Edinburgh-born composer of Z-Cars theme dies

John Keating. Pic: comp

John Keating. Pic: comp

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THE man behind two of the most iconic TV themes of all times, Z-Cars and The Onedin Line, has died at the age of 87.

Born in Bakehouse Close, off the Royal Mile, the son of Jock Keating, a local bookmaker, John “Johnny” Keating would go on to be one of the Capital’s best respected musicians, songwriters and arrangers.

In a career that took him to Hollywood and back, Keating also wrote and produced hits for 60s pop stars such as Adam Faith, Petula Clark, Anthony Newley, Sammy Davis Jr and heart-throb Eden Kane.

His film scores included the 1967 movies Hotel and Robbery and Innocent Bystanders in 1972. Most recently, his song Bunny Hop was featured in the 1994 Tim Burton movie, Ed Wood.

Hibs fans were also paying tribute to Keating, seen by many as part of the history of the club. A life-long fan, in 1973 he was asked by then Hibs chairman Tom Hart to produce two songs sung by the Hibs team, Turnbull’s Tornados and Hibernian (Give us a Goal) – still sung by fans today. His son Martin said his father had never lost his passion for the Edinburgh club – and had insisted on being buried with his Hibs tie.

Martin said: “He was such an inspiration because to go from the poor area where he grew up and make it all the way to Hollywood was incredible. It was one thing that always made me sad, that he never really got the recognition he deserved.”

Evening News veteran John Gibson said: “Johnny was an absolutely brilliant musician. He went to Hollywood, was a big hit over there and scored a number of movies. He was huge but he never forgot his Old Town roots.”

Keating, with a natural ability for arrangement and composition, joined the Ted Heath Swing Band in 1952 as a trombone player. Within two years, however, it was his skills as an arranger that were in greater demand. But it is for his theme from the TV series crime show Z-Cars, based on the traditional folk song Johnny Todd, that he will be best remembered – it reached No 5 in the charts and was adopted by Everton as their theme song 35 years ago, and remains so to this day.

Keating also founded the Johnny Keating School of Music in the city, while his album Space Experience, recorded with The London Symphony Orchestra, spent 14 weeks in the charts.

Mr Keating, who passed away on Thursday, is survived by his sons Martin and Kevin and his daughter Jill.

liam.rudden@edinburghnews.com