Johnny O'Keefe

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Johnny O'Keefe

John Michael O'Keefe , short Johnny O'Keefe (born January 19, 1935 in Sydney , † October 6, 1978 in Darlinghurst , Sydney) was the best-known Australian rock 'n' roll interpreter.


O'Keefe's father, who ran a furniture store in Sydney, was a member of a jazz band. He himself learned the piano and sang in the school choir and also appeared on the radio once.

After school he worked in the family business and founded the Dee Jays with Dave Owens in 1956 . This became a six-member band that performed regularly and in 1957 also released two singles.

In the spring of 1958, Johnny O'Keefe took on the title The Wild One under his name , on which he himself had co-written. It became his first hit and reached number 20 on the Australian charts. It was the first rock'n'roll single from domestic production that succeeded. The song was also covered abroad and in the 80s Iggy Pop had his first and at the same time biggest hit under the modified title Real Wild Child (Wild One) .

O'Keefe was also successful with cover versions and with Shout , originally by the Isley Brothers , it went to the top 3 in the charts. Then the Australian tried to gain a foothold in the United States, which he did despite an extensive tour that took him almost all over the country, it did not succeed. In his home country he remained a big star and was able to conquer the top of the charts four times by 1963. He also got his own shows on Australian radio and television.

However, his health also suffered during this period. In 1960 he had a serious car accident that put him out of action for weeks. The following year he had a nervous breakdown after a second US tour and a relapse a year later, which caused him to spend two months in hospital.

He had another big hit with She Wears My Ring in 1964 , but rock and roll was already on the decline worldwide and beat music was on the rise. His success waned and in the years to come he only appeared in clubs and at events. In 1974 he had another late hit with Mockingbird , the cover of a hit from the 1960s. He then went on tour successfully with his show The Good Old Days of Rock'n'Roll . After being married for the first time between 1958 and 1966, he remarried in 1975 and three years later they opened a boutique in Sydney. That same year, Johnny O'Keefe died of a drug overdose.

In 1988, Johnny O'Keefe was one of the first artists to be inducted into the newly formed ARIA Hall of Fame .


Placements in the Australian charts as far as known

  • Wild One (1958, 20th place)
  • So Tough (1958)
  • Shout (1959, 3rd place)
  • She's My Baby (1960, 1st place )
  • Don't You Know (Pretty Baby) / Come On and Take My Hand (1960, 1st place)
  • I'm Counting on You / Right Now (1961, 1st place )
  • Sing (1962)
  • I Thank You (1962)
  • Move Baby Move / You'll Never Cherish a Love So True (1963, 1st place )
  • She Wears My Ring (1964)
  • Mockingbirds (with Margaret McLaren, 1973, 8th place)


  • Damian Johnstone: The Wild One. The Life and Times of Johnny O'Keefe . Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest 2001

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ ARIA Hall of Fame. Australian Recording Industry Association , accessed August 6, 2017 .