In 1946 Jack bought a plot in the Melbourne General Cemetery and called it ‘Tuckerbox Corner’. His friend John Allison, of funeral director Allison Monkhouse, suggested they have a ‘noggin or two’ before Jack ‘moved permanently into the northern suburbs’. Forty years later Jack had forgotten all about it and ended up side-by-side with his wife Josie in Brighton General Cemetery. ‘Tuckerbox Corner’ was discovered during research for Jack’s biography and, still empty, was sold by the family in 2013.
I was invited by the Brighton Cemetorians to talk about Jack O'Hagan's career and life for the 2018 Let Us Entertain You cemetery walk.
Jack’s best-remembered music doesn’t show the breadth of his skill as a composer. He was known as ‘Australia’s Irving Berlin’ in his day. It’s not widely appreciated that he composed for silent movies, talkies, pantomimes, theatrical revues and musicals. He was prolific, published over 200 songs and wrote around 600, over 100 of them for the theatre, where in most cases copyright was transferred to the producer, with many now lost. Jack was also one of Melbourne’s own ‘Mad Men’, working as a jingle writer in leading advertising agencies for 15 years before retirement.
Two of the other show biz subjects featured on the 'walk' worked with Jack and were great friends of his – actor and singer Strella (Austral Groves) Wilson (1894–1989) and actor, singer, radio presenter and musician Bob Horsfall (1926-2016).
The glamorous Strella played the lead in Jack's musical 'Flame of Desire' for a time. Jack’s young daughter Pamela was in awe of her fabulous evening dress and completely enthralled as she sang the theme to Jack’s piano accompaniment during one of the wild theatrical parties held at the O’Hagan’s home in Brighton.
Bob Horsfall and his band the Tunetwisters recorded plenty of Jack's 1950s ‘singing commercials’, which Jack gave the same level of care as songs he wrote for any other area of show business and produced with high production values. Little did the general public know they were listening to advertising jingles written by the famous Jack O’Hagan on the radio.
Credit: Singing commercial recording session, c. 1950. Left to right – Jack Westmore, Don Moore, Vic West (or Joe Hudson), Terry King (or Dorothy Baker), Bob Horsfall, Judy Wright, unknown man, Elaine McKenna, Ron Rosenberg at piano and standing far right, Jack O’Hagan. Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection.
The Brighton Cemetorians created a plaque to honour Jack's great contribution to our musical heritage in mid 2018.