"WILD" BILL KENNEDY

Bll Kennedy & The Twiliters
"WILD" BILL KENNEDY on stage with the Twilters at Rollerland in Plattsburgh, NY. Kennedy on guitar and vocals. John Sullivan on guitar. Tommy Latour on bass and Skip Bushey on drums.

 

Bill Kennedy was born in Bluefield, West Virginia in 1940.  Growing up there in the 40's and early 50's provided a rich musical background, whether it was local gospel, country, big bands, the popsters or the R&B sounds coming from WLAC in Nashville, the young Bill absorbed it all, although the Chicago R&B artists such as Little Walter, Jimmy Reed and Lightning Hopkins influenced him most.  After moving to Columbus, Ohio in the 50's, Kennedy played with several local bands and met every Rockabilly performer that came through on tour.  His favourite artists were Buddy Holly and Carl Perkins who Bill remembers as being "Down to earth and having fun".

While stationed in West Germany in the US Air Force from 1958-1961 Bill formed a band called the Klicks which toured the Armed Forces clubs, played many local functions and opened for several big name acts that toured with the USO shows such as Johnny Cash and The DeCastro Sisters.

"We were in great demand, says Kennedy.  In fact, we were the only American all rock & roll band playing at that time.  The others were country bands with a little rock thrown in.......we really got into the British rock scene which seemed to have more going for it than what the US was producing at that time.  In my band we did a lot of British hits.  Cliff Richard's, "Move It", "Travelling Light", "Living Doll", Marty Wilde's "Bad Boy" and "Danny" and Johnny Kidds "Shaken all over."

A very forward-looking attitude for the time.  Returning to states Bill was stationed in Plattsburgh New York and formed a new band called the "Twiliters" including Bill on Guitar; Skip Bushey, Drums; John Sullivan Guitar (later replaced by Bruce DanVille); and Tommy Latour on Bass.  Here they met a local record producer who thought enough of what he heard to want to produce a record on his local label, Empire Records.  The recording took place at Rollerland, a large roller rink in Plattsburgh, NY which held dances where big names of the day often appeared.  This accounts for the unusual and totally 'live' feel to the tracks which featured real locals instead of an 'invited' audience.

 
     
 

"The first song I thought of was "Shakin' all over."  (It) was the first north American recording of the song and it took a while to get clearances but on a Saturday night in September, 1962, we recorded it "Live."  In one take I might add.  We even left in a mistake.  The flip side was "Rollerland" which was a song about the roller-rink we recorded at.  We did real well with it, I think we sold about fifteen thousand copies in all which is a lot for a local band in those days.

"Wild" Bill Kennedy
Bill Kennedy strikes a pose.

 

The record as issued as Empire Records E-4 in late 1962 in the New York, New Jersey and the New England States and marks the first recorded cover instance of "Shakin'" in north America.  The group sent copies of the single to all the record companies but they all declined the chance to give it a wider release.  Several months passed when Bill heard a familiar riff coming out of his radio.

"It was "Shakin all over," but it wasn't ours, it was by the "Guess Who" from Canada.  What was odd is that their rendition was a cross between the original Johnny Kidd recording with a little bit of ours thrown in.  Several years later I found out that an A&R guy at RCA in Chicago had heard our record.  He really liked the song but not us.  My guess is that he held on to the song until the right group came along.  I met Randy Bachman of the Guess Who in Montreal back in 1968 and he claimed he couldn't remember where the song came from..."

The second Twiliters single on Empire Records E-6 was released in 1963, the topside of which was a Kennedy original, "The Girl From Liverpool".  The b-side featured their version of Cliff Richard's "Move it", a song which Bill had long wanted to commit to vinyl.  The groups' third and last record was released on Venture Records (Bill's own label) V-1000A which featured "Mary Lou", previously a minor hit for Canadian rocker Ronnie Hawkins.  Its b-side "Billy Billy" was from another Canadian band called the Beau-Marks.

The Twiliters versions of of "Shakin' All Over" and "Move it" are available in the UK on several compilations by Norton records.  Kennedy continued touring until 1972 with his last band called A.C. Apple.  Today he lives in the Albany New York area and plays whenever asked. 

More information about Bill can be found here, on his entry in the Rockabilly Hall Of Fame.

 
     
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.