Monday, 23 May 2016
Off Shore/What'd I Say/Toy Balloons/One Mint Julep
In September 1956 Johnny O'Keefe and his friend Dave Owen (an American-born tenor sax player) formed Australia's first rock'n'roll band, The Dee Jays. The original lineup of the group was ), Kevin Norton (guitar), Keith Williams (bass) and Johnny "Catfish" Purser (drums). Norton left soon after the band formed and he was replaced by Indonesian-born guitarist Lou Casch. Johnny Greenan joined the Dee Jays on tenor saxophone, replacing John Balkin. This was the band that supported a tour by Little Richard and his band.
Casch was a remarkable figure background and his contribution to O'Keefe's sound, both live and on record, was considerable. He was born in Ambon in 1924, grew up in Aceh and Jakarta, began playing guitar at an early age, and became a dedicated jazz musician. He came to Australia under the Colombo Plan in 1952 to study Medicine at the University of Sydney. He was introduced to O'Keefe by Keith Williams, whom he had known from a jazz trio in which they played. At their first meeting O'Keefe played Casch a selection of rock'n'roll records and asked him to imitate the guitar playing, which he was easily able to do. Impressed, O'Keefe offered him the job and handed him a pile of records, saying "Here, learn these. The dance is on Saturday night."
Their first performance was at Stones Cabaret in the beach side suburb of Coogee, and by early 1957 they were playing four dances a week and also performing on Saturdays in the interval between films at the Embassy Theatre, Manly. O'Keefe and the Dee Jays quickly attracted a strong local following, due in large measure to O'Keefe's magnetic personality and his dynamic stage performances.