Johnny O’Keefe

By • Feb 14th, 2007 • Category: Commercial, Music, Through The Past Darkly

Artist: Johnny O’Keefe
Track Name: Sing,sing,sing
Playback: mp3/flash
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Looking more like a jockey or a boxer than a pop star, Johnny O’Keefe was Australia’s first rock idol, an important part of the worldwide phenomenon sweeping the world in the mid 1950’s, rock’n’roll.

Despite lacking the classic good looks of Elvis or Cliff Richard, O’Keefe was a dynamite live performer, always seemingly on the edge, a ball of menacing nervous energy — attributes guaranteed to raise the hackles of parents and the law, as a conservative Western world attempted to protect their youth from this obscene and menacing culture.

O’Keefe supported many of the big overseas performers of the time, including Bill Haley and the Comets, Buddy Holly and Gene Vincent, but in reality he was as big a draw card in his own right – and a much more dynamic performer than most of the imports.

In many ways his life mirrored that of the King, Elvis Presley. He suffered several breakdowns, developed a dependency on prescription drugs and in 1960 was involved in a near fatal car accident.

Although his career never again reached the heights of the fifties and early sixties he continued to make comebacks between bouts of ill health including a blistering performance at the legendary Sunbury Music Festival in 1973.

Johnny and Elvis were born 11 days apart on opposite sides of the world and died less than 2 months apart at the age of 43, both from heart attacks.

O’Keefe was Australia’s first rock star, he was awarded the first recording contract offered to a rock performer, first to be signed internationally, fronted the countries first rock programmes on both radio and television and scored a staggering 35 top forty hits, an achievement that has never been bettered.

In all he compared four television shows, the groundbreaking “Six O’clock Rock”, “The Johnny O’Keefe Show”, “Sing, Sing, Sing” and the short lived “Where The Action Is”.

The clip here is the signature tune from his national television show Sing, Sing, Sing which ran from 1963 to 1968.

The conservative nature of television during the era means we see none of the energy that was the driving force behind O’Keefe’s live performances and popularity, but never the less this clip is an important part of television and rock music history.

In Biblical terms, this is like watching Adam!

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