Jimmy O’Neill, who came to prominence in the mid 60’s as the host of the ABC music show Shindig!, has passed away at the age of 72. He had been suffering from diabetes and a heart condition for a number of years.
His daughter, Katy O’Neill, posted the following to his Facebook page for his family:
On January 11th our beloved father Jimmy O’Neill peacefully transitioned into a better place. His vivacious laugh, talented voice, sense of humor and warm heart will be deeply missed by all who knew and loved him. His legacy will live on and he will never leave our hearts. Thank you to all our friends and family for all of your support during this difficult time. Blessings.
Katy O’Neill and our entire family
O’Neill started his career as a DJ in Enid, OK, Oklahoma City and Pittsburgh before settling in Los Angeles. It was while he was a DJ at KRLA that he was approached by producer Jack Good for a teen show called Shindig!.
The show, which got picked up by ABC after two pilots, was a replacement for the folk-oriented Hootenanny. Instead of concentrating on a single genre, Shindig! branched out to cover all music popular with a teen audience. It premiered on September 16, 1964 as a half-hour program and expanded to an hour the following January. It once again went to a half hour, but twice per week, that fall.
The show had a long list of guests over the year-and-a-half that it aired from the Beach Boys and James Brown to Sam Cooke, who appeared in the second pilot, and the Beatles.
Good left the program and, per an interview with O’Neill by Classic Bands, that was when the show started to falter. “I always tell people the reason Shindig! ultimately began to slip in the ratings and ultimately was cancelled, was because the quality of the program slipped, because Jack Good resigned as producer over some of the difficulties I mentioned earlier. I knew that if Jack did quit, chances were the show would not survive. Sure enough, it took about six months, but I could see almost with the first episode without Jack, that we had begun to stray off the track.”
After the cancellation of Shindig!, O’Neill hit a rough point in his life where he couldn’t find steady work and strayed into heavy drinking and drug us, something he declared himself free of as of October 18, 1981. He went on to work selling cars and stocks and, eventually, returning to running clubs, something he had done in the early 60’s.
In 1990, he was back on the radio KRLA to host a morning show playing the music from his most popular days. He later retired to spend time with his two children and two step-children.