We are marking the 80th anniversary of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation by highlighting some related objects and images in the Powerhouse Museum’s collection.
This photograph was taken by Bob Eaton, while working as part of the technical crew at ABC television studios at Sydney’s Gore Hill, in 1960 or 1961. It shows Lucky Starr performing on the ABC’s first rock ’n’ roll television show, Six O’Clock Rock.
TV shows presenting rock music to a teenage audience began to appear shortly after Australia’s introduction of television in 1956. Six O’Clock Rock was one of the most influential. Broadcast around the country, it provided many young Australians with a first glimpse of their own rock ’n’ roll stars.
Johnny O’Keefe was the usual host. Production standards were primitive but the show had a unique energy and vitality. It went live to air on Saturday evenings, after a frantic rehearsal at a church hall in Darlinghurst. O’Keefe’s great band the Dee Jays backed many of the guest vocalists. He would select the artists, tell them what to sing, supervise the rehearsal and, that same day, host the show and sing a few numbers himself.
Being a live-to-air program, Six O’Clock Rock did not always go according to plan. On one occasion O’Keefe forgot the name of the next singer, introducing him as ‘a cat who needs no introduction’.
For three and a half years the show presented Australian rock ’n’ roll to a vast audience. Television exposure launched the careers of a number of aspiring rock ’n’ rollers including Lonnie Lee, the Delltones, Johnny Rebb, Dig Richards, Candy and Mandy, Johnny Devlin and Laurel Lea.
Lucky Starr was another. The photograph shows him playing his trademark star-shaped guitar on Six O’Clock Rock. Due to its unique shape and strong association with Lucky Starr, this guitar is one of the best remembered instruments used by Australia’s first rock ‘n’ roll artists. Starr bought a Levin jazz guitar and replaced the body with a star-shaped piece of timber cut with a bandsaw by the father of his drummer.
In 1960, Starr hosted Six O’Clock Rock in Johnny O’Keefe’s absence. His biggest hit was the tongue-twister ‘I’ve Been Everywhere’. His word-perfect rendition was a surprise highlight of the Long Way to the Top concert tour in 2002.