a short history . . . . . . . . . .
The Pirates story really begins back in the mid 1950's with a skiffle band known as Bats Heath and The Vampires featuring a certain Frederick Heath on vocals and guitar. In time and through various line-ups as The Five Nutters and The Fred Heath Band this formed the nucleus of what was to become Johnny Kidd and the Pirates. The new name was reputedly given to them by a sound engineer during a recording test at Abbey Road Studios in 1959. They recorded "Please don't touch / Growl;" with Frederick Heath (aka Johnny Kidd ) on vocals, Alan Caddy and Tony Doherty on guitars and Ken McKay and Don Toy sharing the drumming.
In early 1960 Brian Gregg took over on bass, Clem Cattini occupied the drum stool and Alan Caddy became the solo lead guitar in this new trio - although it's now known that Joe Moretti was actually drafted in to play lead guitar for the recording of their most famous number "Shakin all over". Just 18 months later (Aug 1961) all three, Caddy , Gregg and Cattini jumped ship, left Johnny Kidd and after a couple of changes went on to become The Tornados.
January 1962 saw another new line up with Johnny Spence ( bass), Frank Farley ( drums ) and Johnny Patto ( lead guitar ). But by March 1962 Johnny Patto had left on the grounds of ill-health and Spence and Farley recruited a long time friend from their schooldays Mick Green. This trio was the partnership who were still working together under the Pirates banner 43years later until Frank Farley's enforced retirement in 2005.
Back in the 60's they played with Johnny Kidd at all the popular venues including The Cavern ( Liverpool ), The Oasis ( Manchester ), The Star Club ( Hamburg ) and on the Liverpool Riverboat Shuffle they were supported by the then little known Beatles. They went on to record a number of tracks including "A shot of Rhythm and Blues", "I can tell", "Some other guy", "I'll never get over you", "Hungry for love", "Ecstasy", "My Babe", "casting my spell", "Always and Forever", "Dr Feelgood". They recruited organist Vic Cooper and the hits just kept coming - "Please don't touch", "Jealous Girl", "shop around", "I know", "Where are you" and more.
In August 1964 after two and a half years with the band Mick Green moved on to back Billie J Kramer as part of The Dakotas and his spot behind Johnny Kidd was filled in turn by Stuart Taylor, John Weider, Barry Hammett and John Morshead. They released some more vinyl including "whole lotta woman", "your cheatin heart", "the birds and the bees", "can't turn you loose" and an attempt to capture the old magic with "Shaking all over '65".
1966 again saw Johnny Kidd without his support band when Vic Cooper left, Frank Farley went to join his old mate Mick Green in The Dakotas and Johnny Spence took his bass guitar over to Julian Covey and the Machine . However, Spence and Farley legally retained the rights to the name of "The Pirates". As John explains "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 only came about when we recorded "my babe" and "casting my spell", this naming 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". This was further re-enforced when Johnny Kidd then put together another new backing band ....they had to be billed as "The New Pirates", as only Spence, Green & Farley were entitled to use the name of "The Pirates". "The New Pirates" included Nick Simper, Roger Truth and Ray Soaper.
But it was all very short lived as on Friday 7th October 1966 Johnny Kidd was killed in a car crash just outside of Bury ( Lancashire ).
The memory of Johnny Kidd and his many Pirates goes on with the definitive line up being Mick Green, Johnny Spence & Frank Farley. In 2006 Green and Spence released an album of brand new recordings and even some new numbers recently penned by the two of them. The album's called "Skullduggery" and it's available on the Prism label. Frank Farley retired from the circuit in 2005 and sadly Mick Green passed away on 11th January 2010.
Various incarnations are also still performing under The Pirates flag as well as many tribute bands such as The Pirate Pirates. Whilst this site is dedicated to the Green, Spence and Farley crew, we fully acknowledge the part played by everyone both in their own rights, then and now, as being backing bands for the late great Johnny Kidd. But in truth, as you see above, only Mick Green, Johnny Spence & Frank Farley can legally claim the title of The Pirates.