Johnny Kidd (23 December 1935 – 7 October 1966) was an English singer and songwriter, the front man for the rock band Johnny Kidd and the Pirates. He was one of the few pre-Beatles British rock and rollers 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.
n 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. Kidd's own version didn't chart outside of Europe, but two cover versions did: The Guess Who topped the Canadian charts (and hit #22 US) with their 1965 version of "Shakin' All Over", and in Australia, Normie Rowe topped the charts with it later the same year. 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. It has been covered by The Who on the classic Live at Leeds album. Iggy Pop also included it on his solo album Avenue B. Other covers have included Vince Taylor and the Playboys, the rock group Humble Pie and The Swinging Blue Jeans. The fact that the song continues to be covered some 50 years after its first recording is a testimony to Kidd and the Pirates. "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 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.
In hindsight Kidd was both musically and visually important for the Rock music genre. Long before the likes of Paul Revere and the Raiders and Alice Cooper and other such performers dressed up for a performance Kidd and his contemporary Screaming Lord Sutch were already doing so. Kidd and the Pirates were a transitional band. In a time before bands like The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds and The Animals Kidd was recording music that placed increased emphasis on electric blues and R&B. His records circa 1961-64 included Willie Dixon's "I Just Want To Make Love To You" Bo Diddley's "I Can Tell", Willie Perryman's "Dr Feel-good" and Richie Barrett's "Some Other Guy". These are songs that are not sung in imitation of the original recording artists but instead Kidd tries to put his own stamp upon the song. These were the types of changes that would become more crucial as British Blues gained more ground in the early 1960s.
|Birth name||Frederick Albert Heath|
|Born||December 23, 1935|
Willesden, North London
|Died||October 7, 1966 (aged 30)|
near Bury, Lancashire
|Genres||Rock and roll|
|Associated acts||Johnny Kidd & The Pirates|