Scottish-born singer Jim Keays (b. 1946) fronted the acclaimed Master's Apprentices for seven years. When The Masters broke up in the UK at the end of 1971, Keays returned to Australia. He became Go-Set magazine's Adelaide correspondent, formed the Rock On Agency and compered the Mulwala Rock Festival in April 1972. In March 1973, Keays appeared as The Lover, alongside Billy Thorpe, Daryl Braithwaite, Colleen Hewett, Broderick Smith, Doug Parkinson and Keith Moon, in the Australian stage production of The Who's Tommy. In January 1974, he compered the third annual Sunbury Festival.
After that, Keays recorded his debut solo album The Boy from the Stars. It was an ambitious science fiction concept album based around the story of an extraterrestrial visitor who attempts to warn the earth of its impending doom through the misuse of various sources of power. It was an oft-trodden science fiction story-line (shades of The Day the Earth Stood Still and This Island Earth), but the album was put together with a great deal of skill and attention to detail.
The album featured an all-star cast of musicians, including members of Ayers Rock, Chain and Sid Rumpo, plus Billy Green (guitar), Marcia Hines (backing vocals) and Lobby Loyde (guitar) among others. Keays wrote most of the music, and all of the lyrics, assuming the role of the boy from the stars. `Kid's Blues'/`Inter-Planetary Boogie' (December 1974) and `The Boy from the Stars'/ `Take it on Easy' (#35 in Melbourne during February 1975) were issued as singles. The Boy from the Stars also peaked at #13 on the Melbourne album chart during February. Keays mounted an elaborate stage production for The Boy from the Stars, but due to the enormity of the show he only performed three concerts (including Sunbury 1975).
For his next single, the reggae-tinged, anti-drug song `Give it Up'/`Love is' (June 1975), Keays utilised the services of Ross Hannaford and Joe Creighton (ex-Melissa). Keays' touring band at that time comprised Creighton, Mick Elliot (guitar; ex-Sid Rumpo), Dennis Garcia (keyboards), David Allardis (piano) and Geoff Bridgeford (drums; ex-Bee Gees). He then formed Jim Keays' Southern Cross with Mick Elliot, Rex Bullen (keyboards; ex-Bakery, Natural Gas), George Cross (bass; ex-Clydehouse) and Rick Brewer (drums; ex-Zoot). Jim Keays' Southern Cross issued a re-working of The Masters' `Undecided'/`For Someone' as a single on CBS (December 1975), which peaked at #36 in Melbourne during January 1976. By the end of 1975, the Southern Cross line-up featured Peter Laffy (guitar; ex-Fox), Ron Robinson (bass) and John Swan (drums; ex-Fraternity).
In 1977 Keays linked up with Phil Manning (ex-Chain) for the short-lived Manning/Keays Band. In 1978, Keays formed the Jim Keays Band with Ron Robinson, James Black (guitar; ex-Rum Jungle) and David Rowe (drums). Soon after, John Moon (guitar; ex-Buster Brown) and Geoff Spooner (guitar; ex-Barrelhouse, Levi Smith's Clefs) replaced Black. By early 1979, the band had evolved into The Keays with a revamped line-up of Moon, Bruce Stewart (guitar; ex-Loose Trousers), Peter Marshall (bass) and Nigel Rough (drums; ex-Loose Trousers).
In early 1980, the band commenced recording an album with producer John Sayers at Music Farm Studios. The album sessions were never completed due to Stewart's ill-health. The band broke up and only the `Lucifer Street'/`The Living Dead' single saw release at that stage. The album Red on the Meter eventually came out in 1983 as a Jim Keays solo release, along with a reissue of `Lucifer Street' backed with `Australian Blues' on the Rumur label (October). Dissatisfied with the turn of events, Keays began work as a club DJ. In 1987, Keays signed to Virgin Records and flew to the UK to record with producer Craig Leon (The Ramones, The Bangles) and ex-Sweet guitarist Andy Scott. The sessions resulted in two singles featuring radical reworkings of The Master's Apprentices' `Undecided'/`Dubcided' (July 1987) and The Count Five's `Psychotic Reaction'/`Bates Motel' (October).
From that point, Keays was involved in various Master's Apprentices reunions. In 1993, Keays issued his second solo album, Pressure Makes Diamonds, on the Gemstone label. BMG reissued the album in mid-1994, after which Keays revived The Master's Apprentices again.
At the 1998 Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA) Music Awards night, Jim Keays and his fellow Master’s Apprentices band members were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame. In 1999, Allen and Unwin published Keays’ first book, His Master’s Voice. It explored the singer’s years spent as frontman for The Masters. In January 2000, Raven Records reissued on CD, Keays’ acclaimed 1974 solo album, The Boy from the Stars.
Featuring digitally remastered sound, plus five bonus tracks (‘Interplanetary Boogie’, ‘Give it Up, Cocainut’ and ‘For Someone’ plus the live cuts ‘Nothing Much Left’ and ‘Urantia’ recorded at Sunbury 1975), the album was a welcome release. To further the interest in The Boy from the Stars, The Mavis’s contributed a cover of the title track to the original soundtrack of Clinton Smith’s Australian feature film, Sample People (May 2000).