Thursday, November 6, 2008

Johnny O'Keefe, The King of Australian Rock n Roll

I was watching a Documentary about a great Australian singer from the 1950’s - 1970’s, his name was Johnny O’Keefe; he was know by either J OK or "The Wild One.

He was and will always be The King of Australian Rock n Roll, before most people thought Elvis Presley was the king of rock.

Born in 1935 Johnny O'Keefe, he was a major figure in establishing rock'n'roll and pop music in Australia.

He was the first Australian rocker to win a recording contract, and was the first Australian artist to ever make the Australian Top 40 charts, with 'Wild One'.

He was the first Australian rock artist to be signed by, and record for, a major international label - the US Liberty label.

Out of that association came three Australian Number One hits, and a Number Four hit.
His 1959 recording 'Shout' became the Australian Rock 'n' roll' National Anthem.

His biggest hit 'I'm Counting On You' spent a staggering ten weeks on top of the Sydney Top 40 Charts in 1961.

His last hit 'Mockingbird' topped the Australian charts in 1974, despite initially being rejected by radio stations preferring an inferior US version.

He pioneered teenage music shows on radio and television.

He was the first Australian rock'n'roll artist to have his own national radio program ('Rockville Junction' on ABC Radio) and, was the first Australian rocker to have his own weekly national television program, 'Six O'Clock Rock' on the ABC.

In fact, he ultimately compared four television programs.

Johnny gave many Australian artists including Diana Trask, Olivia Newton John, Helen Reddy and Peter Allen the opportunity to gain invaluable experience on television before heading overseas. Many Australian performers owe their start on television to O'Keefe. They in turn paved the way for today's Australian artists to be accepted overseas.
Despite not achieving international fame himself, Johnny still toured America in 1960, performing in 36 major cities and appearing on top rating television shows - all firsts for an Australian entertainer.

Johnny O'Keefe's life was not only a series of great highs, but also of many lows.
A near fatal car crash in 1960 not only affected him physically, but it also had a huge psychological impact.

He suffered a series of highly publicised nervous breakdowns through the early 1960s and these saw him undergo electric shock treatment and lengthy periods in institutions, including Ryde Psychiatric Centre.

Despite being written off by critics, fans and many in the industry, Johnny demonstrated an amazing capacity to bounce back at different times through the 1960s and 1970s.

He sadly passed away 6 October 1978
Johnny O'Keefe was the younger brother of Australian jurist Barry O'Keefe (a former head of the New South Wales ICAC) and the uncle of comedian and TV presenter Andrew O'Keefe To read more about him you can go to this website Johnny O'Keefe