Sunday, 23 December 2012
Johnny Kidd born 23 December 1935
Johnny Kidd (23 December 1935 – 7 October 1966) was an English singer and songwriter, the front man for the rock and roll band Johnny Kidd and the Pirates. He was one of the few pre-Beatles British rockers to achieve worldwide fame.
Kidd was born Frederick Heath in 1935 in Willesden, North London. He began playing guitar in a skiffle group circa 1956. The group, known as "The Frantic Four" and later as "The Nutters", covered primarily skiffle, pop and rockabilly. Simultaneously Heath was proving to be a prolific writer; penning up most of 30 songs in over three months. Heath's 31st song would prove to be the group's break.
In 1959 Heath and his band were given a recording test for their first single, a rocker titled "Please Don't Touch". A contract with HMV quickly followed and the group were then informed during the session that their name "Freddie Heath and the Nutters" would be changed to Johnny Kidd and the Pirates. "Please Don't Touch" would reach the low twenties of the music charts. Although it is not as well known as Kidd's later song "Shakin' All Over", it is a stand-out among other British rock songs of the time. Unlike Billy Fury or Marty Wilde, Kidd does not sing in an imitation voice of Elvis Presley or one of his American contemporaries. The song also bears a smooth harmony and contains no clear references to the rockabilly style.
Kidd's most famous song as a composer was "Shakin' All Over", which was a #1 UK hit and the bands finest hour in 1960.The song was originally to be a B-side to the Ricky Nelson cover "Yes, Sir That's My Baby". Kidd was told that a self-penned song could be used and together with The Pirates the new number was written in the basement of the Freight Train coffee bar the day prior to recording. In addition to Kidd (vocals), Alan Caddy (guitar), Clem Cattini (drums) and Brian Gregg (bass) session guitarist Joe Moretti was called in by Kidd and Caddy to play lead guitar. It was Moretti who created the songs signature sound by sliding Brian Gregg's cigarette lighter up and down the fret-board of his guitar. "Shakin' All Over" was a UK no 1.
"Shakin' All Over" marked the peak which Kidd would not reach again. Future records did not fare as well in the charts. In 1961 Cattini, Caddy and Gregg left the band and would later play for Joe Meek in The Tornados. Kidd now assembled a new band of Pirates. Johnny Spence was now added to bass, Frank Farley to drums and later Mick Green would become guitarist. The band now toured extensively throughout England and into Europe. Adopting a more Beat influenced style, the group reached the British Top 5 with "I'll Never Get Over You" (#3) and split chart action with The Searchers with "Hungry For Love" (#20) in 1963; both songs were penned by future pop impresario Gordon Mills, then of The Viscounts.
The four piece band would prove to have a profound effect on another touring band at this time. Watching Kidd perform in the center front of the stage, with Farley directly behind him on drums and Spence and Green flanking him on either side, inspired Roger Daltrey the then guitarist of "The Detours" to lay aside his own guitar, dismiss his own groups' singer and concentrate on vocals. This allowed rhythm guitarist Pete Townshend to concentrate more on playing lead. In time a stage act had also emerged with Kidd and the Pirates dressed as actual Pirates. Kidd would don an eye-patch and carry a cutlass which he would swing around on stage, damaging the wooden framework, and high kick in time with the music of the band. By 1964 the "British Invasion" was taking shape and Kidd was left in the shadows. Kidd had another new group by this stage "The New Pirates" but recordings had now become covers of R&B and Pop songs. By 1966 it would seem that Kidd was on the verge of a reemergence but this was soon to be cut short.
Kidd died aged 30 in 1966, in a motor car accident on the A58, Bury New Road, Breightmet, near Radcliffe, Lancashire. The car in which he was travelling as a passenger had a head-on collision with one driven by Peter Metcalfe and his 17-year-old girlfriend, Helen Read, who also died in the accident. Pirates' bassist Nick Simper, who later became an original member of Deep Purple, was also in the car with Kidd but he suffered only some cuts and a broken arm.
Kidd was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium, London.(Info edited from Wikipedia)