1959 Hard work, a recording contract and chart success
THE FRED, MIKE & TOM SHOW Fred Heath / Mike West / Tom Brown (vocals); Alan Caddy (lead); Tony Doherty (rhythm); Johnny Gordon (bass); Ken McKay (drums).  (January 1959 - April 1959)
unknown "Please Don't Touch", the latest in a line of Heath original songs, was built around the title which came first and which Heath wanted to be catchy and memorable.  It was sold and recorded by British duo the Batchelors for release on Parlophone records (45-R 4547) but failed to make the charts.  The song would not go to waste however.  They went on tours with Cliff, Bert Weedon, and later with Johnny Kidd and the Pirates.
March Vince Taylor and the Playboys release "Brand New Cadillac", one of a handful of genuine classic UK Rock 'n' Roll cuts.  The Playboys at this time feature Scottish guitarist Joe Moretti, who the following year will wield his axe in the making of perhaps the most influential UK classic Rock 'n' Roll recording for the as-yet-to-be-named Johnny Kidd.
April 18th The very first HMV recording session at Abbey Road.  "Please Don’t Touch" and "Growl" are recorded and become the debut single, an instant classic.  As the song had originally been recorded by the Batchelors (unrelated to the later Irish combo) this is technically a cover version....!  In a reversal of the usual trend an American Rocker, Chico Holiday, released a cover version in the States on an EP "Chico Holliday" (RCA 171).  Click here for more on "Please Don't Touch".

"Growl" is credited on the label to "Heath-Robinson" in respect of the way it was thrown together during the session!  During the session, Fred Heath becomes "Johnny Kidd" (a tattoo  saying "Fred" on his arm would make sure he'd remember who he was) and his backing band are re-titled "the Pirates".  According to notes, Ken MacKay appears on "Growl" but is relieved of his official drumming duties during the session.  Don Toy appears as drummer on "Please Don't Touch". 

JOHNNY KIDD & THE PIRATES #1 Johnny Kidd / Mike West / Tom Brown (vocals); Alan Caddy (lead); Tony Doherty (rhythm); Johnny Gordon (bass); Ken McKay/Don Toy (drums).  (April 1959 - December 1959)
May 8th RELEASE: "Please Don’t Touch"/"Growl" (HMV POP 615).  On this day Ken MacKay (relieved from duty during the April 18th recording session) is sacked from the group, his drumming not considered strong enough.  Don Toy will fill in until a replacement is found.
June 6th "Saturday Club", BBC Radio, edition 36.  The recording session that put down new cuts of the debut single sides (plus others) had been the previous Tuesday.  Although technically Fred Heath had appeared on the show under it's former guise of "Saturday Skiffle Club" this is Johnny Kidd's first appearance on "Saturday Club".  There was hardly time for nerves as the rest of the band were mercilessly taking the mickey out of Mike West - he turned up wearing an eye patch due to a nasty stye, and Brian Matthews even asks him about it on air!  (The tape survives and extracts including this question have been released on CD.)  The show is a great success with the BBC bombarded with mail.  Kidd and the band were quickly re-booked.

The BBC paid Johnny Kidd 35 guineas for his seven piece band, unfortunately the cheque was sent in error to Kidd rather than his management.  This created problems because - as the BBC put it - Kidd has no bank account and has been unable to cash this cheque."

June 12th "Please Don’t Touch" charts at no. 25 - the highest 'official' position as quoted in the chart now used by Guinness.  However, in "Melody Maker" dated June 13th the single had made it as high as number 20.

It has been conjectured that a record-pressing strike may have hampered sales of this disc, which would account for how the song seems to be as well (if not better) remembered than some of the other illustrious Top Twenty hits listed here, not bad for a completely home-grown record at a time when only Cliff & the Shads and Billy Fury regularly knocked out their own material.

June 27th "Saturday Club", BBC Radio, edition 39.  The groups' second appearance.  Programme presenter Brian Matthew is going strong today, presenting a two-hour "Sounds Of The 60's" on BBC Radio 2 on Saturday mornings.

The primitive one-take recordings made for the show (second-takes only if a disaster occurred) allowed the BBC to get round the limit on "needletime", i.e. the number of gramophone records that could be played on air (which was a major incentive to the "Pirate" radio stations that were set up in the 1960's).  Most programmes had four live acts and only contained around six requests and three new releases.  "Saturday Club" nevertheless could expect audiences up to 25 million listeners every Saturday morning.

July "Drumbeat" begins on BBC television.  most shows featured Adam Faith, the John Barry Seven, Bob Miller and the Millermen, the Barry Sisters, plus others.  Gus Goodwin and Trevor Peacock (Jim from "The Vicar Of Dibley" no less!) were compere's.  Johnny was watching the show and nearly fell off his seat when Vince Eager with the John Barry Seven break into "Please Don't Touch"!
July 8th, Wednesday Television debut on "Jack Parnell's "Record Round-Up" - also on the show were Eddie Calvert, Tony Brent, Acker Bilk and Petula Clark.  The small studio size meant only Johnny , Alan Caddy and Tony Doherty were able to be seen.
July 9th Guy Robinson had booked this session to record the stage favourite "Yes Sir, That's My Baby" as a possible second single and told the group not to be late.  Kidd was nowhere to be found.  A private detective found him on Bournemouth Beach, sunbathing!  Shocked, Kidd was whisked back to Abbey Road but the results were not satisfactory and it remained unreleased until it was put out on the flip of the re-activated "Shakin' All Over" single on the EMI label in 1976, usurping the rather more refined version that was cut on 13/05/60.
July TV Appearance on "Lunch Box" - performing "Please Don't Touch".  Lunch Box started in 1956 and a pre-"Crossroads" Noele Gordon was co-host.  It was produced by Lew Grade's regional ITV company ATV and only came to an end when Gordon landed top billing in the oft-remembered soap, "Crossroads".
July-August There were other group TV appearances around this time including a show (name unknown) for ABC which had Kidd without his Pirates miming to "Please Don't Touch".
August 06th Some four months after the groups inaugural recording session at Abbey Road studios, EMI sent Kidd a letter, stating:

"Dear Mr. Heath: I am sending you herewith counterpart of the agreement between yourself and this company, duly signed by the secretary and witnessed.  This is for your retention."

September A guest TV appearances on ATV's "Disc Break".  This show was credited in the pop press for being his actual television debut.
November 2nd With the group ever more on the road it took till now to pin them down to enter Abbey Road for the recording of "Steady Date" and "Feelin'"
November 12th Back to Abbey Road for "If You Were The Only Girl In The World".  The Pirates are not present at this session, the backing orchestration for Kidd was supplied by Ivor Raymonde.  Raymonde would go on to co-write Dusty Springfields' debut, "I Only Want To Be With You" in 1963 and more of her output, and would be responsible for many other artists' big hits.  TRIVIA: He'd previously appeared in bit-parts on "Hancock's Half Hour"!
December 4th RELEASE: "If You Were The Only Girl In The World"/"Feelin'" (HMV POP 674).  Did not chart.  The A-side is oddly enough a quite popular change of pace in Kidd's act and will regularly feature for the next few years, much to the consternation of various Pirate line-ups who brave it by performing it in a much more contemporary form.  Which makes you wonder why this wasn't attempted on record.  In fact, a version with the Pirates was attempted, however this interesting cut has yet to be found in the EMI vaults if indeed it was retained. 

This single (featuring the talents of guitarist Bert Weedon) is now the most collectable of all Kidd's singles, mainly for the superb flipside "Feelin" which, if there was any justice, would have been the A-side.

December Johnny Kidd signs a one-year management deal with Stanley Dale's Associated London Scripts, which features Spike Milligan and Eric Sykes, as well as Marty Wilde and the Wildcats, Jim Dale and the Vipers Skiffle Group, amongst others.  Jim Dale (b. James Smith) scored a UK Top Ten hit with "Be My Girl" in 1958, but the three follow-ups barely managed four weeks in the charts between them.  He would go on to be a core member of the "Carry On" team in the 60's.
December One of the first bookings for his new management sends the group to appear in Dale's Rock Show at the Coronation Hall, Kingston-Upon-Thames.  When not fully booked, the group would appear at Dale's other venues including the Top Ten Club, and places in Aylesbury, Hatfield, Borehamwood and Ramsgate.
Home Page       The Story       TimeLine       Band members       Gallery
Discussion      Recordings      Songs      Site Map      The Pirates Website
This website is maintained by Adrian Barrett.  Adrian Barrett, 1998-2006.
Use www.johnnykidd.co.uk as pages may be removed as the site develops.