Mick Green - a tribute

ON January 11, my old friend, legendary guitarist Mick Green, of Hainault, passed away aged 65. In his time he backed some of the top contemporaries of popular music. He was in the promo band for Paul McCartney s 1999 album, Run Devil Run, for which a

ON January 11, my old friend, legendary guitarist Mick Green, of Hainault, passed away aged 65.

In his time he backed some of the top contemporaries of popular music.

He was in the "promo" band for Paul McCartney's 1999 album, Run Devil Run, for which a framed gold disc hung on his wall along with one for Van Morrison's Back on Top album of the same year.

He had spells as a permanent member of his band and that of Bryan Ferry.

Such was his span, that at various times the people he brought his guitar to were poles apart, from Screaming Lord Sutch to Lonnie Donegan, from Steve Marriott to Cilla Black, from Tommy Bruce to Mud.

He was equally at home in The Freddie Starr Band, Scritti Politti, Billy J Kramer & The Dakotas and The Cliff Bennett Band.

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But by his own admission being with British rocker Johnny Kidd & The Pirates for two years in the early '60s was among the best.

The eye-patched singer was such a great performer having played at the Star Club in Hamburg, having The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Gene Vincent as support acts and touring the UK with Jerry Lee Lewis.

It was with Johnny Kidd - who wrote and recorded the classic British rock'n'roll song Shakin' All Over - that Mick got his first break in 1962 bringing his "fierce" style of simultaneously playing lead and rhythm, inspired by Rick Nelson's guitarist James Burton, to the fore.

Two of his childhood friends and neighbours in the Wimbledon area of south London, bass guitarist Johnny Spence and drummer Frank Farley, were already in The Pirates and, when the lead guitarist left, they recommend Mick as replacement.

Much earlier, at the height of the British skiffle craze, in 1957, all three had come together to form a skiffle group called The Wayfaring Strangers. It was a simple introduction, Mick knocked on Johnny's door as he had heard that he knew how to play the "tricky" intro to Lonnie Donegan's Cumberland Gap!

Then, when rock'n'roll beckoned, they switched allegiance and became the Ramrods, then The Redcaps minus Mick, who went off to do gigs with rising singers of the period, Vince Taylor and Dickie Pride.

In 1963, Johnny Kidd & The Pirates played The Room At The Top in Ilford, when riding high in the charts with I'll Never Get Over You.

Mick had co-written the B side with Kidd. It was called Then I Got Everything and was his first stab at song-writing. He did more when he joined Billy J Kramer in 1964 - two years before Johnny Kidd's death in a car crash.

This new role took him to Hawaii and then on to the USA for the first time, where he cut a live EP, which was virtually drowned out by girls screaming - such was Billy J's popularity over there at the time.

In the UK, Mick played on his last chart hit, Trains, Boats and Planes. (In the '90s Kramer returned to the UK for appearances after a long absence, one being at Valentines Park in Ilford. Mick went along initially to see his old boss, but was invited up on to the stage to do a couple of numbers, which were well received.)

Heading towards the end of the '60s, The Dakotas, reduced to a trio, with old friend Frank Farley on drums, left initially to back another Liverpool act, The Merseys on tour with The Four Tops before backing Billy Fury in cabaret for three months.

Both Mick and Frank then found themselves in the Cliff Bennett Band, where they recorded an expected hit, a version of The Beatles Back In The USSR in 1968. But despite plentiful plays on air, it never happened.

Then a major departure from rock'n'roll.

Mick joined the rhythm section in the orchestra behind crooner Englebert Humperdinck, taking the bass-guitarist from The Dakotas with him as support.

Elvis Presley came to see one of the shows and came back to the dressing room, where there was, according to Mick, a somewhat "strained" conversation between "the king" and Humperdinck, which didn't lighten until Mick and the rhythm section, playing cards, suddenly got up and asked Elvis for his autograph.

Things then became relaxed.

Unbeknown to Mick, Elvis expressed an interest in having him in his band, but by the time Mick heard about it the moment had passed. What an offer to have missed out on!

One of Mick's threads throughout all his time in the music business, were The Pirates. There were variants that he led, good and not so good, but by far the best, was when Messrs Green/Spence/Farley got together. They gelled and were a powerful trio, never needing (or thinking) to rehearse.

It re-started in 1976, when they met up after a 10-year gap, and played around with a few old favourites. This led to playing on a Radio 1 show, It's Only Rock'n'Roll, to Warner Brother Records and to going back on the road. In 1977, The Pirates made the British album charts with Out Of Their Skulls.

A year later they visited America, where they recorded and played dates and kept it rolling for five years before costs became prohibitive.

It was another 15 years before they re-emerged together and they continued to do gigs and recordings on a spasmodic basis, including a visit to Japan for dates and a live recording in 2000.

In 2007, a studio album, titled Skullduggery, came out, together with a vinyl single of Ugly Millionaire, a Green/Spence song, together with a re-make of Shakin' All Over, which the band have never failed to include in their live set.

Mick's old friend Frank Farley bowed out for health reasons and was replaced by Mike Roberts from Lloyd Green's band. Despite Mick becoming ill during 2009 and requiring spells in hospital, he was able to resume teaching guitar in a local school on a reduced basis and to make one to two appearances with The New Animals. There was talk of The Pirates doing a one-off gig in central London towards the end of last year. Unfortunately, Mick had to go back into hospital.

There are few guitarists of his ilk. I shall not only miss his work, but he had a strange sense of humour, almost cutting, but once you got it, very funny. I was pleased to have known him all the way back to his time with Johnny Kidd.

He was very proud of his family, wife Karen and sons Lloyd & Bradley and delighted to have become a grand-father. He will be greatly missed by many.

- ALAN WHEELER

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