Jim Keays on stage.
Jim Keays on stage. Doug Eaton

JIM KEAYS is happy to be alive, let alone singing the classic rock songs he helped make famous as lead singer for The Master's Apprentices in the 1960s and 1970s.

Belting out hits like Because I Love You, Turn Up Your Radio and Elevator Driver on stage at Red Devil Park, Byron Bay, on Saturday as part of the Legends of Rock Festival, Mr Keays showed it takes more than a bout with cancer to keep a good rocker down.

“One year ago I was nearly dead, or I felt like it,” said Mr Keays, who was diagnosed with myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells in the blood.

“Thanks to modern medicine, including chemotherapy and stem cell implants, the cancer was shut down.

“I have a young family so I want to be around.

“I feel good now, but I struggled for nine months and was not able to work.

“Having cancer changes things in your life; things you thought not so important once are now important, like family and the people around you.

“And vice versa. Those things I once thought so important are not now.

“The fact I am still able to perform is a miracle in itself.”

Mr Keays said apart from performing classics from The Master's Apprentices at the festival, and then touring the country with old mates Darryl Cotton and Russell Morris, he was writing his second book and recording another CD, called Caledonia.

“It has Celtic melodies, which I love, and a variety of rock songs and ballads in the Jim Keays style,” he said.

Mr Keays said performing his old hits alongside other artists at the festival was a joy.

“Knowing you have made people happy and can still make them happy by performing them again is enough for me,” he said.

Also performing on stage were Ian Moss, from Cold Chisel, Kevin Borich, John Swan, Gangajang, Phil Emmanuel, The Party Boys, Paul Christie, from Mondo Rock, and Mark Evans, from AC/DC.

A crowd of more than 1500 turned out to watch the legends of Australia rock.

“Music of the 1960s and into the early 1970s were the halcyon days of rock music,” Mr Keays said.

“It was the Beatles era and it was the most exciting time of all.

“New things in music were being done; it was a magic era when all the songs had innocence about them.

“The music then was not corporatised and we were able to record whatever we liked without anyone telling us anything different, and that free expression came through in the songs.

“Now there is a strict formula.”

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