Ian Simpson


Ian Simpson

Ian Simpson:

Ian (Simmo) Simpson was born in Fremantle in Western Australia. He started playing classical piano at 8 years of age, being taught by his grandmother who was a piano teacher.  At about the age of 13 Ian heard The Wreck of the Old 97 and the banjo solo by then famous folk ensemble The Seekers. This was the defining musical moment in his life, he became obsessed with learning to play the banjo, and started teaching himself to play from listening to records slowed down to 16 rpm and learning out of the very few books that were available at the time.

A couple of years on, at the age of 15, Ian met Western Australia’s seasoned bluegrass musician Jim Fisher, and before long he was playing evenings and weekends in bands such as the Outlaws and the Bluegrass Kangaroos in Perth pubs, folk clubs and taverns while he was still at school.

Ian Simpson

Ian moved to Sydney at age 21 to tour with Slim Dusty. This was his first touring experience as a professional musician. This was another defining period in Ian’s musical career. Ian’s musical relationship with Slim Dusty was significant, it gave him a great deal of experience in the recording, arranging and production of music. Ian played on more than 20 of Slim’s albums and went on to appear in many DVDs and the famed Slim Dusty Movie.

In 1984, Ian was instrumental in forming what was to become one of Australia’s most commercial and popular bluegrass bands, The Flying Emus with John Kane, Genni Kane and Mike Kerin. This band took their version of bluegrass music to the masses winning 6 Gold Guitars at Tamworth, and also achieved an Aria award.

As Ian’s talents were continuing to develop, his musical career extended into the recording and touring scene. He played support to many high-profile Australian Country Music names such as Paul Kelly, Keith Urban, Anne Kirkpatrick, Graeme Connors, and ABC’s nationally recognised Ian ‘Macca’ McNamara from Australia All Over. He was also a member of the famous comedy/bluegrass band Sensitive New Age Cowpersons for most of its ten-year existence. More recently Ian toured and recorded with Paul Kelly’s bluegrass band The Stormwater Boys.

Ian Simpson is best known as one of Australia’s most accomplished banjo players. He won the Australian National Banjo Championships at Tamworth no less than 3 times in 1983, 1986 and 1987. He was also a member of Western Australia’s famed Bluegrass Parkway for 10 years.

Among Ian’s achievements he has also produced recordings for artists such as Tony McKenna and Jane Germain.

Ian now resides back in Western Australia where he performs regularly with Jane Germain. They have won the Best Group or Duo Award at the WA Country Music Awards for 3 years running and in 2010 he and Jane had the honour of performing in the Australia Pavilion at the World Expo in Shanghai China which he found to be an amazing experience.

Ian and ex Flying Emus member John Kane recently recorded an all instrumental CD for the ABC called The Banjo. One of the tracks from this album, Dixie Breakdown, won them a Golden Guitar at the 2011 Tamworth Country Music Festival for Instrumental of the Year.

Ian plays a variety of instruments including the guitar, Dobro, pedal steel and double bass, but admits the banjo is still his passion. Ian has five banjos, but mostly performs with a Gibson RB3 from the early 1990s and uses his Australian made White Swallow Deluxe for most of his recording work. He cites Bobby Thompson, Clarence White, Earl Scruggs, JD Crowe, Sonny Osborne, Django Reinhardt as some of his favourite musicians and those who have influenced his own music.


  1. Russell Bell

    Ian was just a young lad when I first recorded him at the ABC in Perth, then at Soundwest recorders. Such a likable person with multi instrumental talent.

  2. Warwick Archer

    Ian is an inspiring artist and teacher, Banjo lessons are great fun and Ian’s encouragement has kept me going through the sometimes difficult beginner experience. Even at 75 (me not Ian!) his teaching and example has added a great deal to my life. On top of that he is great bloke and true blue Aussie. Best regards Warwick “Arch” Archer (Adelaide & Perth)

  3. Maureen Mutze

    I bought a banjo because of Simmo, he has inspired me from when I first saw him play in a Bluegrass band, many thanks, you are a legend

  4. Dave & Ruby

    It was a priviledge to play music with you in WA…. and a HOOT!!
    Still a fan in Texas,
    Dave & Ruby

  5. Robyn Lennay

    It was such a privelege Ian to see & hear you play at Nambung.
    Thanks for signing the cd for me to give to my partner as you are his idol.
    I hope it inspires him to get back to playing his banjo after the break up a while back of the band he was in – Country Six – due to illness of two members.
    Kind regards
    Robyn Lennay (Albany)

  6. Bill

    Hi Simmo thanks for the inspiration, I’ve been listening to Slim since I was a kid and love to here your banjo playing, I now play for Travis Sinclair and love the touring life cheers once again, if your ever over in Vic in November come up to Harrietville bluegrass festival 3rd weekend you’ll love it, I go to USA and play with a group WV, V TN love it, have a great one Bill


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