JOK jok
home about timeline gallery scrap book hits videos merchadise

Keep The Candle Burning

Words by Vicky O’Keefe & Adele Torr
Music by Peter O’Keefe © 1990

So sad how
So sad it seems to end
Regrets are few
You always gave us everything
That you had
You held us in your hands
But only when you’re gone
We see all that you’ve done
More than anyone before

And he said;
Light a candle once for me
And hold me in your memory
Just remember when I’m gone

Keep the Candle Burning when I’m gone
Your need to carry on
Follow your feelings and be strong
Keep the Candle Burning
Keep the wheels turning
Keep the Candle Burning when I’m gone
The tide can seem so strong
Come tomorrow it will all be gone
Time keeps on turning
Bridges keep on burning, burning on

As years go by
It seems like yesterday
You held us in your hands
You never wanted more from life
Than the love you got
From giving all you gave
But everything stood still
The day you lost your will
And there was sadness in the air
I guess you will never know
That we won’t just let you go
You’re a part of our souls
And he said:

Keep the Candle Burning when I’m gone
(It won’t stop burning)
You need to carry on
(I’ll carry on)
Follow your feelings and be strong
Keep the Candle Burning
Keep the wheels turning
Keep the Candle Burning when I’m gone
(It won’t stop burning)
The tide can seem so strong
(It seems so strong)
Come tomorrow it will all be gone
Time keeps on turning
Bridges keep on burning
Burning on.


About JO'K

The owners of this official Website are the O’Keefe Family on behalf of the Johnny O’Keefe Trust of which I am the Official Representative.  Therefore these notes are intended to provide a brief synopsis of John’s path along the way to success but with an emphasis on his love for his family and people who were there from the early days such as  Lee Gordon and “Catfish” and The Dee Jays.

Elsewhere in this inaugural official J O’K Website you will find pertinent details of John’s career highlights, important dates, record releases etc. etc.

John Michael O’Keefe was born on January 19, 1935. His parents Ray and Thelma both sang and Thelma was also an accomplished pianist.  Ray was the leader of “Ray O’Keefe and The Club Royals” and in addition to operating his own furniture business was also Mayor of Waverley Council in the early 60’s

John was one of three children.  His sister Anne Rose lives in the NSW Southern Highlands these days and has a wonderful collection of J O’K memorabilia.  Their brother, Hon. Barry O’Keefe QC AM is a former head of ICAC and a former Mayor of Mosman Council.  Barry’s son Andrew (nephew of Anne and J O’K) has a flourishing television career which J O’K forecast when Andrew was 12 years of age.

Following a couple of years performing at local dances and live radio shows for free, John’s first paid engagement as a singer was for Bathurst (NSW) radio station 2BS for which he was paid 17 pounds.  2BS and its sister FM station B-Rock still broadcast successfully in 2008 and recently added the new Jet/Iggy Pop recording of “Wild One” to their FM playlist. 

After hearing Bill Haley’s “Rock Around The Clock” in the film Blackboard Jungle in 1955. J O’K and sax player Dave Owen formed Australia’s first rock ‘n’ roll band in 1956, named Johnny O’Keefe and The Dee Jays.  Although there were a couple of early line up changes the mainstays of The Dee Jays were Dave Owen, Keith Williams, John Greenan, Lou Casch and of course drummer Johnny “Catfish” Purser.  I became mates with “Catfish “during my years at Festival in the early 1970’s.  Aside from still playing with The Dee Jays he was also our stationery representative and sold me a lot of pens and pencils.  It should be noted of course that Dave Owen, John Greenan, J O’K and Disc Jockey Tony Withers wrote “Wild One” and the rest is history.

By 1957 Johnny O’Keefe and The Dee Jays had signed with Festival Records, released their first single “Billygoat (you hit the wrong note)” and were installed as the featured support act for Lee Gordon’s “Big Show” concerts which were headlined by American greats including Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and The Everly Brothers.  The Dee Jays were often the backing band for these artists.

wild oneFollowing the release and success of “Wild One” in 1958, J O’K toured New Zealand and in 1959 John and The Dee Jays were engaged as the resident band on the ABC’s “Six O’Clock Rock” TV show.  After six weeks John became host of the show and took all aspects of it under his wing.

During 1959/60 J O’K toured and recorded in the USA and signed with Liberty Records.  “She’s My Baby” sold over 100,000 copies in America and “It’s Too Late” attained No. 1 in New Orleans.

Following hit after hit in Australia JO’K finished with “Six O’Clock Rock” and in 1961 moved to Channel 7 as compere of “The Johnny O’Keefe Show” which was a major success.  In 1963 the 7 Network renamed John’s show “Sing, Sing, Sing” and the success continued.

Due mainly to a change in musical trends John’s chart success slowed to some extent in the latter half of the 60’s but following a national tour with Jack Benny, “She Wears My Ring” reached No. 2 on the charts.  In 1967 he compered a new TV show titled “Where The Action Is” on the 10 Network and charted with “The Sun’s Gonna Shine Tomorrow”, “Be Careful Of Stones That You Throw” and a re-release of “She’s My Baby”.

It was in the late 60’s I met John for the first time.  ABC radio announcer, Barry Freedman hosted a program called “Sunday Club” which included a “Jukebox Jury” segment.  The morning I was invited to be on the three member panel my fellow panelists were Little Pattie and Johnny O’Keefe.  John and myself lunched together that day and when I moved from RCA to Festival in 1970 we became work colleagues and in a short time firm friends.

In the 1970’s I had the privilege of presenting John with two songs that I thought had hit potential for him.  The titles were “(You’ve Got Me) Dangling On A String” and “Keep On Smiling”.  J O’K recorded them and released a single but unfortunately the airplay we hoped for was not forthcoming and the record did not chart.  John’s decision to record them was vindicated when in 1988 Glenn A. Baker included both titles in a Box Set he compiled for Festival and said in the liner notes that he had included “all the hits and recordings of merit”.  Of course during the 70’s John had two more smash hits with “So Tough” and “Mockingbird” so a couple of tracks that did not chart hardly fazed him.

On St Valentine’s Day 1975 John married Maureen Maricic who has also become a dear and close friend of myself and my wife Susanne.  In addition to Barry and Anne’s collections, Maureen also has a substantial collection of J O’K memorabilia, mainly from the 70’s.  She keeps in regular contact with a number of John’s fans and also with his former managers Lynsay Pritchard, Ross Mitchell and John Hansen.

John’s daughter, Vicky has enjoyed considerable success as a singer and composer and still performs regularly.  In the mid 90’s Vicky and myself did television interviews together and I also was her music publisher.  More importantly I believe we became pretty good mates.

John’s sons, John and Peter are very successful men - John as a lawyer in Canberra and Peter a classical pianist in Japan.  Maureen keeps us up to date on their success and achievements.

To coincide with the 50th Anniversary of the 1958 release of “Wild One”, Warner Music Australia are releasing two CD’s of re-mastered and enhanced J O’K material.  The release date is August 23, 2008.  In addition Warners have commissioned a documentary on J O’K’s career and this will be available on DVD in the near future..

Sadly October 6, 2008 marks the 30th Anniversary of John’s passing but as a celebration of his music and life the above mentioned new product will ensure the legend lives on.

Bruce Powell, August 2008.

* Please note that the new J O’K CD’s and DVD are listed in detail in our Time Line and Discography pages. 

Click here to read:
> The panegyric given by Brother Marzorini at John O’Keefe’s funeral
> More about JOK on wikipedia