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Encyclopedia entry for 'Johnny Chester' LETTER:

StyleRock'n'roll, country
 Albums: Wild and Warm (W&G, 1963), Best of Ches (W&G, 1964), Johnny Chester Sings His Greatest Hits (W&G, 1965), Johnny Chester and Jigsaw (Fable 1971), Going Places (Just For Fun) (Fable, 1972), The Best of Johnny Chester (Fable, 1974), For the World's Greatest Mum (Fable, 1974), Greensborough Music (Fable, 1975), Into Country (Bullet, 1976), Country Salute (RCA, 1978), Johnny Chester (Image, 1978), Johnny Chester and Hotspur (WEA, 1980), My Kinda Country (Velvet, 1980), Love in the Meantime (WEA, 1981), From Under the Influence (WEA, 1983), The Hits of Johnny Chester (J&B, 1984), Songmaker (1995).

History
Johnny `Ches' Chester (b. 1941) is remembered as one of Melbourne's first and best rock'n'roll singers of the early 1960s. While Sydney already had the likes of Johnny O'Keefe, Alan Dale and Col Joye, Chester was able to grab the monopoly down south. During the 1960s, Chester enjoyed a successful run of hit singles in Melbourne. He moved into straight country in the 1970s, but his earliest heroes included Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and Johnny O'Keefe.

Johnny Chester and his Chessmen began promoting their own dances at Preston Town Hall in 1960. Chester came to the attention of popular DJ Stan Rofe, who introduced him to W&G Records' A&R manager, Ron Tudor. With backing provided by The Thunderbirds, Chester issued his first two Melbourne hit singles, `That's How it's Gonna Be'/`The Hokey-Pokey'(#8 in May 1961) and the 4 on 1 Super Disc single, `Can Can Ladies'; `What a Night'/`The Hokey-Pokey'; `That's How it's Gonna Be' (#5 in July). Around that time, Chester appeared as one of the supports (backed by The Joy Boys) on the Connie Francis Big Show, The Hi-Fi Club Presents Johnny O'Keefe: The Wild One tour (backed by the Hi-Marks), and the All Star Rock Show (backed by The Thunderbirds).

Chester's third single with backing by The Thunderbirds was `Shakin' All Over'/`California Sun' (#4 in January 1962). Rock'n'roll aficionados consider this version of `Shakin' All Over' to be the definitive Australian rendition. Chester recorded with his Chessmen for the next eight singles on W&G: `Shy Away'/`A Funny Little Feeling' (#35 in August 1962), Chris Montez's `Let's Dance'/`Forty Days' (#18 in October), Eddie Cochran's `Summertime Blues'/`I Love Mary' (#6 in December), `Nick Nack Paddy Wack'/`Butterflies' (#27 in May 1963), Cochran's `C'Mon Everybody'/`The Old Copper Kettle' (#12 in August), `Teeny'/`Do the Stomp' (#11 in January 1964), Chuck Berry's `Bye Bye Johnny'/`Miss Anne' (May 1964) and `Unless You Care'/`(You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care' (#25 in November 1964). His last single on W&G was `Your Cheating Heart'/`Adios My Darling'. Chester also issued an album, Wild and Warm, and two EPs, Johnny Chester's Hit Parade and the rare My Blues and I on W&G.

Chester's biggest break came when he supported The Beatles on the band's July 1964 Australian tour. Once again, he was not able to use his Chessmen and backing was provided by The Phantoms. In October, Chester became compere of his own national television show, Teen Scene, which lasted for two seasons. Chester recorded three singles for W&G's In label: `When Will I be Loved?'/`Shop Around' (July 1965), `Something's Got a Hold on Me'/`It's Too Late' (October) and `Steppin' Out'/`I Feel Good All Over' (February 1966), plus the rare EP `Goodnight Irene', none of which charted. He parted company with his Chessmen and formed The Johnny Chester Trio with Bert Stacpool (piano), Johnny Marco (guitar) and Tom Vigushin (bass). In 1966, Chester became a DJ on Melbourne's 3UZ, where he stayed for eight years. His last pop single was `Heaven Help the Man'/`I'm Gonna have a Real Good Time' on Astor (1968).

In 1969 Chester issued two singles on Philips, `Green Green'/`It Works Out Easier that Way' and `Highway 31'/`I Just Don't Know How to Say Goodbye'. By that stage Chester had moved into the country music field. Next he signed to Fable and formed Jigsaw. Johnny Chester and Jigsaw had hits with `Gwen (Congratulations)'/`A Lonely Man Like Me' (national #26 in October 1971), `Shame and Scandal'/`Billy's Coming Home for Christmas' (#12 in February 1972), `Midnight Bus'/`Highway 31' (#25 in December 1972), `World's Greatest Mum'/`Three Jobs Down' (#9 in August 1973) and `She's My Kind of Woman'/`Won't You Send Your Sweet Lovin' to Me' (#17 in June 1974). By 1977 he was touring with The Blue Denim Country Band and back on television with the ABC-TV's national show Country Road.

In 1979, Chester signed to WEA and formed a new band, Hotspur. Chester continued to issue counry albums and singles, and made his mark on the Tamworth Country Music Festival by winning the Male Vocalist of the Year for three years in a row, 1981–83.



Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop / Ian McFarlane 1999
under licence from Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd

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