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James "Jim" Keays (born 9 September 1946, Glasgow, Scotlandmarker) is an Australian musician who fronted rock band The Masters Apprentices as singer-songwriter, guitarist and harmonica-player during 1965–1972, and subsequently had a solo career including leading Jim Keays' Southern Cross. The Masters Apprentices had Top 20 hits on the Go-Set National Singles Charts with "Undecided", "Living in a Child's Dream", "5:10 Man", "Think about Tomorrow Today", "Turn Up Your Radio" and "Because I Love You". He also wrote for the teen newspaper, Go-Set, as its Adelaide correspondent in 1970 and its London correspondent in 1973. The band reformed periodically, including in 1987–1988 and again subsequently. Keays, as a member of The Masters Apprentices, was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 1998. He published his memoirs, His Master's Voice: The Masters Apprentices: The bad boys of sixties rock 'n' roll in 1999.

From 2000, he has performed in Cotton Keays & Morris alongside other former 1960s artists, Darryl Cotton and Russell Morris. In July 2007, Keays was diagnosed with myeloma, which caused his kidneys to fail. As of February 2009, the bone cancer is in remission after chemotherapy and stem-cell transplants.

Early years

Keays was born on 9 September 1946, in Glasgowmarker, Scotlandmarker, where his unwed mother put him up for adoption at six months old. He was adopted by James Keays (Sr.) and Jessie Cameron (née Caldwell) Keays, a childless couple from Clydebankmarker, they migrated to Australia on RMS Asturias leaving Southamptonmarker on 5 September 1951, four days before he turned five. They settled in Beaumontmarker, a suburb of Adelaidemarker. He attended Burnsidemarker Primary School and then Norwood High School. Keays played "Aussie Rules" football up to under-17s and golf—a passion shared with his father. His interest in rock music began when he heard, "Rip It Up" by Little Richard and "Great Balls of Fire" by Jerry Lee Lewis on a school friend's turntable when he was 11.

The Mustangs

The Mustangs were a surf music instrumental/dance band formed in Adelaide in 1964 with Mick Bower on rhythm guitar, Rick Morrison on lead guitar, Brian Vaughton on drums and Gavin Webb on bass guitar. After The Beatles toured Australia, The Mustangs changed style and advertised for a lead singer, Keays was the successful applicant. After he joined, the band played one set of instrumental covers of The Shadows and The Ventures followed by a second set of originals in the beat style with Keays on vocals.

The Masters Apprentices

In late 1965, The Mustangs renamed themselves as The Masters Apprentices (deliberately omitting the apostrophe), Bower supplied the name because "we are apprentices to the masters of the bluesChuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Jimmy Reed, Elmore James and Robert Johnson". Early original songs were largely written (or co-written) by Bower including Top 20 hit singles, "Undecided" and "Living in a Child's Dream".

Whilst a member of The Masters Apprentices, Keays was one of hundreds of potential conscripts whose 20th birthday, 9 September, was picked in a 1966 ballot. He was able to legally avoid the draft by signing with the Citizens Military Force (CMF, later renamed the Army Reserve) and eluded a "short back and sides" haircut with the aid of a girlfriend, who pinned his long hair up under his slouch hat whenever he attended CMF sessions. By February 1967 the band had relocated to Melbournemarker. In late 1967 he began to experiment with the drug LSD. After Bower left the band in September 1967 because of a severe nervous breakdown, Keays became the de facto leader, while various line-up changes followed.

In January 1968, Colin Burgess (ex-The Haze) joined on drums, followed by Doug Ford (ex-The Missing Links, Running Jumping Standing Still) on lead guitar. Ford and Keays began working as a songwriting team, beginning with "Brigette", released as a single in June, which peaked into the Top 40. Glenn Wheatley (from Brisbane's blues group Bay City Union) had joined on rhythm guitar in May and later took over bass guitar.

The Masters Apprentices became the 'bad-boys of Rock', Keays was interviewed for teen newspaper, Go-Set, by staff reporter, Lily Brett and the 'expose' was printed on 17 July 1968, headlined "Sex is thrust upon us", the article and its follow-up, "Whose breasts are best?", revealed aspects of the bacchanalian groupie scene:

The 'bad-boy' publicity also frustrated manager, Darryl Sambell's plans to market them as a wholesome teen combo. Keays stated that there was a backlash from the interview: the roadway outside his flat in East St Kildamarker was daubed with the slogan "Band Moll's Paradise" in one-metre (three-foot) high letters, threats of physical beatings by male audience members and press claims that they were "sex maniacs".

In April 1970, EMI released the group's most popular single, "Turn Up Your Radio", produced by Howard Gable, and engineered by Ern Rose. It was recorded at a late-night session and Keays later recounted that he was so drunk when he recorded his vocals that he had to be held up to the microphone. The song was deliberately designed to be loud and offensive, and was intended as the final nail in the coffin to their ill-conceived teenybopper image. It was released just before the start of the 1970 radio ban—a major dispute between commercial radio stations and record companies—which resulted in the banning of many major-label releases. Despite little commercial radio airplay, the song raced up the charts and peaked at #7 nationally.

Ford and Keays wrote four of the band's Top 20 hits with "5:10 Man" (#16 on the Go-Set National Top 40 Charts, 1969), "Think About Tomorrow Today" (#12, 1969), "Turn Up Your Radio" (#7, 1970) and "Because I Love You" (#12, 1971). From July 1970, the band had tried to break into the United Kingdom market but disbanded in 1972 without achieving any UK charting.

Solo and with Southern Cross

After leaving The Masters Apprentices in early 1972, Keays returned to Australia and completed promotional duties for their just released single, "Love Is", which did not chart. He established the Rock On Agency and compèred the Mulwalamarker Festival in April 1972.

In March 1973, he played the role of 'The Lover' in the Australian version of The Who's rock opera, Tommy. In January 1974 Keays compèred the fourth annual Sunbury Pop Festival, then he compiled tracks from The Masters Apprentice's latter career and designed the cover for the collection, entitled Now That's It's Over, with liner notes written by the late Howard Lindley. EMI released "Rio de Camero" / "Thyme to Rhyme" as a single in August 1974, the A-side garnered reasonable airplay but did not chart.

In late 1974 Keays recorded his debut solo album, Boy from the Stars, which was an ambitious concept LP with the Science Fiction theme of an alien arriving on Earth to warn of the misuse of power sources. Session musicians included: David Allardice on piano, James Black on guitar, Geoff Bridgeford on drums, Joe Creighton on bass guitar, Mick Elliot on guitar, Dennis Garcia on keyboard, Billy Green on guitar, Marcia Hines on backing vocals and Lobby Loyde on guitar. His first single, "Kid's Blues", was released in December. Some tracks from Boy from the Stars were performed at the final Sunbury Pop Festival in January 1975, where his all-star backing group, Jim Keays Band, was joined by Wheatley, recently returned from the UK, in their last performance together for over ten years. Ironically, after ripoffs endured as The Masters Apprentices, Keays and his band were the only group at Sunbury who were paid—Keays had wisely arranged an outside sponsor—low attendance and the huge $60,000 fee paid to headliner Deep Purple meant that none of the other Australian acts were paid, and the festival organisers went into liquidation soon after. The second single, "The Boy from the Stars", was released in February. He followed with, "Give It Up", an anti-drug song, and toured with Allardice, Bridgeford, Creighton, Elliot and Garcia in his backing band.

He formed Jim Keays' Southern Cross with Rick Brewer (ex-Zoot) on drums, Rex Bullen (Bakery) on keyboards, George Cross (Clydehouse) on bass guitar and Elliot. They reworked, "Undecided" which was issued as a single for CBS Records in December 1975, by then the line-up had changed to Peter Laffy ( Fox) on guitar, Ron Robinson on bass guitar and John Swan (Fraternity) on drums. During 1977, he teamed up with Phil Manning (ex-Bay City Union, Chain) on guitar to form Manning/Keays Band. By 1978 he formed another version of Jim Keays Band with Black, Robinson, and David Rowe on drums. Black was replaced by John Moon (Buster Brown) on guitar and Geoff Spooner on guitar. Renamed as The Keays in 1979, his band was Moon, and Peter Marshall on bass guitar, Nigel Rough on drums (Loose Trousers) and Bruce Stewart on guitar (Loose Trousers). This line-up released the single, "Lucifer Street" in 1980, Stewart became seriously ill and the album, Red on the Meter was delayed until 1983.

Keays was working as a radio DJ from 1983 to 1987, then he signed with Virgin Records in UK and recorded another version of "Undecided" with Andy Scott (Sweet) on guitar and produced by Craig Leon. The single was released in July, followed by a cover of Count Five's "Psychotic Reaction" in October. Keays participated in various reunions of The Masters Apprentices from later 1987. He released his next solo album, Pressure Makes Diamonds, in 1993 on Gemstone Records. In 1998, Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) inducted The Masters Apprentices into the Hall of Fame. Keays wrote his memoirs, His Master's Voice: The Masters Apprentices: The bad boys of sixties rock 'n' roll, in 1999. Wheatley also published his memoirs, Paper Paradise, later that year.

From 2000 he has toured periodically as a member of Cotton Keays & Morris with 1960s artists Darryl Cotton from Adelaide's Zoot and Russell Morris from Melbourne's Somebody's Image. ABC-TV series, Long Way to the Top, was broadcast in August 2001. Keays featured on "Episode 2: Ten Pound Rocker 1963–1968" where he discussed the UK migrant influence on their early work and "Undecided"; NOTE: The website quotes Jim Keyes [''[[sic]]''] from The Masters Apprentices. and in "Episode 3:Billy Killed the Fish 1968–1973" where he described pioneering [[Pub rock (Australia)|pub rock]] and the band's groupies.{{cite web|url=|title=Episode 3: Billy Killed the Fish 1968–1973|publisher=Australian Broadcasting Corporation|accessdate=13 September 2009}} NOTE: The website quotes Jim Keyes [''sic'']. The TV series inspired the Long Way to the Top national concert tour during August–September 2002, which featured a host of the best Australian acts of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. The classic line-up of Burgess, Ford, Keays and Wheatley. Performances of "Because I Love You" and "Turn Up Your Radio" at the final Sydney concert, as well as an interview with promoter, Amanda Pelman, feature on the associated DVD, Long Way to the Top: Live in Concert released in 2002. Keays also continued with Cotton Keays & Morris tours and reunions of The Masters Apprentices. Keays next solo album, Resonator, was released in 2006 on the Liberation Blue label.

As from February 2009, Keays was in remission for myeloma, a type of bone cancer, diagnosed in July 2007. Myeloma had caused his kidneys to fail while in UK on holiday, he was put on dialysis and chemotherapy, then he had stem-cell transplants and returned to performing with Cotton Keays & Morris. He is also writing his second book and recording his next solo album, Caledonia.

Private life

Early in 1970, Keays married his pregnant girlfriend Vicki in Plympton, South Australiamarker, and they have a son, James. In 1981, the couple separated; Keays is grandfather to James' son, Will. Keays' adoptive parents, James and Jessie Keays both died in 1975, his biological mother re-established contact with him in 1984. Keays and his second wife, Karin, are parents of two daughters Holly and Bonnie, and a son, William Grant Keays, who died at six hours old on 1 November 2003.

In July 2007, while in UK on holiday, Keays was hospitalised with kidney failure and placed on dialysis. He was diagnosed with myeloma and undertook chemotherapy; as from August 2008 he was "recovering after receiving a stem-cell transplant".


  • NOTE: limited preview for on-line version.


The Masters Apprentices
Main article: The Masters Apprentices discography

Jim Keays, Jim Keays Band, Jim Keays' Southern Cross, Keays


  • The Boy from the Stars EMI (1974)
  • Red on the Meter Rumur/CBS (1983)
  • Pressure Makes Diamonds Gemstone (1993)
  • Resonator Liberation Blue (2006)

Extended plays


  • "Kid's Blues" (1974)
  • "The Boy from the Stars" (1975)
  • "Give It Up" (1975)
  • "Undecided" (1975)
  • "Queen of Rock 'n' Roll (1976)
  • "Lucifer Street" (1980)
  • "Undecided" (1987)
  • "Psychotic Reaction" (1987)

Cotton Keays & Morris
Main article: Cotton Keays & Morris discography



  • NOTE: limited preview for on-line version.


  1. Mc Farlane, 1999, 'The Master's Apprentices' entry.
  2. Mc Farlane, 1999, 'Jim Keays' entry.
  3. Kimball, 2002.
  4. NOTE: Go-Set published its national charts from October 1966 until August 1974, which were compiled by Ed Nimmervoll.
  5. NOTE: PDF is 281 pages.
  6. Keays, 1999 at Google Books
  7. Keays, p. 1–10.
  8. Keays, p. 56
  9. Keays, p. 41, 45, 50, 52, 54, 55.
  10. Keays p. 82–83, 91
  11. Keays, p. 140.
  12. Keays, p. 106–107.
  13. Keays, p. 151–153, 157, 219, 222.
  14. NOTE: only overview for on-line version.
  15. Keays, p. 154–155, 189.
  16. Keays, p. 215.

External links

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