Johnny Kidd and the Pirates were an early British R ‘n B group who dressed theatrically as Pirates. They produced some great sounding records even though they only had one guitarist, a bass guitarist and drummer.
They had a very talented line-up over the years including guitarists Alan Caddy, Joe Moretti, and Mick Green and drummer Clem Cattini (who holds the UK record for playing on the most No 1 hits).
Kidd used an echo unit on stage to process his vocals and double-tracking on his records. The 3-man backing group set-up has been said to have influenced other groups like Led Zeppelin and the Who.
My (soon-to-be group vocalist) friend Dave and I used to frequent a coffee bar in Brierfield, Lancashire which had this on the juke box.
The original Pirates; Clem Cattini, Alan Caddy and Brian Gregg on bass joined Joe Meek’s Tornados (famous for Telstar but who also worked as Meek’s studio backing group and backing Billy Fury).
By this time the Merseybeat sound had taken over the British music scene and Kidd responded by recording “I’ll never get over you” which got to No 4 in the UK charts in mid-1963 followed by “Hungry for Love” which achieved a top twenty placing.
They also recorded Richie Barrett’s “Some Other Guy” but it wasn’t released and allowed the Mersey group The Big Three to chart with their version. (When I saw the Beatles at the King George’s Hall in Blackburn this was the song they opened with).
Guitarist Mick Green left after this to join Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas. Another guitarist and a keyboard player then joined the Pirates but their long-awaited debut album was never mastered for release.
Kidd reverted to singing R ‘n B and covers of soul songs but never had another hit. He formed the New Pirates backing group comprising guitar, bass, organ and drums and was planning on a comeback when he was killed returning from a cancelled gig in a car accident in Bury, Lancashire.
Undoubtedly he hit his peak with “Shaking all Over” which featured a great guitar riff by Joe Moretti and made No 1 in the UK charts in 1960. This song was a favourite with groups everywhere and covered by the Who in their “Live at Leeds” album.
Here it is on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n327ncoU_ZU
He had a great rock voice and always a tight backing group sound, like the Beatles honed in Germany. He covered songs like “You got what it takes“, “Yes Sir that’s my baby“, “If you were the only girl” and “Your Cheating Heart” as well as “Shot of Rhythm and Blues” and “Some other guy“. These songs are collected on this CD I have:”The very best of Johnny Kidd and the Pirates“.
His stage appearance probably influenced other theatrical looking acts like Adam Ant and Alice Cooper although there were other groups who wore costume such as Screaming Lord Sutch and Nero and the Gladiators. The group Dr Feelgood (a reference to heroin) took their name from the song of that name by Piano Red covered by Johnny Kidd.
He was much copied by semi-pro groups in the 1960s and if he hadn’t died so tragically might have made the transition to a British soul singer. However the fact is that the Merseybeat sound swept all before it in the 1960s especially the Beatles who could not only play and sing harmonies but write their own original songs.