Where Are They Now: Keith - Rolling Stone
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Where Are They Now: Keith

In 1967, “98.6” hit Number Seven; Uncle Sam came calling two years later, and Keith’s number was up

Keith(James Barry Keefer)

American singer Keith (James Barry Keefer).1960

GAB Archive/Redferns/Getty

At the height of his career, Philadelphia-born singer Keith was making $15,000 a week and getting his back slapped by a Beatle, who told him what a great record Keith’s 1967 Top Ten hit, ”98.6,” was. ”John Lennon was standing next to me in a urinal in London,” he says.

The nadir came just two years later when U.S. Army officials nabbed him for draft evasion in the middle of a concert tour. He was inducted and stationed for a year in New Jersey. ”I was making coffee for generals.”

When he got out, Keith did some independent recording and joined Frank Zappa’s 1973 touring band, trying to inject some Philly soul into toilet-joke tunes like ”Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow.” ”I think they brought me in to commercialize Frank,” says Keith.

For the last 11 years, Keith, who is 36 and has two children from a former marriage, has settled into a routine of tending bar for a living and playing local clubs in Los Angeles, drawing well, thanks to frequent oldies airplay of ”98.6” there. His Redondo Beach house is equipped with a 16-track studio, and he continues to put out records, alternately under the names Keith and Barry Keefer (his real name), ”depending on which name didn’t work the last time.” ”I’ve been discovered once,” he declares. ”I’m bucking the odds of doing it again.”

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