. The other 20 tapes contain radio programs produced by Fahey, recordings made by other collectors such as Bob Michell, Wendy Lowenstein and Shirley Andrews, and unidentified material.
The papers document Fahey’s activities as an entrepreneur, musician and writer from about 1967 to 1998. They include correspondence, contracts, scripts, reviews, programs, photographs, newspaper cuttings, catalogues, posters, leaflets, newsletters, songbooks, sheet music, magazines, tickets and other printed ephemera. In particular, the papers relate to Larrikin Entertainment, the performances of Fahey and his band, The Larrikins, the Australian folk revival, and his work as a folklore collector. There is also a group of papers relating to Wattle Recordings (1955–77).
Fahey’s original collection of folkloric recordings is housed in the Oral History Collection at TRC 321. They are catalogued at the collection level and, in addition, the individual recordings have all been catalogued. A volume containing indexes and transcripts of some of the recordings compiled by Fahey is held in the Oral History Branch. The tapes received from Fahey in 2004–05 have not been processed, with the exception of his recordings of the folk singer Sally Sloane (TRC 5724/1) and a few interviews he recorded in 2005.
Australian Folklore Unit website: www.warrenfahey.com
Smith, Robert, Swinging the Swag: Warren Fahey A.M. Today, Fair Dinkum, Australian Folklore, no. 20, November 2005, pp. 27–34.