Trained as a classical musician (cello) he formed the Royal George Hotel jazz band Sydney in 1960. Travelled overseas 1960-67 during which he performed improvised music with various musicians from different cultural backgrounds. In 1964, with Daevid Allen (Gong), John Howley staged a musical happening in Majorca's main art gallery, and remained in contact with Allen since then. Howley formed the group Stillborn Frog in 1991, leading to the formation of the Howley Calvert George Trio in 1994 (with Robert Calvert (2) and Robert George).
He is also an established painter with works in major Australian and overseas collections.