Danny O’Keefe’s Classic Lives On

Occasionally a relatively unknown musician will write and perform a song that is enormously appealing to almost everyone who hears it, a song that not only ends up becoming a signature piece for the guy, but is also eagerly performed by countless others. A good example is Danny O’Keefe and his classic “Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues,” which is now closing in on four decades as one of the best-loved songs around.

Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Danny O’Keefe actually began his rise to fame while performing in Minnesota during the decade of the Sixties. His lyrical voice was often heard in area coffeehouses, a type of venue that helped many of the era’s fledgling musicians first become known. As his popularity rose, he eventually landed a recording contract with Atlantic Records — via a telephone audition with the legendary Ahmet Ertegun.

It resulted in O’Keefe’s 1971 self-titled debut album, which didn’t set any sales records but did well enough for a follow-up the next year. That album, just titled O’Keefe, introduced his unforgettable song to the music world. Sometimes just shortened to “Good Time Charlie,” the tune not only climbed into best-seller territory for O’keefe, but also attracted the attention of many other performers through the years. Some of the most popular versions include those by Elvis Presley, Charlie Rich, Willie Nelson, and Dwight Yoakum (video below).

In the decades since, Danny O’Keefe himself has continued to write music and perform, while recording a number of albums for his fans. He has also solidified his legacy as one of the most poetic songwriters around, and additionally has given a lot of time and effort to many worthy causes. He currently lives in the Seattle area, and according to the latest news on his website, he has recovered from recent surgery and is working on a brand new album.

4 thoughts on “Danny O’Keefe’s Classic Lives On

  1. His version is one of my favorites too, along with the original. And it’s interesting to hear singers like Elvis, Willie, and Waylon (and Dwight for that matter) each putting their distinctive sound into the song.


  2. Thanks, Graeme.

    I thought I’d take this opportunity to add something . Many of the GMC’s articles are also published on the BC Magazine website, and one of the comments this piece received over there does a better job than I did of describing the song itself.

    To describe the song to strangers (like “trying to tell a stranger about rock ‘n roll) you gotta tell them the song NAILS the plaintive plight of a good-time boy who wakes up to find everyone has moved on. What is very hard to impress is how well the song evokes a melancholy wistfulness that is kinda heartbreaking. PLUS it was a top 40 song!


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