Gardena school buds kickstart music project

Keith O’Derek, from left, Paul Jackson Jr. and Ray Parker Jr. form a solid trio with success in the music entertain- ment industry (Jackson and Parker) and in the video/documentary filmmaking business (O’Derek). Jackson and O’Derek are longtime Gardena’s and former school mates beginning with elementary school. (Courtesy photo)

By Brett Callwood

When Keith O’Derek and Paul Jackson Jr.  were attending Purche Avenue Elementary School together, they couldn’t have known that the future would see them recognized by the Emmys (in O’Derek’s case) and the GRAMMYs (in Jackson’s case). The childhood friends later reconnected at Gardena High and, in the years since, have worked on a number of projects together.

O’Derek founded Upfront Productions in 1985, a video and television production company that produces and directs content for television, video and films. Two of those films are currently available on Amazon Prime: Straight From the Streets (featuring Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Cypress Hill, DJ Quik, Lady Of Rage, Ice T, and Denzel Washington), and Barack Obama Road To The White House, chronicling Obama’s rise to become the first black President Of The United States Of America. O’Derek is also the creator of the Emmy Nominated series Straight From the Streets that aired on Fox TV. 

“The series has featured stories on Shaquille O’Neal, Johnnie Cochran, Jr., Martin Lawrence, Chris Tucker, Serena & Venus Williams, Notorious BIG, Coolio, Snoop Dogg to name a few,” O’Derek said.

Meanwhile, Jackson is a GRAMMY-nominated musician. The two of them are often looking for ways to work together.

“This project came about when we were brainstorming on how to collaborate on some videos to post online,” O’Deren said. “Since I am a filmmaker with an extensive background in video production, filming, editing and directing, not to mention being Emmy-nominated, and Paul is a Grammy-recognized musician, we both felt it was time to reconnect since we last collaborated on the successful instructional guitar video The Science Of Rhythm Of Guitar.”

O’Derek also recently saw one of his videos go viral – an interview with Will Smith conducted backstage at the American Awards in 1989 a month before Will Smith went on to win the first ever Grammy for new rap artist/group. Smith posted the video on Instagram and it generated over 5.4 Million views, 167k likes and 1400 comments in 3 weeks.

This latest endeavor between O’Derek and Jackson, however, will not be one project but several short videos demonstrating different guitar techniques, sounds, and approaches. 

“Because of Keith’s background, they will be filmed from several different perspectives and angles,” said Jackson.

The first video, produced by O’Derek and Jackson will be called How Did He Do That, and it will break down Jackson’s rhythm guitar playing on Michael Jackson’s hit song “PYT.” It will land on Youtube in mid-February. 

The two men have clearly achieved a lot, but the city of Gardena remains important to them.

I am thankful I have been able to make major contributions to the beautiful, family-friendly and very close knit community city of Gardena,” said O’Derek. “Myself, Debra Woods and Cornelius Mims were the first to promote a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Day Celebration Concert at Rowley Park. I was also the organizer with Alonzo Ward, Margaret Hairston and James Kimmons to bring the Laker Girls to Rowley Park for a performance and autograph signing. Not to mention, I was selected by [Council Member] Paulette Francis and the late Barbara Banks as the Grand Marshal for the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Parade, booking several celebrities to participate as Grand Marshal’s for the Parade such as Rapper/Actor YoYo, Olympic Gold Medalist Carmelita Jeter, Fox News Anchor Christine Devine, Radio Personality Big Boy and the Power Rangers.”

O’Derek was presented with the Key to the City of Gardena by former Mayor Don Dear in 1995 for “major contributions to the City and entertainment industry.”

“Gardena is a very close knit community,” adds Jackson. “I still talk to and see many of my friends from middle school and high school. My wife grew up in Gardena. It’s a family affair that I pray will never end!”

As O’Derek and Jackson release this series of videos, the GVN will post them to our social media accounts, so look out for those. In addition, both men have a busy year planned.

“I was recently hired to work with Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass and the Getty House for a Holiday event for Kids,” O’Derek said. “I am currently producing, editing and consulting for a music and medicine video series for a very respected medical doctor. Next, I am working on my book and movie.”

“I’m a full time professor at USC,” added Jackson. “Also, in 2023, I had a number one Contemporary Jazz recording with Dave Koz (I will be on his cruise in a few months). I’m recording more solo music as well as new music for my group Jazz Funk Soul (2-top 5’s in Billboard in 2023). And, in March, I will be working on the Oscars for the fifth time with musical director Rickey Minor. The Lord is kind to me!”

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