Sunbury Pop Festival '73 – Johnny O'Keefe

Sunbury Pop Festival '73 – Johnny O'Keefe
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Sunbury’s 1973 iteration has been hailed by several pundits as the most successful of the Sunbury festivals.

With no accompanying festival concert film, unlike the prior year’s Sunbury, it is not as well remembered. Fortunately Peter Faiman (later director of Crocodile Dundee) produced a one-hour television special for GTV-9 Melbourne in 1973 that survives, part of which is seen here.

The 1973 festival featured another all-Australian line-up, with many of the bands' sets highly regarded. This included Country Radio, Carson, Mississippi (who later morphed into the Little River Band) and Ross Ryan. Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs played again and were once again very well received by the audience.

However on this occasion, they ended up being upstaged by arguably Australia’s first rock'n'roll star – Johnny O’Keefe.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, JOK. (as he was affectionately known) was the biggest rock star in Australia, having several big hits including ‘Shout’, ‘Wild One’ and ‘Move Baby Move’.

However, by the late 1960s and early 1970s, his popularity was in decline. On paper, it seemed like a bold move to book JOK for Sunbury ’73 as he did seem to be the odd one out next to the line-up of country rock and pub rock bands.

In fact, at the start of his set, he was booed by sections of the audience – however by the end, the crowd is ecstatic.

During the set, his voice is in fine form and his cheekiness with the audience shines through. In this clip from the Sunbury ’73 television special he is humorously introduced by MC Paul Hogan as a new kid called Jimmy O’Keefe who 'ran third in a talent quest in Dandenong the other week'.

JOK goes on to sing two of his biggest hits, ‘She’s My Baby’ and ‘Sing’, keeping the crowd in the palm of his hand. Johnny O’Keefe passed away a few years later in 1978 aged just 43, but this performance remains one of his most memorable.