Step Back – (S Wright/G Young) and Caralyn (R Feldman/J Goldstein/R Gotteher) – Johnny Young and Kompany 1966 and All My Loving (Lennon/McCartney) – Johnny Young 1967
Johnny Young (1947, Johnny Benjamin de Jonge) and his family had emigrated from Rotterdam (Netherlands) to Perth (WA) in 1953, he had been conceived as the result of an affair between his mother Anna and a young singer by the name of Johannes, back in the Netherlands whilst her husband, Fokke Jan de Jong, was stationed in Indonesia with the Dutch army. Johnny was raised in Perth and after attending Subiaco Primary School and Perth Modern School he quickly decided that his future career would be in music. His mother sang in a choir and she encouraged her youngest child to learn to play the guitar and sing. He subsequently became a DJ and at the age of fourteen he was lead singer with the local group the Nomads, his Port Beach Dances (South Fremantle) became a local attraction and at age eighteen he was compere of the TVW-7 show Club 17.
Backed by his band Kompany, who comprised John Eddy (guitar), Tony Sommers (guitar), Jim Griffiths (bass) and Warwick Findlay (drums), they were signed to Martin Clarke’s Clarion record label, a subsidiary of Festival Records, and became regular performers at Perth’s top discos and clubs, the Top Hat, Beethovens, Pinocchio’s, Gobbles, North Side and Trend Setter. Below – Venue Promos, Pinocchios, Beethovens.
In early 1966 the Easybeats were touring Western Australia and Young was the local support act on the bill, after appearing as guests on Young’s TV show Club 17, Johnny pleaded with Stevie Wright and George Young to write a song for him, and the next morning Young turned up at the Easybeats hotel to collect the song. The band’s suite was still littered with the remains of a bacchanalian orgy from the night before, the song was yet to be completed, Stevie went to the toilet, found the appropriate inspiration and added his lyrics to George’s melody, and thus Step Back, a national breakthrough hit, was created for Johnny Young. Nelow L-R George Young, Stevie Wright.
John Eddy’s lead guitar chords at the intro were intriguing, and when Sommers rhythm guitar kicked in, the rest of the rhythm section arrived, and the song took off. Even Johnny Young’s everyman vocals could not dilute the catchiness of the refrain and earworm quality of the sing-a-long chorus. At its beating heart the song is pure bubblegum pop, and yet it possessed an innate tunefulness and accessability that distinguished it as yet another engaging Easybeats composition, at a time when Wright and Young could do no wrong.
The flipside of the record was a pounding, foot-stomping, cover of a song by the Strangeloves, a trio of US writers/producers/performers – Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein and Richard Gotteher- who wrote and recorded Cara -Lin as it was then called for a #39 US hit in’65. They also wrote I Want Candy for their biggest US hit, #11 in ’65, as well as My Boyfriend’s Back (#1 US ’63 for the Angels) and Sorrow (the Sorrows). For a while they masqueraded as an Australian group thinking this would add to their exotic appeal, when every other US band at the time was trying to look and sound like they were British, but fans quickly sussed that they weren’t dinkum Aussies.
Step Back/Caralyn became a double A-side hit, aided by Johnny Young’s exuberant live performances which featured distinctive straight-arm handclaps, it climbed to #2 nationally and became the second-biggest-selling Australian record of the 60’s after Normie Rowe’s double A-side hit Que Sera/Shakin’ All Over. Below Gold Record Awarded for sales of Step Back/Caralyn, L-R 4BH DJ Graham Cherry, Ron Dayman (Chairman Festival Records), Tour Manager Dennis Smith, and Johnny Young.
At seventeen Johnny Young and his band relocated to Mod Central in Melbourne, where he would carve out a long and diverse career in entertainment, and emerge as one of the notable songwriters of the era. Below – Melbourne’s hip discos of the 60’s.
Young quickly stamped himself as a new teen idol upon his arrival in Melbourne, and his first four records, released in 1966/67 were all top five hits, following his debut success with Step Back/Caralyn, he followed up with a cover version of the French ballad written by Gilbert Becaud and Pierre Delanoe and translated by Manny Curtis – Let It Be Me – which had been a hit for both the Everly Brothers (#7 US in ‘60) and in a soulful duet, by Betty Everett and Jerry Butler (#5 US in ’64).Young took his version to #4 nationally and did likewise with his double-sided cover of Kiss Me Now, a minor hit for Tommy Quickly in 1964, and then another Everly Brothers song, When Will I Be Loved, written by Phil Everly, which they had taken to #8 in the US in 1960.
Like many of his contemporaries Johnny Young would try his hand at re-interpreting a Beatles song, in this case one that was an album track and had not generally been released as a single.
All My Loving was written by Paul McCartney, although credited to Lennon and McCartney as was their arrangement, when it was included on the Beatles With the Beatles album in 1963. McCartney wrote the song whilst on a tour bus, unusually for Paul he wrote the lyrics first, almost like a piece of prose, and when he arrived at the concert venue, wrote the music at a piano backstage.
Like another Beatles song, P.S.I Love You, this song follows the letter theme and McCartney had originally envisioned it as a country-tinged outing, George Harrison added a Nashville-style guitar solo and John’s rhythm guitar playing used quickly strummed triplets, a la Da Doo Ron Ron by the Crystals, and Paul added a walking bass line to complete the production.
Young’s treatment was vastly different from the original, it had now become a ballad, almost a bedtime lullaby, slowed down and imparted with a wistful charm and sincerity by the quavering vocals of Johnny Young, it charted #9 but would later assume a life of its own. In 1967 Young took a Bee Gees composition into the charts, Craise Finton Kirk (Royal Academy) was lifted from the Bee Gees 1st album and it reflected the faddish nostalgia for Edwardian- Aubrey Beardsley motifs and English dance-hall sounds from the past. This song could justifiably be accused of copying Beatles-esque atmospherics, especially the music-hall irony and tinkling piano that the Beatles so admired, the Bee Gees provided backing vocals, and Young’s light, tentative treatment gingerly carried the song to #25 nationally.
By 1970 Johnny Young had begun to move away from singing to songwriting and production, he had already written major local hits for Russell Morris – The Real Thing, The Girl That I Love, Part Three into Paper Walls; for Ross D Wyllie – The Star – for Ronnie Burns – Smiley, and for boxer Lionel Rose – I Thank You. L-R Below- Ross D Wylie, Russell Morris, Ronnie Burns
With Kevin Lewis (former Festival records executive) Young had formed Lewis-Young Productions which developed such pop music television shows as Happening ’70, ’71,’72 and from 1971 a children’s variety show known as Young Talent Time. Below Debut YTT lineup L-R – Debra Byrne, Rod Kirkham, Johnny Young, Jamie Redfern, Jane Scali, Vicki Broughton, Philip Gould; YTT logo, Composite Shot of YTT lineups.
YTT was modelled very closely on the original Mickey Mouse Club show of the 1950’s, it was an unashamedly wholesome children’s variety show, with a regular closing farewell rendition of All My Loving, as the kids gathered around Johnny the genial host, as he trilled his signature tune and bid farewell to the nation for one more week. Go!!Show Spectacular lineup – Top L-R Colleen Hewett, Normie Rowe, Johnny Young,and Ronnie Burns. Bottom L-R Izzy Dye, Tony Worsley, Lucky Starr, Rob EG, and Marty rhone.
YTT did prove to be a fertile training ground for future stars who included Tina Arena, Dannii Minogue, Deborah Byrne, Jamie Redfern, and many others, Johnny still appears on the heritage rock circuit, where Go!! Show revivals are an annual event, and he was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2010, by YTT alumnus Tina Arena (below).
Johnny Young was first married to Jane in the 1970’s and they had a son Craig, but Jane sadly died of cancer, he married his second wife Cathy in 1975 and they had two daughters Anna and Fleur, but were divorced in 1995. From 1999 – 2002 he was married to his third wife Rose McKimmie, and in 2002 he married Marisha, and this union is current, the couple are below.
In 2021 Melbourne Herald-Sun journalist Jackie Epstein reported on July 6th that Debra Byrne had alleged that both Johnny Young and singer Ronnie Burns had made inappropriate remarks and advances to her as a teenager whilst she was starring on Young Talent Time; remarks about the size of her breasts, and inappropriate kissing attributed to them, were denied by both men at the time. Below Debra Byrne through the years. (Debra Byrne was featured in 4TR on June 4, 2019)