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After studying piano and trombone, he taught himself how to arrange and compose in his teens. He went to work with British big band leader Ted Heath in 1952 as a trombone player, but within two years Heath asked him to become his primary arranger. In the early 1960s, he and songwriter Johnny Worth (writing as Les Vandyke) masterminded the career of a minor British pop star, Eden Kane. The team wrote and produced a string of British top 10 hits for Kane in 1961-63. In addition he wrote, produced or arranged hits by Adam Faith, Petula Clark, Anthony Newley, Sammy Davis Jr. and many others.
Keating arranged and conducted a series of albums for London Records' Phase 4 series, notable for its use of synthesiser technology such as the Moog synthesizer and the EMS VCS 3. The records were often used as demonstration discs in the 1970s in Hi-Fi stores because of their quality. Much of his work was rereleased following the Lounge music revival of the mid 1990s and its use as breakbeats.
As founder and principal of the Johnny Keating School of Music, Edinburgh, he has been directly responsible for the musical education of many students who later became successful professionals.
In 1999, he completed a four–volume academic reference book dedicated to the art of professional songwriting: Principles of Songwriting: A Study in Structure and Technique.
- English Jazz - 1956 - Bally
- Swinging Scots - 1957 - Dot
- Percussive Moods SP44005 - 1963 - London Phase 4 Stereo
- Temptation SP44019 - 1963 - London Phase 4 Stereo
- Swing Revisited SP44034 - 1963 - London Phase 4 Stereo
- Johnny Keating and 27 Men-The Keating Sound SP44058 - 1966 - London Phase 4 Stereo
- Keating...Straight Ahead SP44072 - 1966 - London Phase 4 Stereo
- This Bird Has Flown WS1638 - 1966 - Warner Bros.
- Here's Where It Is WS1666 - 1966 - Warner Bros.
- Space Experience CQ 32382 - 1972 - Columbia Records
- John Keating Conducts the Electronic Philharmonic Orchestra - 1974 - EMI
- John Keating Conducts the London Symphony Orchestra - 1972
- Space Experience, Vol. 1 & 2 - 1998 - EMI (Vol. 1 contains the LP Space Experience)
- Temptation & Percussive Moods - 2004 - Vocalion
- Swing Revisited - 2004 - Dutton Vocalion
- British Jazz - 2005 - Harkit
- British Jazz and Swinging Scots - 2008 - British Jazz
- "A Little Waltzin'"
- "Barber Shop Jump" - Ted Heath
- "Come Live With Me" - Carmen McRae
- "Headin' North"
- "It's Not Going That Way" - Carmen McRae, Vic Lewis
- "On With the Don" - Ted Heath
- "Same Old Moon" - Percy Faith
- "Send for Henry" - Heinz Schonberger, Henry Main
- "The Clown"
- "Theme from "Hotel" - Nancy Wilson
- "This Hotel" - Percy Faith, Shirley Horn, Stan Kenton
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 297. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- Allmusic, Johnny Keating > Songs > Songs Composed By
- Keating's official Myspace page
- jazzprofessional.com profile by Ron Simmonds
- Allmusic.com biography by Eugene Chadbourne
- John Keating's Official Site by Martin Keating