|Johnny O'Keefe, The Boomerang Boy|
Born John Michael O'Keefe in Sydney on January 19, 1935, into a musical family, Johnny O'Keefe's career took off in the mid to late 1950's when, together with American born entrepreneur Lee Gordon, he pioneered Rock'N'Roll in Australia. Sharing the bill with the greatest names of the rock era, O'Keefe invariably blasted the overseas acts off the stages of Stadiums right throughout the country with his frantic stage act; an act that earned him the title 'The Wild One'. His 1959 recording 'Shout' became the Australian Rock 'N'Roll' National Anthem.
Johnny O'Keefe almost single handedly established the Australian recording industry. He won over a very cynical recording company, radio stations and the Australian record buying public and his second to none career 29 Top 40 hits says it all. But for Johnny O'Keefe, it is fair to say that we would not have the record industry in Australia that exists today. He fought long and hard till the day he died to promote Australian talent and to ensure that Australian artists were afforded the opportunity to record.
His battle to ensure that radio stations gave Australian artists equal time to their overseas contemporaries is legendary. He gave Australians the opportunity to gain invaluable experience on Australian television before heading overseas. Olivia Newton John, Helen Reddy and Peter Allen are prime examples of artists who benefited from his support. They in turn paved the way for today's artists to be accepted on their merits. All this at a time when we Australians were very slow to recognise the wonderful talent that we had in our own back yard.
Johnny O'Keefe had a fierce determination to succeed and to help others succeed. He had a work ethic that would have destroyed most. He had an amazing capacity to bounce back from the many adversities that beset his career, such as a near fatal car accident, and a series of breakdowns. It was as if he was living the old adage - 'the show must go on'.
His achievements in a 25 year career are staggering. He was the first Australian artist to ever make the Australian Top 40 charts, with "Wild One". He was the first Australian artist to be signed by and record for a major international label - the US Liberty based label. Out of that association came US sales in excess of 100, 000 copies of 'She's My Baby' and two No. I hits and a No. 2 hit in this country. In all, he released over 50 singles, 50 EP's and 100 albums. He wrote and produced hits for other Australian artists; managed the careers of a number of others; compered 4 highly successful television entertainment programs; performed to millions in all corners of this huge continent; toured America, performing in 36 major cities and appearing on the top rating 'American Bandstand' and 'Ed Sullivan Shows' - all firsts for an Australian entertainer; entertained troops in Vietnam; proved to be the major attraction at the three day Sunbury Outdoor Music Festival in 1973; and played a key role in the introduction of the national 'Mo' entertainment awards.
Australians were stunned at the news of his death on October 6, 1978, but he has left a wonderful legacy in the form of such classic songs as "Shout', "She's My Baby", "I'm Counting On You" and "She Wears My Ring". Johnny O'Keefe was a Superstar and truly an Australian Entertainment Legend.
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