Friday, December 9, 2011

Move Baby Move - Johnny O'Keefe

Johnny O'Keefe
(M. Maurer, W. Farrell) Leedon LK 378


Chart Entry: 8th June, 1963
Highest Position: #1
Points: 102,644
From the album
"The Best Of Johnny O'Keefe".


As far as chart statistics were concerned, there was nothing wrong with Johnny O'Keefe's career in 1963. With seven top ten singles to his name, three of those #1 hits, Johnny earned his place as Australia's pioneer rock and roller, but behind the scenes there was a career barely holding on.

Johnny O'Keefe juggled his successful career with mounting personal problems while at his peak. A car accident in 1960 left him with post-traumatic stress disorder, spending some time in hospital after a nervous collapse. There was no better example of the high and lows of the music industry when just a few months later "Come On And Take My Hand" hit the top of the Australian charts, Johnny's second #1. A year later "I'm Counting On You" took that tally to three, bookended by two top ten hits, "Ready For You" (#10) and "Sing!" (#6). Johnny O'Keefe definitely had a loyal fan base to support him throughout all the hardships.

To add to his workload, Johnny joined ATN-7, later known as Channel Seven to compere The Johnny O'Keefe Show. The dangerous moved was confirmed with multiple public breakdowns, including some months in a psychiatric ward. It caused the producers of the show to rename it Sing Sing Sing, fearing that Johnny's run as compere would soon be over. But he overcame that prediction and continued with the show until it was cancelled in October 1965.

A couple of minor hits at the end of 1962 saw Johnny O'Keefe stumble for the first time during his two year high. Eight straight Top 20 hits were followed by "Yes, Indeed I Do" (#38) and "I Thank You" (#24) confirming his backers greatest fears. But there was still one more hit in the wings, and soon Johnny was back on top, his fourth and final #1, "Move Baby Move" gracing the top of the Australian charts. Originally recorded by Gil Hamilton, who was also the original artist for "Tell Him" by The Exciters, "Move Baby Move" found its biggest audience in Australia with Johnny at the helm.

There was no saving Johnny O'Keefe's impending decline. He became more and more controversial, resistant to change in the music industry, and seemingly mocking his trips to the psychiatric ward, a place he called "holiday camp". But he kept a full card of engagements despite the cancellation of his TV show, and took time out to entertain the troops in the Vietnam war. There was even time for a 70's comeback where another two top ten hits were added to Johnny's impressive discography to ensure that one of Australia's greatest musical pioneers would go out with a bang instead of a whimper.


Chart Run: (21 weeks in Top 100)
(Kent Top 20)

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