Born in Lagos, Nigeria on 19 May 1957, James Reyne was actually a son of English-born former Royal Marine Rodney Michael Reyne, who served as aide-de-camp to Governor of the state of Victoria, and subsequently worked for British Petroleum. His younger brother, David Reyne, was also born in Nigeria. The family moved to Victoria in late 1959, where a younger sister Elisabeth was born.
In Victoria, James formed the band Spiff Rouch with fellow locals, and then formed Clutch Cargo when that band split up. In late 1978, Clutch Cargo renamed themselves Australian Crawl and started to gain popularity on the pub circuit. During the first half of the 1980s, Australian Crawl were very popular in Australia. They split up in 1986, and James went on to a successful solo career.
Between 1987 and 1999, he released five studio albums, one live album and two compilation albums. His third album ‘Electric Digger Dandy’ (1991) was the most successful, peaking at number 3 in the Australian albums chart.
In 2001, he appeared on Andrew Denton’s radio show, performing a cover version of Wuthering Heights as part of his Musical Challenge series, during which musicians are asked to cover a song, usually a song written in a style which contrasts with their own. The performance was eventually released on the album ‘The Andrew Denton Breakfast Show Musical Challenge’ (2000).
After a few years’ break between studio albums, Reyne signed with Liberation Music in Australia. In 2004 he released ‘Speedboats for Breakfast’.
Reyne hosted Dig, a music show on ABC2 (2006–2007), and made an appearance on The AFL Footy Show in Melbourne in 2006. In May 2007, he released a new studio album, ‘Every Man a King’. An acoustic album, ‘Ghost Ships’, was released in September 2007.
In April 2010 Reyne released, TCB (Taking Care of Business), a collection of Elvis Presley covers.
In the Australia Day Honours of 2014, Reyne was recognised with a Medal of the Order of Australia in the General Division “for service to the performing arts as a singer/songwriter, and through support for a range of charitable organisations”.
Universal Records released another compilation album, ‘The Anthology’, in August 2014. The double album featured all of Reyne’s earlier hits on Disc 1 and a collection of his more recent material and radio singles on the Disc 2. In late 2014, Reyne launched a ‘James Reyne Plays Australian Crawl’ series of shows across Australia. Performing only songs from the Australian Crawl catalogue, Reyne stated it was the closest thing to a reunion as fans were ever to get.