Bart Willoughby Receives Ted Albert Award For Outstanding Services To Australian Music

18 April 2024 | 10:37 am | Mary Varvaris

With No Fixed Address, Bart Willoughby and his bandmates became the first Aboriginal band to lock in a major record deal and travel overseas.

Bart Willoughby at the Purnululu National Park

Bart Willoughby at the Purnululu National Park (Credit: Cole Bennetts )

Bart Willoughby has been honoured with a prestigious award, with APRA AMCOS announcing that he’s this year’s recipient of the Ted Albert Award for Outstanding Services to Australian Music.

The iconic drummer has enjoyed an extraordinary career in music in the country’s first and arguably most influential First Nations reggae rock band, No Fixed Address. With No Fixed Address, Willoughby and his bandmates became the first Aboriginal band to lock in a major record deal and the first to travel overseas.

In addition to his driving work in No Fixed Address, Willoughby has drummed for Midnight Oil, Yothu Yindi, Shane Howard, and Goanna.

In December, No Fixed Address confirmed their return with two new members and a one-off show in Melbourne (Naarm), with Willoughby now on vocals and guitar, drums and didgeridoo alongside Ricky Harrison (guitar), newcomer bassist Tjimba Possum Burns (of Yung Warriors fame) and lead guitarist Selwyn Burns (best known for his work in Coloured Stone and Blackfire).

Willoughby and Harrison formed No Fixed Address alongside lead guitarist Leslie Freeman, bassist John Miller and saxophonist Veronica Rankine in 1979 after joining forces as students at the Centre for Aboriginal Studies in Music (CASM) in North Adelaide.

The band released two studio albums before their initial disbandment in 1985: Wrong Side Of The Road in 1981 and From My Eyes in 1982.

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In 2011, No Fixed Address were inducted into the National Indigenous Music Awards (NIMA) Hall Of Fame. Five years later, in 2016, the band was inducted into the South Australian Music Hall Of Fame. A comprehensive biography on the band—plainly titled No Fixed Address and written by former music journalist Donald Robertson—was published in May last year.

In response to receiving the Ted Albert Award, Willoughby said, “I am very proud to receive the Ted Albert Award for my services to Australian Music. The best advice I received as a young musician was from Aunty Leila Rankin at CASM whilst I was preoccupied practising; she kindly opened the door and forced me out, telling me, 'I’ll learn my craft on the road, it’s been a Long Road.'

“Compassion. I am something else now. All you have to do is put the black bits and the white bits together. I’m on a road of destiny. I wake up as it starts to begin. That’s when you know you’re riding the wave. It’s part of destiny. That’s when you know you’ve found what you’ve [been] looking for.”

Willoughby has received the Ted Albert Award ahead of the 2024 APRA Music Awards, which will be held on Wednesday, 1 May, at ICC Sydney.