Ricky Nachman Fahrner, Biography

Born Eric Fahrner, 21 September 1972, Paris, France

In 1988, self-taught and only 16 years old, singer/guitarist Ricky Nachman Fahrner became the talk of the town after his first major performance. His unique and innovative blend of big band Swing, Gypsy Jazz and early R'n'R immediately enthused general public and musicians alike. Ricky's talents were instantly recognized and actively encouraged by seasoned musicians (some more than twice his age), most famously French Jazz great Patrick Saussois.

Described as an "excellent singer and guitarist" by famed Rockabilly/Rock'n'Roll authority and DJ "Al "Cool Daddy" Smith, Ricky is a musician who firmly believes that Rockabilly, early R&B, Swing are far from being a caricature, or doomed to be "Oldies". To him, this music is as valid a form of sincere contemporary musical expression as the Blues or other styles of music.

Ricky was born Eric Fahrner on 21st of September 1972 in Paris, France, into a musical family. The name Eric, and nickname Ricky, were chosen because of Ricky Nelson. His family moved to his father's native Austria while Ricky was still a very young child. His father, Klaus, grew up in the fifties and was a big Rockabilly/Rock'n'Roll fan. Klaus picked up the guitar in the late fifties, and was part of different bands throughout the sixties as singer/guitarist. When Ricky was a little kid, Klaus was always playing the guitar and singing during his spare time. Ricky's French mother, Nicole, too was a big Rock'n'Roll fan, her favorite artist being Eddie Cochran. Both parents together had a huge record collection, which became little Ricky's favorite playground. At age five, he already knew an impressive amount of Elvis-songs by heart, and by age eight was able to accompany himself on the guitar. He played at school functions and family events. Although initially he was met with some ridicule for his preference for 40s and 50s Blues, R&B and Rockabilly, the winds turned when the Rockabilly-revival hit Austria, and suddenly Elvis, Shakin' Stevens and the Stray Cats were to be found on the title pages of different youth magazines.

Around 1984/85, Ricky got his first electric guitar and started to teach himself lead-guitar, trying to copy Rockabilly-artist Scotty Moore (Elvis' guitar-player), blues guitarist Luther Allison as well as Jazz-great Django Reinhardt. Ricky got to meet Luther a year or two later, and got a lot of encouragement from him. In the beginning of their meeting, while shaking Ricky's white hand with his big, black hand, Luther looked at both their hands and said: "Black and white: this is what Rock'n'Roll is all about!"

Ricky's Django Reinhardt-connection got reinforced by his French grandfather's friendship with many Gypsy-Jazz players, most importantly Jazz-guitar great Patrick Saussois. Patrick, and especially his rhythm-player Jean-Yves Dubanton encouraged Ricky's Jazz apprenticeship. In the late nineties, when Ricky was living in France, this would eventually lead to Patrick offering Ricky a job as his rhythm guitarist.

But back to the 80s: in 1986, fourteen years old, Ricky joined his first band; this is how it happened: "I read in a local newspaper that the "Teddyboys" are looking for a lead-guitarist. So I just called and got invited to play an audition. I must have been fourteen; Until then, I used to perform sitting on a chair. But here I had to play standing up. So, when it was my turn to play I hung the guitar by the strap on my neck, like a necklace. I will never forget the expression on the bandleader's face when he asked me, 'Are you sure you know what you're doing?' It was hilarious. Anyways, I got the job, although I really had no idea what I was doing, and there were other, much more experienced players interested..."

The next band, in which Ricky was joined by his younger brother Marc on rhythm guitar, was a band from Upper-Austria called "The Roadrunners". Probably one of the first Eighties-Rockabilly bands with a female lead singer, the "Roadrunners" were very busy playing in Austria. It was a wonderful time for all involved, like one big never-ending party. With regret, Ricky quit the band in 1990, when he moved back to Paris, France.

Now living with his grandparents near Paris, Ricky was exposed almost on a daily basis to Gypsy-Jazz through his grandfather's friends Patrick Saussois and Jean-Yves Dubanton. Jean-Yves encouraged Ricky to jam with him and his friends, and introduced him even more to the Gypsy-Jazz world. Over the next years Ricky met most of the big players in that style who were around in the Nineties.

On the rockin' side of things, Ricky got auditioned and hired by Jim and Vince, two brothers who had been gigging around Paris, playing mostly 50s Rockabilly. Jim, Vince and Ricky became the heart of "Jim And The Beams", joined by different drummers over the years. Ricky came up with the band name during one of those long, spontaneous parties that the band used to celebrate for no reason at all on an almost daily basis. Jim's apartment was decorated with many, many empty bottles in all different sizes of his favorite drink: Jim Beam. As the night went on and merrier, Ricky realized the obvious: Jim was Jim the lead singer, and the other musicians are the "Beams" - the beams coming out of the "Sun Records" music logo! It was perfectly clear, everybody present agreed, and one of the most innovative bands of the Nineties now had a name.

Fifties Rockabilly was a staple of their repertoire, but Jim, Vince and Ricky being very fond of the British Rockabilly sound of the Seventies, incorporated songs from this period as well. This was years before the "second" Teddy Boy revival; European bands at that time either played straight Fifties stuff, or were Stray Cats oriented. But most importantly the band worked on Jim's original compositions. Not only blessed with one of the most beautiful voices of the Rockabilly scene, Jim is a prolific songwriter as well. Ricky had free reign to experiment with mixing in Gypsy-Jazz into his playing, and soon the band had a steadily growing following. Ricky's playing also sparked the interest of other musicians, and soon he was invited to work with different other bands.

After a break starting in 1992 due to army service, and a period of reorientation, Ricky joined Jim and the Beams again and stayed with the band until the offer in 1998 to join Patrick Saussois. But then life took an unpredicted turn: in 1999 Ricky was offered the opportunity to visit Israel. Planning to stay for a year, Ricky took a liking to the country, and stayed. He married in 2001 and established a home in Jerusalem. Encouraged by family friends, he started teaching Jazz, improvisation, Gypsy-Jazz (and occasionally Rockabilly). But, as much as he enjoyed sharing his knowledge and experience, his love for performing and creating music was not satisfied by the teaching. One of the most important outcomes of this dissatisfaction was that Ricky started writing songs. Soon, he became the leader of the "Jerusalem Swing Jam", a weekly jam session which attracted many musicians from different styles. Two of the musicians who joined were a married couple from Tennessee, Yoseph and Leah Urso. Leah, a.k.a. Leslie Gould, had been a top class country fiddle/mandolin player, as well as a talented songwriter in the USA for over twenty years; one of her tunes became a number one hit in Louisiana. She played with George Jones, was a studio musician and songwriter for many years in Nashville... it didn't take long and Ricky started jamming with them aside from the Swing jam, playing mostly Country, Bluegrass and some Rockabilly. This developed into the "Tennessee Jukebox Band".

Ricky also was hired to be the guitarist for the yearly "Buddy Holly Tribute" concert in Israel, and started gigging in the Jerusalem area, mostly playing Swing and Jazz.

In 2010 Ricky briefly reunited with Kurt Stimmeder, the bass-player from the "Roadrunners", for a "Rockabilly Reunion". The friends hadn't performed in front of an audience in over twenty years. With minimal rehearsing, they performed aboard a restaurant-ship on the Danube in Linz. Some of the magic of that encounter has been captured on video and can be seen on Youtube (see link below the article).

In 2011 during a visit in Austria, Ricky recorded eight tracks in his portable studio. The time had come for his original music to be presented to a bigger audience. He mixed and mastered the tracks over the next few months, closely analyzing the "Sun records sound"in the process, that sound being such an integral part of him since his youngest childhood. As a producer, Ricky knew that this was the most authentic way to express his deepest feelings. In December 2011 the album, "Azamra", was officially presented, and immediately received very warm reaction, both from within the Rockabilly scene, as well as from without. Among the people congratulating Ricky and offering warm comments on his work are Rockin' Ronnie Weiser, Johnny G from the Cruisin Show, Matt The Cat from the Juke in the Back Show. Al "Cool Daddy" Smith, wrote: "you are an excellent singer and guitarist".

Encouraged by this warm reception, Ricky is already working, writing songs and rehearsing for his new recording project.


Used with permission, 2012