Johnny O'Keefe (1935-1978), known in Australia as The Wild One, The King of Rock'n'Roll or just J.O'K., was a pioneer Australian rocker, a chart topping artist in his home country.
As Damian Johnstone recounts in The Wild One, Over The Mountain, Across The Sea marked a departure from Johnny O'Keefe's rock'n'roll repertoire. When O'Keefe first performed it the audiences were hostile, because it was a ballad, known as a 'stroll song'. O'Keefe stuck with it and, although it was never a big hit, it became a standard part of his stage show.
Reference: Damian Johnstone's biography of Johnny O'Keefe, The Wild One (2001), p.65.
Single initially released on New York label J&S, soon reissued on the larger Chess label as Over The Mountain, Across The Sea. See Brian Lee's Color Radio for extensive label shots of Over The Mountain, Across The Sea and other Johnnie & Joe singles on various labels
Johnnie was Johnnie Louise Richardson, daughter of J&S label owner Zell Saunders. Zell later formed The Jaynetts around Johnnie: they recorded the original version of Sally Go Round The Roses (1963).
Joe was singer Joe Rivers, from Charleston. He was a neighbour of the writer, Rex Garvin, who also wrote Johnnie & Joe's debut success I'll Be Spinning, B-side of their first single.
References: Song history by Arnold Rypens at The Originals. Brian
Lee's Johnnie & Joe page at Colour Radio. Johnnie & Joe
by Mick Patrick at Ace Records.
Further reading: Johnnie & Joe discography at SoulfulKindaMusic.
Thanks to Tony Watson and Terry Stacey.
On 1963 Decca album Twist And Shout.
Also on this album were 20 Miles, an Australian hit for Ray Brown & The Whispers (1965); and If You Gotta Make A Fool Of
Somebody, a minor Australian hit for The Strangers
Version alert from Terry Stacey.
Further reading: Brian Poole & The Tremeloes bio and discography at British Beat Boom.