Keith and His Biggest 1960s Hit “98.6”


Keith is an American pop vocalist. He started his recording career with Columbia Records, where he issued “Caravan of Lonely Men.” He moved to Mercury Records thereafter, where he released his first charting single, “Ain’t Gonna Lie” in 1966. Later that same year, the follow-up “98.6” became a Top 10 hit. When his subsequent singles (and two more albums) failed to reach the level of his prior success, he quit making music. But in 1986 Keith attempted to stage a (failed) comeback under his real name. Since the 90s he’s been workinig in the TV industry. He continues to play at gigs once in a while.

Keith’s early life

American pop and rock vocalist Keith was born James Barry Keefer in Philadelphia, Pennsyslvania on May 17, 1949. The family then moved to Atlantic City in New Jersey, and then back in Philadelphia where he found his passion for music and knack for performing. During his high school days Keefer hosted and acted on several high school plays.


Keith’s recording career

According to a popular legend, Keith obtained his first recording contract with Columbia Records after he camped out on the doorstep of the office of Jerry Ross. Ross, an A&R executive, took Keith in and when the former moved to Mercury Records he took Keith with him. In 1966 Keith achieved his first charting single on the Billboard Hot 100, the top 40 hit “Ain’t Gonna Lie” (released on Mercury and written by T. Powers and G. Fischoff) b/w “It Started All Over Again.”


In 1967 Keith’s second single on Mercury, “Tell Me to My Face” (written by A. Clarke, T. Hicks, and G. Nash) was another Top 40 Billboard pop hit, peaking there at #37. The follow-up single “Daylight Savin’ Time,” (written by M. Shuman and J. Ross) was only a minor pop hit (at #79).


Biggest hit single with “98.6”

Another single followed, “98.6” gave Keith his biggest hit record. It was released on Mercury and written by Tony Powers (lyrics) and George Fischoff (music). It reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 adn #24 on the UK singles chart in 1967. The song was produced by Ross and Joe Renzetti. It sold over one million copies and was awarded with a gold disc. Later, the album was also released on the album 98.6/Ain’t Gonna Lie, which reached its peak position at #124 on the Billboard 200 album chart that same year.

Later life and career

Unfortunately, it was also Keith’s last charting hit. His second LP Out of Crank failed to make a dent on the charts. Keith signed with Frank Zappa’s Discreet label and released the single “In and Out of Love.” In 1969 he issued his last album The Adventures of Keith.

In 1986 he attempted to stage a comeback under his real life, but that failed. Virtually retiring from the limelight, he set up his own label A.I.R. Records in 1986 which launched acts such as Chuck Hill, and Shawn Smith (Keith’s drummer). He continues to make live appearances occasionally.