In much the same way as Keith Richards is seen as the embodiment of rock and roll worldwide, Jim Keays was Australia’s standard bearer for what was then a fledgling music industry.
Jim passed away on June 13, 2014 from pneumonia due to complications from Multiple Myeloma, a condition he suffered from for 7 years. He had been on life support for several days before losing his battle today.
Keays is, of course, best known for his role as frontman for the legendary Australian band The Masters Apprentices who had a string of Top 20 hits including ‘Living In A Child’s Dream’, ‘Elevator Driver’, ‘Undecided’, ‘5:10 Man’ and the classics ‘Turn Up Your Radio’ and ‘Because I Love You’. The band released a series of albums that are now highly collectable, including Choice Cuts, Masterpiece and the extremely rare Nickleodian and Toast To Panama Red.
The band were regarded by the conservative Australian society at the time as ‘bad boys’ and stories of the band’s escapades were met with expressions of horror and disbelief. Jim, as he was prone to do, loved the whole rock image and played up to the fact as much as he could. In an interview with the magazine Go-Set in 1968, Jim once said “many girls are potential band molls […] About 20 girls a day come to our house. On Sunday, it averages 50. I’ll give you a typical example of what happens. Last week a girl walked in and said, ‘Right, boys who’s going to make love to me first?’ She used a rather more obscene expression than ‘make love’ […] And only recently we were in a Victorian country town when five girls aged between 15 and 18 somehow got into our hotel room. They didn’t say a word. They took their clothes off and said: ‘Will you judge and see which one of us has got the best breasts?” — Jim Keays, July 1968, Go-Set interviews by Lily Brett.
In 1998, The Masters Apprentices were inducted into the ARIA Hall Of Fame and, in 1999, Keays wrote and published His Master’s Voice: The Masters Apprentices: The bad boys of sixties rock ‘n’ roll.
Following the break-up of The Masters Apprentices, Keays embarked on a solo career, releasing the concept album The Boy From The Stars, an ambitious project that showed off his talent and diversity. He followed up with the albums Red On The Meter, Pressure Makes Diamonds and Resonator in 2006.
More recently, he has toured with Russell Morris and the late Daryl Cotton in Cotton, Keays and Morris and, in 2012, Keays released his highly acclaimed solo album Dirty Dirty, a raw record full of vitality and panache.
Sadly, Keays was working on his second book and a new album to be titled Caledonia at the time he died.
Today, Keays’ former band mate in the Masters and well known artist manager Glenn Wheatley said “I had the pleasure of sharing some of the best years of my life with Jim Keays. I will always remember him as a consummate showman. Jim had an aura about him, you always knew he was in the room. Always the Master, never the Apprentice. His presence will remain with me always. Do what you wanna do, be what you wanna be Jim. Vale my friend, you will be greatly missed”.
Jim Keays, in short, is one the iconic figures of Australian rock. His passions for songwriting, performing and just being a star were without peer, and his legacy will live on in his words and music for years to come.
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