4 October 2022

Lawrence 'Lollipop' Barlow is keeping music alive on the Riverina streets

| Chris Roe
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Man with guitar

Lawrence Barlow loves to share his music with the street. Photo: Chris Roe.

It’s a perfect spring afternoon and Lawrence Barlow is strumming his guitar and sharing his songs with passers-by on Wagga’s Baylis Street.

“Just a bit of practice,” he says with a wink and a gap-toothed grin.

Lawrence, or ”Lollipop” as he is more commonly known, has taken his music all over the country in the past 30 years and says the street is his favourite place to perform.

“It’s all about just keeping the music alive in the street,” he explains.

“It’s all kept indoors and yes, I do play indoors too, but when people ask me, I say, ‘I can do parties, but me bread and butter’s out here with you fullas, if yous appreciate it then I know that it’s right.”

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Lawrence is from Condobolin and is Wiradjuri on his father’s side, while his mother’s family is from Ngemba and Barkindji county around Wilcannia.

“I live in Griffith now and I play there a lot, but I’ve got family over here in Wagga Wagga and a partner here so I travel over a lot,” he says.

“I get the train up to play at Paddy’s Markets in the city [Sydney] and I’ve been doing that for about 15 years.

“I also play in Narrandera, Darlington Point and I’ve played up in Walgett, too.”

He takes a philosophical approach to his street performances and doesn’t mind whether he’s playing for one or 20.

“I find if I put it out there, things will happen,” he says with a slow smile before borrowing from Kevin Costner.

“If you build it, they will come. You know, like Field of Dreams and that sort of stuff.

“Well, that’s what I do. I just sing and it don’t really matter where I sing, if it’s the right stuff, then people will appreciate it.”

He says busking is all about respect.

“It’s actually showed me how to respect the street, not only the people but also the buildings and the businesses – they’re important,” Lawrence says.

“In my whole 30 years, I’ve never been asked to leave.”

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As he shares his story, a man comes over and embraces him, greeting Lawrence as “Lollipop, my Uncle”. They share words remembering the man’s mother, who has recently passed, and Lollipop reaches into his guitar case and hands him some of the coins he has collected.

“You see there? That’s what it’s about, this is why I do it,” he says.

“You run into old family members and if they need help, I can give them a hand.

“The young kids ask, ‘Why you out here doing this, Uncle?’ and I say, ‘Just here to make a loaf of bread’ and it’s about encouraging them, too.”

Man with guitar

Lawrence is well known around the Riverina. Photo: Chris Roe.

Today’s performance has been a mix of classic country and bluesy tunes, but Lawrence says he’s versatile.

“I play anything, but I’m a ’60s baby so I’ll do that and I do a lot of ’70s and ’80s stuff that everybody knows,” he explains.

“But I write my own music and I’ve got a show coming up out at Darlington Point.

“My great-great-grandfather was born at Warangesda mission there.”

Despite making regular trips to the big smoke, Lawrence knows where his heart belongs.

“People ask, ‘Why don’t you just do this in Sydney?’ and I say, ‘Well, then who’s gonna sing for the country?'”

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