ROCK OF AGES 1955-1963 – COL JOYE

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Bye, Bye Baby (F McNulty) and (Rockin’ Rollin’) Clementine (K Taylor) and Oh Yeh, Uh Huh (Robertson/Gibson) – Col Joye and the Joy Boys 1959 and (Underneath The) Starlight of Love (SK Dobbins) – Col Joye 1973

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Col Joye (Colin Jacobsen 1937), who with Johnny O’Keefe ruled the local rock scene for many years, also shared top billing with him at Festival Records in Sydney, the company that had unleashed rock and roll on the country in 1955, with the release of Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley and the Comets.(below)

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Col was originally trained as a pianist but became the rhythm guitarist in his brother Kevin’s jazz band, the K.J. Quintet who played in hotels and venues around Maroubra (Syd) and featured on promoter Bill McColl’s Jazzorama Concerts in Sydney. The band ultimately shifted to country and then to rock and roll when inspired by the movie Rock Around the Clock released in 1956.

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Starring Bill Haley and the Comets, the Platters and Freddie Bell and the Bell Boys, Col saw the film numerous times so that he could sketch the guitars and amplifiers and have copies made, these were the early days of rock invention in Australia, and performers taught themselves not only how to sing but how to replicate the instruments and sounds of their American idols.

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Col Joye and the Joy Boys were fully formed by 1957, Col was joined by his brothers Kevin Jacobsen (keyboards) and Keith Jacobsen (bass), Norm Day (lead guitar), Dave Bridge (guitar), Laurie Erwin (sax), and Johnny Bogie (drums), completed the lineup. Above L-R Dave Bridge, John Bogie, Laurie Erwin, Kevin Jacobsen, Col Joye.

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Unlike Johnny O’Keefe, Col Joye (together above) presented a more carefully cultivated, wholesome, boy-next-door image, like Pat Boone, Frankie Avalon and Paul Anka, in the US; via appearances on Bandstand and Lee Gordon’s series of Big Shows at the Sydney Stadium, he quickly emerged as one of the stars on the emerging rock scene.

Gently rocking.

Bye, Bye Baby was originally recorded in the US by Sonny Williams (1958) and Teresa Brewer (1959) and it became the breakthrough hit for former country singer Col Joye and the first of four top 5 hits for him in 1959 charting at #3 in May of that year. Bye, Bye Baby was recorded at the Festival Record studios in Ultimo (Syd) on two track recording equipment, it was essentially a recording of a live performance, Col and the Joy Boys were joined by the vocal backing of the Sapphires, catchy hooks and riffs abound and the lyrics about fare welling a sweetheart were easy for fans to identify with.

The guitarists Day and Bridge used only nylon strings for the recording and the bass guitar was out of tune for most of the first part of the song, percussion was subtle, and the celesta/xylophone chimes were a feature that also distinguished Buddy Holly’s Every Day. Col delivered almost whispered vocals, as he had a heavy cold on the day of the recording – all things considered the band and their backing singers The Sapphires who provided resonant “ooh-ahh” backing vocals – combined to deliver one of the early gently rocking classics of the rock and roll era.

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Col quickly followed up with (Rockin’ Rollin’) Clementine which charted at #3 in July, for his second top five hit of 1959, this record confirmed Col’s early stature as a top rock ‘n’ roller, it was a grittier, less restrained Col here, and the record confirmed his rock credentials.

Col and the band kicking up a rockabilly beat.

The song had a long history dating back to the Californian goldfields of the nineteenth century and had been re-arranged and its lyrics updated over the years to adapt to changing musical tastes and genres. This more contemporary arrangement of the song was developed by local Festival record producer Ken Taylor, who swapped the original waltz tempo for a rockabilly refrain. Bobby Darin also recorded the song as Clementinein his swinging Las Vegas club style, and hit #21 in the US in 1960.

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Oh Yeh, Uh Huh was the first national #1 hit of the Australian rock and roll era by a local performer – it was a cover version of a minor hit by US duo Mickey (McHouston Baker) and Sylvia (Sylvia Vanterpool) from 1958, who had previously scored in 1957 with the Bo Diddley/Jody Williams composition Love Is Strange. The song was co-written by Joe Robinson, who was married to Sylvia Vanterpool, who as a husband-and- wife team would become important entrepreneurs in the US recording industry, founding successful record companies including the soul music label All Platinum Records, and early rap label Sugar Hill Records. Sylvia continued to record as a solo artist and scored global hits with the sultry Pillow Talk and the early rap classic The Message with Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. 

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The Joy Boys delivered convincing backing on this song, brother Kevin intros on piano and regular drummer Johnny Bogie forsakes his drum kit to tap out the percussion on a typewriter, just as Buddy Holly’s drummer Jerry Allison had done on their 1957 hit Every Day. Lead guitar Norm Day delivered solid riffs, Laurie Erwin’s sax flourishes and Col’s vocals were assured and convincing and they were backed by a vocal group credited on the record as the New Notes. Oh Yeh, Uh Huh was the sixth biggest selling single of 1959.

Historically the first #1 R&R hit by an Australian, recorded in this country.

In a stellar year for Col, he quickly followed up with Teenage Baby co-composed by Sydney locals Ray Melton with assistance from DJ Tony Withers, which charted #5 in November ‘59, and hit the charts early in 1960 with the sprightly (Making Love On A) Moonlit Night which charted #10 in June 1960.

In 1963 Col Joye was the recipient of a new song by a young Barry Gibb, who with his twin brothers provided backing vocals on his recording of (Underneath The) Starlight of Love, a jaunty, beer barrel, sing-a-long ditty with honky-tonk piano and banjo accompaniment. It charted at #44 and would have slotted neatly into the Mitch Miller format complete with how-to-follow-the-lyrics bouncing ball, Joye’s vocals were ebullient and indicated a capacity for him to embrace more MOR songs in the future, which he did, nearly ten years later.

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The former Golden Boy of Aussie Rock stormed back into the charts in 1973 with the country-tinged Heaven Is My Woman’s Love, which was a national #1 hit, and the fourth biggest-selling record of that year, and Col’s biggest and last career hit.

Country Col moves into the MOR, and has a hit.

The song was written by Bob Milsap who used the pseodonym SK Dobbins, he was a composer, publisher and producer of country music who also wrote She’s A Rock which was recorded by Olivia Newton-John. The original recording of the song in 1972 by Tommy Overstreet, an Oklahoman country singer/songwriter, was a hit on the US country charts, and he was a regular performer on on the US network series Hee Haw. Other versions of Heaven included Val Doonican who charted #34 in the UK, and Lee Hazlewood in 1973.

Col and his brothers Kevin and Keith established Jacobsen Entertainment and ATA Studios (Syd) in 1966 and it became an influential entertainment management, concert promotion, publishing, and recording business, featuring many of the original members of the original “Bandstand family” – Judy Stone, Little Pattie, Sandy Scott, and the Joy Boys – as well as Laurie Allen, Mike McClellan, Kevin Johnson, and most significantly Andy Gibb, whose major hits in the 1970’s were distributed by ATA outside the USA in Australia, and throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Andy’s brothers hadn’t forgotten the support and encouragement they received from Col and the Jacobsen family back in the 1960’s when the Gibb brothers were known as “Barry and the two dribblers.” Below L-R Kevin and Col.

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ATA was a very successful enterprise and after Kevin Jacobsen secured the global rights to the musical Dirty Dancing, via his relationship with Eleanor Bergstein who wrote the screenplay upon which the live musical was based, the popularity of the show generated millions in box office returns. But by 2007 Kevin Jacobsen had been removed from the family company, following a dispute with his brother Col, and he claimed that thereafter he was allegedly denied his share of over $40 million in revenue. Litigation between the feuding brothers ensued in courts in the USA, UK and Australia, in 2011 Kevin Jacobsen declared himself bankrupt with unpaid debts of over $2m, and it seems the matter remains unresolved to the satisfaction of both brothers, as does the feud between the two.  

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In 1970 Col would marry Dalya Dawson (above) and they would raise two children, Amber and Clayton, and remain happily married thereafter. But there were claims in 2007 by one Malcolm Hansman and his mother Ingrid, a former Sydney model and long-time former girlfriend of Col Joye, that Col had in fact fathered Malcolm in 1971, a claim that Joye has denied, and refused to submit to a paternity test to conclusively resolve the love child claims. Brother Kevin did help to fuel the fires of controversy by submitting himself to a DNA test which indicated that Malcolm apparently had some familial link to the Jacobsen family, and he further observed that there seemed to be a likeness shared by Malcolm and Col. Below L-R Visiting US Stars 1960’s – Donnie Brooks, Connie Francis, Col Joye, Johnny Burnette, Bobby Vee.

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Col is an iconic personality in the history of Australian popular music, he was one of the original inductees into the ARIA Music Hall of Fame in 1988 along with Slim Dusty, Johnny O’Keefe, Dame Joan Sutherland, Vanda and Young and AC/DC. He was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 1981 for his entertainment and philanthropic work, he has won two ARIAS, multiple gold and platinum albums, three Logies and a Golden Guitar. He was the first Australian performer to take five of his first eight singles into the top five, and in the seven months between May-November 1959, he had four top five hits, including the first Australian-produced rock and roll recording to chart #1 – Oh Yeh, Uh, Huh. Below – Col and the band on a “joy ride”.

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