On Tuesday February 1, Australian music industry icon Glenn Wheatley passed away, aged 74. Wheatley was surrounded by his wife of almost 40 years, Gaynor, son Tim and daughters Kara and Samantha. The musician, manager, radio pioneer and entrepreneur died as a result of complications caused by COVID. Wheatley, who was double vaccinated passed away after valiantly fighting for several weeks.
His heartbroken family passed on their thanks to the COVID frontline workers and staff at Epworth ICU. Wheatley was still busy working on new projects.”In spite of having achieved so much, there was a lot more he wanted to give,” his family said. “He had an enthusiasm that was unmatched and believed that anything was possible. He gave everything to support projects he believed in, whether they were ultimately successful or not – his immense passion and enthusiasm was an integral part of Glenn Wheatley.”
“He treated roadies, artists and fans with the same love and respect, and had time for everyone. He would leave Rod Laver Arena after a John Farnham concert, just to carry my amp into the Espy,” Tim said, “Everything he did was for his family. He regarded his family as his greatest achievement.”
The Farnhams have released this statement: “Our family are devastated at the loss of our friend. We also obviously feel for his family as well. With his passing so many people have lost a part of their lives. We will miss you Glenn, and promise to be there for Gaynor and the family. Love Jill, John, Robert and James Farnham”
In 1998 Wheatley was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame as part of The Masters Apprentices, whose hits Turn Up Your Radio and Because I Love You are Australian rock classics. However Wheatley would find his niche in the music industry through artist management. He helped open doors for Australian music overseas with the global success of Little River Band in the 1970s, selling over 30 million albums and scoring 10 US Top 20 singles including Help Is On Its Way and Reminiscing.
His most successful partnership came with John Farnham, who became a lifelong friend and creative soulmate. Wheatley took over Farnham’s management in 1980, and re-launched his career. A cover of the Beatles’ Help returned him to the chart and Farnham briefly fronted Little River Band. However the two men would stage the biggest comeback in Australian music history with 1986’s Whispering Jack album. Wheatley remortgaged his house to fund the album, which was launched with the unforgettable hit You’re the Voice. Whispering Jack is now the highest-selling Australian album in ARIA history, while Farnham scored 10 No.1 albums with Wheatley as manager. Wheatley also transformed Farnham into one of the most successful touring artists in Australian history, selling millions of tickets in arenas and later outdoor festivals.
Wheatley also launched the career of Delta Goodrem, helping her debut album Innocent Eyes to sell over one million copies in Australia. His other management credits include Pseudo Echo, Real Life and Australian Crawl. Wheatley also launched Australia’s first commercial FM station, EON FM, in 1980, which would rebrand as Triple M. He continued to invest in radio stations, with wife Gaynor on the board of the stations he owned.
In 1992 he helped stage the Australian musical version of Jesus Christ Superstar, featuring Farnham, Kate Ceberano and Jon Stevens. It played over 80 arena dates across the country, while the soundtrack album – released on Wheatley Records, went 12 times platinum.
Wheatley also created charities to fundraise through televised concerts, including the Hay Mate charity to raise money for farmers, the benefit for Rwanda, the concert for the troops in Dili, and countless contributions to other charities in which he was immensely proud.
He released his autobiography, Paper Paradise, in 1999, and over the last few years had been very busy with a number of projects in the works for John.
On the weekend, Wheatley’s son Tim shelved his new single and EP release that was set to be announced on Friday. The long-planned EP was to include a stunning, heartfelt cover of The Masters Apprentices classic Because I Love You. “We were planning the release of Because I Love You for months,” Tim said,“We just fell three days short”. In honour of his Father, Tim is sharing his version of the song today.
The Wheatley family and John Farnham are deeply grateful for the support and loving messages they have received, and will not be making any further comments at this time. They thank the media and public for respecting their privacy.