Pop Archives

Johnny O’Keefe & The Dee Jays - The Wild One (1958)

(Tony Withers - Dave Owens - John Greenan - Johnny O'Keefe)
Australia Australia
Original version
#20 Sydney

EP on Festival label, Shakin’ At The Stadium. This version, with overdubbed applause, differs from the version released in the USA and UK (see below).

The original writers of The Wild One were Dave Owens and John Greenan, Deejays saxophonists who drafted the song over drinks after a particularly wild concert. Johnny O’Keefe later contributed to the development of the song, and Sydney disc jockey Tony Withers was credited to help get radio airplay for the song.

Writer credits on future versions often omit Withers, who later worked in Britain on pirate stations Radio Atlanta and, as Tony Windsor, Radio London. See the Pirate Radio Hall of Fame’s Spotlight on Tony Windsor.

The song has often been renamed Real Wild Child or Real Wild Child (Wild One). Johnny O’Keefe’s 1958 USA & UK singles used Real Wild Child (see below).

Johnny O’Keefe (1935-1978) was known in Australia as The Wild One, The King of Rock’n’Roll or just J.O’K. He was a pioneer Australian rocker, a chart topping artist in his home country. A TV mini-series about his life was made in 1985, Shout! The Story of Johnny O’Keefe.

References: 1. Damian Johnstone’s definitive biography The Wild One (2001), pp.54ff.  2. Discussion from 2004 at rec.music.rock-pop-r+b.1950s. The post by Roger Ford includes a chronology of the song, with comments by Frank Calabrese.

Further reading/listening: Probe is Turning-on the People! has audio of four Wild One versions including JO’K’s Brunswick release.

Johnny O’Keefe & The Dee Jays - Real Wild Child (1958)

(Dave Owens - John Greenan - Johnny O'Keefe)
Later version

Single on Brunswick (USA), B-side on Coral (UK). The song is The Wild One with a different title (taken from the lyrics).

This is often assumed to be a reissue of The Wild One that was altered for its release as Real Wild Child, for example by having the overdubbed audience sounds removed. The Australian music collector, commentator and anthologist Tony Watson points out that this is in fact another take of The Wild One which differs in other ways:

Festival liner notes have always put forward that the crowd overdub was the only difference… Ignoring the crowd overdub at the start, both versions have a different intro and JOK’s vocal on the foreign versions is noticeably wilder than on the EP version issued here… As far as I know, the US/UK single version which, IMHO, is markedly superior to our version, was never issued in Australia… at the time, [but] it did finally appear on a local compilation LP in the 70’s and is now commonly available on various JOK CDs here, including the 3CD JOK set, “The Birth of Australian Rock & Roll”.
(Tony Watson, email to this website, January 2005)

Roger Ford, in a 2004 Usenet post cited above, compiled a chronology of The Wild One/Real Wild Child (slightly edited):
30 January 1958
Buddy Holly & The Crickets and Jerry Lee Lewis both headline a 7 day
tour of Oz on which O’Keefe is on the bill as the local artist. He
sings Wild One in his act each night. His American co-stars take
notes. • February 1958 Johnny O’Keefe releases Wild One on the EP Shakin’ At The Stadium.
19 February 1958
Back in USA Jerry Allison [Ivan]records his version of the song that will be
released as Real Wild Child at Norman Petty Studios, Clovis NM.
Backed by Buddy Holly, Joe B. Maudlin et al.
21 April 1958
Jerry Lee Lewis records Wild One in Memphis for Sun
May 1958
Johnny O’Keefe’s Real Wild Child is released in USA on
Brunswick 55067. Billboard review 12 May.
July 1958
Ivan’s Real Wild Child is issued in USA as Coral 62017
Johnny O’Keefe’s Real Wild Child released on UK Coral 72330
October 1958
Ivan’s Real Wild Child released on UK Coral 72341
Jerry Lee Lewis’s Wild One finally sees release for the first time anywhere, on the UK LP Rockin’ And Free.

Ivan - Real Wild Child (1958)

(Dave Owens - John Greenan - Johnny O'Keefe)
Later version

Single on Coral by Jerry Allison (middle name Ivan), drummer and songwriter from Buddy Holly’s Crickets. Also released in Australia, UK and Canada.

Jerry Allison heard the song on tour in Australia with Buddy Holly in 1958, with Johnny O’Keefe as a support act. Jerry Lee Lewis, who also picked up the song, was another star of the show.

Alan LaFlamme writes:  Supposedly, the Ivan version of the song was done as a parody of then teenaged and very nasal Ricky Nelson. In fact, it sounds a little like Nelson’s Stood Up. (Email) 

Jerry Lee Lewis - Wild One (1958)

(Dave Owens - John Greenan - Johnny O'Keefe)
Later version

Sun recording, not released until 1974 on the British LP Rockin’ And Free.

Jerry Lee Lewis also appeared on the 1958 Australian Buddy Holly tour with Johnny O’Keefe (see above).

Other versions include:
Johnny Devlin & the Devils (Australia, 1960)
Christopher Otcasek (Pretty Woman film soundtrack, 1990)
BR5-49 (USA 1998)
Josie & the Pussycats (cartoon soundtrack 2001)
Sabrejet (USA 2003)
Status Quo (UK 2003?)
Wakefield (USA 2004, Eurotrip movie soundtrack)

Thanks to Terry Stacey and to Porky for version alerts.

Jet Harris - Real Wild Child (1962)

(Dave Owens - John Greenan - Johnny O'Keefe)
Later version

Inventive version on EP Jet Harris by former Shadows bassist, recorded in the year he went solo. He later formed a duo with Tony Meehan, former Shadows drummer, for a series of three instrumental hits in the UK in 1963: Diamonds (#1 UK), Scarlett O’Hara (#2), and Appplejack (#4).

The Guess Who - Wild One (1971)

(Dave Owens - John Greenan - Johnny O'Keefe)
Canada Canada
Later version

Albert Lee - Real Wild Child (Wild One) (1982)

(Dave Owens - John Greenan - Johnny O'Keefe)
Later version

On the 1982 album Albert Lee.

Albert Lee: British-born R&B guitarist (b. 1943) whose considerable CV includes work with Chris Farlowe’s Thunderbirds, Heads Hands & Feet, The Everly Brothers, Emmylou Harris, Joe Cocker and Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings.

Not to be confused with his unrelated contemporary Alvin Lee of Ten Years After, with whom he played on Jerry Lee Lewis’s 1973 London Sessions album.

Iggy Pop - Real Wild Child (Wild One) (1986)

(Dave Owens - John Greenan - Johnny O'Keefe)
Later version
#14 Sydney #7 Melbourne #5 Brisbane #1 Perth #1 NZ

Produced by David Bowie & David Richards. On the 1986 album Blah-Blah-Blah, on A&M label.

Well known in Australia as the theme to the all-night pop music program Rage on ABC TV.

Listen: Audio at Probe is Turning-on the People!

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts - Real Wild Child (1993)

(Dave Owens - John Greenan - Johnny O'Keefe)
Later version

On 1993 album Flashback.

Grantley Dee - Wild One (1966)

(Bernie Lowe - Kal Mann - Dave Appell)
Australia Australia
Red herring

Same title but not the same song as ‘Wild One’ by Johnny O’Keefe.

Go here for history of this song, first recorded by Bobby Rydell.

Martha & The Vandellas - Wild One (1965)

(Stevenson - Hunter)
Red herring
#34 USA

Same title but not the same song as "Wild One" by Johnny O’Keefe.

Suzi Quatro - The Wild One (1974)

(Chapman - Chinn)
Red herring
#7 UK #3 Sydney #19 Melbourne #8 Brisbane #4 Perth

Similar title but not the same song as "Wild One? by Johnny O’Keefe.

Rocking singer-guitarist, originally from Detroit, whose career kicked off in Britain.