1966 Marriages and splits, plus New Pirates for a new career
January The New Year kicks off with a tour to Germany, finishing on Wednesday 19th.  Soon after, is a gig as the J Club in Leominster.

During this month, South African band the A-Cads would score a Springbok no. 1 hit with their biggest seller, a cover of "Hungry For Love".

February Ex-Pirate John Weider is now with Jimmy Winston's Reflections, and this month sees a new release from them.  He describes the recently-formed outfit as having an original sound, which he calls "pop-Jazz".  Apart from vocalist Winston and Weider on guitar, the line-up included Tony Kay (organ), Alex Paris (bass) and Terry Slade (drums).
February 18th, Friday Fred Heath marries Jean Complin (from Westminster) at Caxton Hall in London.  Fred's best man is one of his best friends, Pirate Johnny Spence.  The reception is at the Constellation pub in South Harrow and in attendance are many in the pop world, including members of the Hollies, Georgie Fame, Tom Jones, maniacal Pretty Thing drummer Viv Prince, and promoter Tito burns.  Band leader Eric Delaney is also present; he was a big influence on Kidd as he carried around his own backdrop and lighting for his bands show.  He was also the first drummer in Europe to pioneer a twin-bass drum set-up.

Back at Johnny's house it wasn't long before impromptu jamming sessions were in full flow.

Johnny Kidd - "I met Jean on a blind date in 1961.  I'm usually suspicious about blind dates but I'm glad I turned up for that one.  It was when I was playing a one night stand in Aylesbury."

Don Craine of the Downliners Sect, who got married on the same day, remarked that they shared George Coopers' management and similar circuit of gigs - and that they usually got paid!

Photo - the happy couple.  See another, good-quality photo here.

February 19th, Saturday The day following his wedding Fred Heath is back on the road as Johnny Kidd to a gig in Wrexham, North Wales.  The happy couple's honeymoon is destined to wait until some free time comes up in May!
February 22nd Time for a new record release, and this one will be recorded without the Pirates in another attempt to establish Johnny Kidd as a solo singer.  "It's Got To Be You" was dedicated to his new wife Jean, and would be coupled with "I Hate Getting Up In The Morning" also recorded today.
April 15 RELEASE: "It's Got To Be You" / "I Hate Getting Up In The Morning" (HMV POP1520) is released without any Pirates involvement.  The topside is written by members of the Liverpool all-girl group the LiverBirds.  The flipside had been previously recorded as an (as-yet unreleased) group effort, and also featured on singles by Michael Cox and Tommy Bruce.  The latter's version (pictured, right) was also produced by its writer, Mitch Murray.

This is a make-it-or-break-it disc for Kidd, whose popularity and bookings had taken a bit of a nosedive since the end of the previous year.  Outspoken as ever he is, Crispian St. Peters had this to say in the current weeks' "Melody Maker" -

"Chris Andrews? No, Johnny Kidd.  It's about time he came out with a new one.  One of my favourite artists.  He and the Pirates have got one of the best stage acts in the country.  I like the backing - that double rhythm guitar is great.  The backings' better than the song, I think it'll be a hit  He needs a hit."

April 19 Back in London after a gig at Bletchley's Wilton Hall (pictured right) Johnny Kidd and the Pirates part company.  While Kidd is tiring of life on the road with seemingly little reward since the purple patch in 1963/4 he contemplates a career in cabaret.  The group retain their name officially as "The Pirates" with Kidd's blessing and any dates he performs in future will be with anonymous line-ups unless he decides to take on a permanent crew later on.  Johnny Spence clarified the situation some years afterwards:

"Maybe I can lay all the infighting to rest as I was one of JK's closest friends and just of interest his best man at his wedding to Jean.  JK always employed musicians as session men rather than part of the whole group - that was the way things were done in those days. 'The Pirates' as an entity on their own came about when we recorded "My Babe" and "Casting my Spell", this was holy endorsed by JK.  The thinking behind it was that JK's management at the time were building up to him going out as a solo artist."

April 19 Mick Green, Johnny Spence and Frank Farley are continuing the Pirates (as opposed to any "New Pirates" line-up) and will record and release a new single on Polydor, "Shades Of Blue" c/w "Can't Understand".  The topside might be a little more in keeping with the changing times compared to their previous output and is a little untypical.  Frank Farley probably put it in perspective when he described it as "crap".  It's certainly different but who knows where it may have lead had good fortune been on their side.  Remember the direction Cream went?
JOHNNY KIDD & THE PIRATES #8 Johnny Kidd (vocals); Billy Knaggs (lead); Mike Rudzinski (bass); Les Hall (drums); Ray Soaper (keyboards).  (April - May 1966)
April - May

A brief tour of Devon and Cornwall with Liverpool trio the Avengers (Billy Knaggs, Mike Rudzinski, Les Hall) convinces Kidd that this group should be the next Pirates.  Despite attempts at persuasion personal commitments of at least two members - settled home lives and secure jobs - will preclude this.  Kidd continues working with assorted musicians backing him.

May The single has made little impression commercially and a disillusioned Kidd talked openly about changing direction or even giving it up altogether.

Read more here about Kidd's career decision time.

May Organist Ray Soaper - one of the musicians currently employed by Kidd - tips off bass player Nick Simper that his idol is on the lookout for crew members.  Simper pulls in drummer Roger Truth and with guitarist Mick Stewart they knock on Kidd's front door and offer themselves as his new backing band, necessarily called the New Pirates.

Kidd is now managed by Kennedy Street Artistes in Manchester who unfortunately prove strangely un-cooperative with Kidd's long-time Fan Club secretary and friend Alan Wheeler, and he ended his association with the club, the running of which was taken on by two girls.

JOHNNY KIDD & THE PIRATES #9 Johnny Kidd (vocals); Mick Stewart (lead); Nick Simper (bass); Roger Truth (Pinner) (drums); Ray Soaper (keyboards).  (May - October 1966)

May gigs include;
14th: Bromley;
20th: Walton On The Naze;
21st: Odeon, Kingsbury;
26th: Leas Cliff Hall, Folkestone;
27th: Abergavenny.

Kidd is impressed enough to keep referring to the New Pirates as "the best Pirates I've ever had", even when they reminded him that they didn't have a Mick Green!  Fan reaction is also very positive and a career in cabaret beckons.  Kidd tries to do away with the eye patch but what started out as a gimmick is now such a strongly identified trademark he finds it impossible to discard.

Photo - back row; Ray Soaper, Roger Truth.  Centre; Johnny Kidd.  Front row; Nick Simper, Mick Stewart.

May 7th Kidd appears at the annual Festival Gardens Gala at Battersea, organised by the Variety Club Of Great Britain.  Others present included; Roger Moore; Trini Lopez; David Frost; The Ivy League; Jonathan King; Tony Jackson; Roy Castle.
May 21st Odeon Cinema, Kingsbury - A surprise performance at the Saturday Morning Children Clubs.
June June gigs include (more information anyone?);
2nd: Wantage, Oxfordshire;
3rd: Newbury, Berkshire;
25th: Leas Cliff Hall, Folkestone, Kent (right).  With its setting up in the cliff and 'stunning' views, this unusual location was ripe for the buccaneers to invade!
July July gigs include (more dates/information anyone?);
Prestatyn, Clwyd;
Seaton, Devon.
Mid-July THE PIRATES - Johnny Spence, Frank Farley, Vic Cooper and guitarist Mick Taylor (Jon Morshead having departed before a tour of US Air bases) call it a day.  Farley joins Green in the Dakotas, who record a handful of singles on their own before becoming the nucleus of the Cliff Bennett Band in 1968 after he is abandoned by his Rebel Rousers.  Cooper joins Tom Jones' backing group the Squires, and Spence joins Julian Covey And The Machine.
August Despite not handling Kidd's day-to-day dates, ex-manager George Cooper continues to offer The Kidd occasional dates, one of which was very last-minute in Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset, subbing for Georgie Fame & the Blue Flames.  Soaper cannot be contacted and misses out.  On the way they meet Eden Kane who also mentions he's off to the same place...  Fearing a double-booking a frantic race ensues with Irvo uncharacteristically getting lost and the band arrive late.  They needn't have worried - both acts were legitimately on the roster - with Kidd topping the bill!

Other August gigs were a little sparse but included dates at (more information anyone?) Grimsby in Lincolnshire, Ripley, Surrey, Nantwich, Cheshire, plus on the 26th at a special Police "do" in Clacton, Essex.

August 18th Recording sessions at Abbey Road for a new single under the aegis of Norman "Hurricane" Smith.  Ideas had included a Beatles number, or even a new take on "Please don't Touch" featuring a sitar.  These ideas do not work out.  "Send For That Girl" and a new interpretation of a favourite of Johnny's, "The Fool" are cut.  The previous version of the latter for the "lost LP" remained unreleased as of this date and would for another seventeen years.  After a bite to eat back at Johnny's home their roadie Johnny Irving drives through the night to ferry them up to Dundee in Scotland where they are appearing the following night.

Another version of "Send For That Girl" had been committed to tape on Kidds' home tape recorder, along with "We Will Come Together", "I Love You", and a version of the Beatles' "I'm Only Sleeping" from their "Revolver" LP.

August 19th The band embark on a Scottish tour which kicks off this evening at the Caird Hall, Dundee.  The bill, headed by duo David And Jonathan includes; the Red Hawks; Dunfermline Boys; the Ivy League; Jay-Birds; St. Louis Union.  David and Jonathan's bassist, Rowland Barter had written "Send For That Girl", recorded only the day before.
August 18th (& 23rd) This session without the band or singer present was probably organised for the orchestration overdub as performed by Harry Robinson, again under the watchful eye of producer Norman Smith.
September 3rd Orpington, Kent - venue unknown (more information anyone?); 

Kidd had a portable television he would take on the road with him, it allowed him to watch his horse racing passion.  He would usually bet at Patsy Rays the bookie, and would treat the rest of the lads if he had a winner.  Nick Simper remembered watching the world Cup on it!

By now, the New Pirates were a Power Trio having dropped Ray Soaper, as they were on the rushed gig in Weston-Super-Mare the previous month without him.  It is unfortunate for the organist as he was the link who inspired the ex-Regents into backing Kidd full-time.

September 10th Shooting begins on a French thriller, "La Musique Est Mort"s (roughly translated means "The Music Is Dead"), the story of a group playing in a Paris club until the compere gets murdered.  Johnny and the Pirates plus the St. Louis Union are taking part.  At least that was the story put out by the imaginative Keith Goodwin and KayGee Publicity in an attempt to keep Kidd name in the papers.
September Before he goes north on dates, Kidd is persuaded to buy a blue Ford Sunliner (similar to the one pictured) off Frank Rouledge, working as a car salesman since he left the Freddie Heath Band.
September 19th-25th Kidds' Manager George Cooper organises the bands first cabaret dates concentrating in Darlington (the Flamingo Club) and Middlesbrough (club name forgotten - ?), which means much-reduced travelling time and consequent rushing between gigs.  Playing non-stop Rock 'n' Roll each night to packed houses, the band go down extremely well playing encores throughout the week. 
October 1st, Saturday The group perform at the Raven Club at R.A.F. Waddington, a nuclear bomber base off the A46 between Newark and Lincoln in Lincolnshire.  Once a month the Raven would organise a special evening with a named band.  Nick Simper described it as "...a tremendous gig.  Johnny was in top form."  All are looking forward to their next date in Bolton.

Trivia; the Raven Club was named after a lady killed onsite in a bombing raid during WW2.

October 07, Friday The group are booked for a gig in Bolton but arrive slightly late.  The Manager cancels, perhaps a little over-zealous as it isn't start-time yet, and refuses to budge in spite of hardly anyone turning up and Kidd offering to do it for nothing.  With free time on their hands they travel over to do a reconnaissance of the Nelson Imperial; they are due to appear in a few weeks time and get on well with the Manager there, and hope he can put a few more bookings their way.  After this they begin the long trek home. 

It is late at night, and the car leaves the road after a head-on collision on the A58, Bury New Road, near Radcliff.  Traffic is diverted as firemen cut through the twisted metal to free the occupants.  Nick Simper emerges badly injured but especially suffers with a smashed-up arm which will keep him out of action for weeks.  Johnny Kidd however is pronounced Dead On Arrival at hospital.  He would have been 31 in a few weeks time.  One person in the other vehicle is also killed.  Click the image or here for the local Bury Times article. 

This brings the New Pirates' career to a shuddering halt as they take time out to evaluate their position and await the injured to make full recoveries.

TRIVIA:  The main item in the newspaper cutting compilation (above-right) mentions that Johnny went solo, but does not mention the existence of the New Pirates.

October - November Mick Stewart, Roger Truth, Johnny Spence and Vic Cooper, are contracted to accompany Jerry Lee Lewis on a UK tour.  Lewis was backed by his own group, the Memphis Beats but the only way they could come was by way of an agreement with the UK Musicians Union - a paid-up UK group needed to be available to stand in if necessary.  Alas, they travelled unseen and uncredited, an interesting line-up of would-be Jolly Rogers.
November 4th RELEASE: "Send For That Girl" / "The Fool" (HMV POP1559).  The final - and posthumous - Johnny Kidd single, featuring the New Pirates who were currently indisposed, minimalising any chance of generating much publicity.  Which is a shame as it is a number that grows on you.
Below is redrafted - new information courtesy of Nick Simper - www.nicksimper.com
THE PIRATES #10 Mick Stewart (lead/vocals); Nick Simper (bass/vocals); John Kerrison (drums); Johnny Carroll (keyboards/vocals).  (December 1966 - May 1967)
December The (New) Pirates reconvene, adding Johnny Carroll on keyboards.  Apparently, ex-Searchers bassman Tony Jackson was invited to join the re-formed group, but this intriguing proposition never happens.
    A tour over Scotland beckons, but just before departure, Truth quits (to join the Freddie Mac Band) and John Kerrison is recruited as his replacement.

Photo - Simper; Stewart; Truth; Carroll.

Getting good reactions from their audiences encourages the New Pirates and gives them the heart to go on.  One of the dates on the tour brings them into contact with the Freddie Mac Band, and their recently-departed drummer was reported (by "Lord" Sutch) to be hiding from the rest of the group!

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