Although many music fans might remember it from a performance at Woodstock in 1969 by the British group The Who, the addictive rock song “Shakin’ All Over” was actually a bigger hit a few years earlier for the Canadian band known as The Guess Who (originally Chad Allan & the Reflections). But both groups owed a debt to the guy who originated the song, the legendary British rocker Johnny Kidd.
Born in North London as Frederick Albert Heath, he first began to attract attention in the mid-1950s leading a skiffle* group carrying the intriguing name of the Nutters. It would go through a few other names, including Freddy Heath & the Nutters and the Fred Heath Combo, before finally being reconstituted in 1958 as Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, complete with the leader’s signature eyepatch.
Although the group would later undergo personnel changes (the addition of lead guitarist Mick Green would be especially significant), Heath was joined in the original lineup by Tony Docherty and Alan Caddy on guitar and Ken McKay on drums. The guys soon managed to snag a recording contract and hit the studio, scoring their first minor hit with “Please Don’t Touch” in 1959.
Freddy Heath — or Johnny Kidd, as he was now calling himself — had always been a talented songwriter, and it would be another of his songs that would be the group’s next hit. When “Shakin’ All Over” came out, it would not only chart high for Kidd and his bunch, but also provide inspiration for others. In fact, the group’s musical style and lively stage show was a direct influence on Roger Daltrey, who would soon form The Who.
Over the next few years, Johnny Kidd and the Pirates continued performing and making records, but would be unable to repeat their earlier success. Eventually Kidd reorganized the group as the New Pirates, but what might have been a resurgence in his career came to an abrupt end. He was killed in an auto accident in 1966, just 30 years old.
*For more info about ‘skiffle’, click HERE.