Johnny O'Keefe: Rocker. Legend. Wild One.
Writing Johnny O'Keefe: Rocker. Legend. Wild One. was yet another intriguing trip back in time for me, starting with the madness of the Sydney Stadium shows in the 1950s and then diving headfirst into Johnny's sometimes turbulent 1960s and onwards into the last decade of his life. Everyone I spoke with had vivid memories of the man; JO'K put the "large" into living large. But Johnny was many other things, too: a husband, father, son, trailblazer, outspoken supporter of the local music industry, bandleader, recording artist, lover of fast cars (an obsession that nearly brought him undone), philanthropist and much more besides. He squeezed plenty of living into his 43 years.
Here's some great footage of JO'K in action, tearing it up. First is She's My Baby, then the immortal Shout.For more on JO'K, this is the perfect place to start. The book will be widely available, but if you have any trouble tracking it down you can email me through this site, or try here.If you go to the Facebook page for the site, you can hear me going head-to-head with Adam Spencer and Andrew O'Keefe (JO'K's nephew) on ABC 702. I've also spoken about the book with radio legends — and JO'K insiders — Bob Rogers (on 2CH) and John Laws on 2SM, and sat down with David Campbell (who's played JO'K in Shout) on Channel 9's Morning show. I launched the book at the Spice Cellar in Sydney and spoke about it as part of Biography Week at the NSW State Library.
In their August 10 edition, the Sydney Morning Herald's Spectrum chose the book as its Pick of the Week, as did The Age. 'A series of hits, such as the groundbreaking Shout, took JO'K to fame,' wrote Steven Carroll, 'as well as drugs, grog, gruelling schedules, nervous breakdowns and various sanatoriums. It was a relentless pace that destroyed his marriage and eventually, at the age of 43, his life. [This book is] one for rockers past and present.'
A strong review of the book apeared in the Unwind section of the Sun-Herald. 'JOK quickly recognised the primal power of rock'n'roll and the potential of television,' notes reviewer Daniel Herborn, 'and embraced both. Headstrong, he became the "crotch-grabbing, eye-rolling king of the Sydney Stadium". Jeff Apter tells his story with suitable energy.'
The National Film & Sound Archive have launched an amazing study of JOK entitled A Little Bit Louder Now. I'm proud to say my book was used for the project.