Yellow suit worn by Johnny O’Keefe

Made by Len Taylor in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1957-1959.

Johnny O’Keefe was Australia’s first rock ‘n’ roll star. Full of energy, confidence and ambition, he was a dynamic live performer with a raw voice and an exuberant stage presence that earned him the nickname ‘the wild one’. He hosted his own television shows and did much to encourage and promote other Australian rock performers, but his greatest legacy was as a performer and recording artist.

In the mid 1950s O’Keefe sang at dances, doing impersonations of American ‘sob’ singer Johnnie Ray. Aft...

Summary

98/32/1
Men's suit consisting of jacket and trousers, worn by Johnny O'Keefe.

-1 Jacket made of yellow [cotton] fabric with black velvet trimming at collar, cuffs and pockets. The jacket has a shawl collar with the neck area trimmed with black velvet decorated with a string of diamantes around the neck. The lapels are of the same yellow fabric and extend to the single button fastening at the waist. The button is made of brownish-black plastic. The jacket is long sleeved and the cuffs are trimmed with black velvet decorated with a string of diamantes around the front half of both cuffs, some diamantes are missing from both cuffs. The jacket has a fake external left breast pocket trimmed with black velvet and diamantes, one diamante appears to be missing from the end of the string. The jacket also has two fake external waist pockets on the left and right sides which are trimmed with black velvet. The jacket is lined with salmon pink silk and has no internal pockets, the shoulders have some padding. A maker's label is sewn inside the jacket at the left breast, the label is cream coloured with black embroidered text "Len Taylor/Sydney/American Clothes Stylist". The label is partly detached from the jacket. The jacket has black marks exteding horizontally from just above the right waist pocket and discolouration in the lining at the centre back neck area and in various places on the external yellow fabric. There are several moth holes in the lining and in the external fabric particularly just below the right waist pocket.

-2 Trousers made of yellow [cotton] fabric, matching trousers to jacket (98/32/1-1). Trousers have 2 side pockets and are pleated at the front of waist. Trousers fasten at centre front with a metal zipper, metal hook and eye and internal button which fastens to button hole on a triangular extension of yellow fabric (this internal button is missing). There are seven belt loops around waist for a thin belt. Trousers are unlined except for the inside waist which is lined with a band of ribbed cream silk, covering a rougher piece of hessian coloured fabric, the zipper is also lined with cream silk. The waistband lining is partially detached from the trousers. The legs of the trousers are hemmed with black velvet giving the appearence of a cuff at the hem of each leg. The cream cotton fabric forming the inside of the left pocket has a handwritten inscription in black ink "J.R O'Keef" [sic] and the fabric forming the inside right pocket has a handwritten inscription in black ink "FHC".

Production

Probably designed by the maker Len Taylor to Johnny O'Keefe's specifications.

Contains label 'Len Taylor, Sydney, American clothes stylist'.

O'Keefe stopped wearing brightly coloured suits around 1960, as his television career took off.
Len Taylor 1957-1959

History

Johnny O'Keefe was Australia's first rock'n'roll star. John Michael O'Keefe was born in Sydney in 1935. In the mid-1950s Keefe began appearing at dances imitating American singer Johnnie Ray. In 1956, inspired by the film 'Blackboard jungle' he formed a band, the Dee Jays. Keefe got breaks performing supports for overseas touring artists like Bill Haley, Little Richard and Gene Vincent. In 1958 he released 'Wild one' and became the first Australian rock performer to have a chart hit. Early in his career O'Keefe had a taste for flash clothes and overtly sexual stage antics. International tours were not as successful as he might have hoped, and in the 1960s he went into television as the host of '6 O'Clock Rock', 'The Johnny O'Keefe Show' and 'Sing Sing Sing'. O'Keefe's career waned after 1964, although he enjoyed a revival in 1973. He died in 1978 aged 43.

This is one of two costumes that Johnny O'Keefe donated to the Sydney Opera House's Dennis Wolanski Library and Archives of the Performing Arts. His donation was instigated by Barbara Firth, a family friend of the O'Keefes and member of the Ladies Committee of the Sydney Opera House Appeal Fund. She brought the two costumes to the Opera House on 14 November 1975. They were transferred to the Powerhouse Museum from the Sydney Opera House's in 1998.
O'Keefe, Johnny
O'Keefe, Johnny 1957-1959

Source

Gift of Sydney Opera House Trust, 1998
11 March, 1998

Cite this Object

Yellow suit worn by Johnny O'Keefe 2017, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 19 November 2017, <https://ma.as/163408>
{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/163408 |title=Yellow suit worn by Johnny O'Keefe |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=19 November 2017 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}
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