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Friday, 21 October 2016

Johnny O'Keefe - 1964 - My Heart Belongs to Only You


My Heart Belongs to Only You/Ecstasy/I Love You So Much It Hurts/Let True Love Begin






John Michael O’Keefe was born on January 19, 1935. His parents Ray and Thelma both sang and Thelma was also an accomplished pianist.  Ray was the leader of “Ray O’Keefe and The Club Royals” and in addition to operating his own furniture business was also Mayor of Waverley Council in the early 60’s

John was one of three children.  His sister Anne Rose lives in the NSW Southern Highlands these days and has a wonderful collection of J O’K memorabilia.  Their brother, Hon. Barry O’Keefe QC AM is a former head of ICAC and a former Mayor of Mosman Council.  Barry’s son Andrew (nephew of Anne and J O’K) has a flourishing television career which J O’K forecast when Andrew was 12 years of age.


Following a couple of years performing at local dances and live radio shows for free, John’s first paid engagement as a singer was for Bathurst (NSW) radio station 2BS for which he was paid 17 pounds.  2BS and its sister FM station B-Rock still broadcast successfully in 2008 and recently added the new Jet/Iggy Pop recording of “Wild One” to their FM playlist.

After hearing Bill Haley’s “Rock Around The Clock” in the film Blackboard Jungle in 1955. J O’K and sax player Dave Owen formed Australia’s first rock ‘n’ roll band in 1956, named Johnny O’Keefe and The Dee Jays.  Although there were a couple of early line up changes the mainstays of The Dee Jays were Dave Owen, Keith Williams, John Greenan, Lou Casch and of course drummer Johnny “Catfish” Purser.  I became mates with “Catfish “during my years at Festival in the early 1970’s.  Aside from still playing with The Dee Jays he was also our stationery representative and sold me a lot of pens and pencils.  It should be noted of course that Dave Owen, John Greenan, J O’K and Disc Jockey Tony Withers wrote “Wild One” and the rest is history. 

 By 1957 Johnny O’Keefe and The Dee Jays had signed with Festival Records, released their first single “Billygoat (you hit the wrong note)” and were installed as the featured support act for Lee Gordon’s “Big Show” concerts which were headlined by American greats including Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and The Everly Brothers.  The Dee Jays were often the backing band for these artists.

wild one Following the release and success of “Wild One” in 1958, J O’K toured New Zealand and in 1959 John and The Dee Jays were engaged as the resident band on the ABC’s “Six O’Clock Rock” TV show.  After six weeks John became host of the show and took all aspects of it under his wing.

During 1959/60 J O’K toured and recorded in the USA and signed with Liberty Records.  “She’s My Baby” sold over 100,000 copies in America and “It’s Too Late” attained No. 1 in New Orleans. 



 Following hit after hit in Australia JO’K finished with “Six O’Clock Rock” and in 1961 moved to Channel 7 as compere of “The Johnny O’Keefe Show” which was a major success.  In 1963 the 7 Network renamed John’s show “Sing, Sing, Sing” and the success continued.

Due mainly to a change in musical trends John’s chart success slowed to some extent in the latter half of the 60’s but following a national tour with Jack Benny, “She Wears My Ring” reached No. 2 on the charts.  In 1967 he compered a new TV show titled “Where The Action Is” on the 10 Network and charted with “The Sun’s Gonna Shine Tomorrow”, “Be Careful Of Stones That You Throw” and a re-release of “She’s My Baby”.

In the 1971 he released “(You’ve Got Me) Dangling On A String” and “Keep On Smiling” but unfortunately airplay was not forthcoming and the record did not chart.  John’s decision to record them was vindicated when in 1988 Glenn A. Baker included both titles in a Box Set he compiled for Festival and said in the liner notes that he had included “all the hits and recordings of merit”.  Of course during the 70’s John had two more smash hits with “So Tough” and “Mockingbird” so a couple of tracks that did not chart hardly fazed him.

    Johnny with Jack Benny and Lorrae Desmond
 
On St Valentine’s Day 1975 John married Maureen Maricic, John’s daughter, Vicky has enjoyed considerable success as a singer and composer and still performs regularly. John’s sons, John and Peter are very successful men - John as a lawyer in Canberra and Peter a classical pianist in Japan. 

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