Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Kenny Everett (1944 – 1995)

Maurice James Christopher Cole was born in Seaforth, Merseyside in 1944. His schooling was pretty strict attending several Catholic schools where Maurice was a spirited youth always finding himself in trouble with school authorities. He was accused of breaking into the sacristy and drinking the communion wine and was subsequently suspended. Young Maurice took a series of jobs after leaving school but his heart lay elsewhere. Keen to pursue a show biz career Maurice made and sent a demo tape to the BBC in 1962. They were sufficiently impressed with it to give him an interview then offer him a job as a presenter on the Light Program , (the fore-runner to BBC Radio 2). However Maurice declined their offer and joined the pirate radio station, Radio London in 1964.

Now called Kenny Everitt (named after a childhood hero) he and Dave Cash teamed up to present the Kenny & Cash Show which proved a great success. Kenny’s offbeat humour and likable personality quickly gained him attention but he was a bit of a loose cannon and would make outspoken comment on the thing he truly believed in. Kenny met the Beatles and previewed the new Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band while still at Radio London. The group and he hit is off and became good friends so when they went to the US, Kenny covered the tour for the private station.

In 1965 this brought him into conflict with the station sponsors and Kenny was sacked. This would not be for the last time and he was back in front of the mic six months later. In 1966 Radio Luxembourg gave him his own show which was incredibly popular for both comment and choice of music.

Kenny produced The Beatles Fan Club Christmas record in 1968 and 1969 Christmas records.

He moved to Radio 1 and further developed his presentation style which now featured zany voices, surreal characters, multi-tracked jingles and trailers. He enjoyed working with sound and sound recording and became an expert with the new stereo/multi-track recording systems which he put to good use with his funny voices and radio jingles. Kenny was back on top presenting peek the time Saturday show from 10 am to 12 noon.

In 1970 the controversial presenter was in trouble again with outspoken comment and was fired by Auntie. Then two years later he was back again this time with a pre recorded show which he did from home. The tapes were vetted and the show went to air on a Sunday afternoon. In 1973 Kenny Everett joined Capitol Radio, London and he and Dave Cash co-presented the breakfast show. Using reel to reel recording he created many comedy characters, some of which would be recreated later in his TV programs.

In 1978 Thames Television offered him a new program which eventually became The Kenny Everett Video Show (then The Kenny Everett Video Cassette). Kenny used his characters and sketches (written by Ray Cameron, Barry Cryer and Dick Vosburgh) which were interspersed with pop music either performed by the artists , or as backing tracks to dance routines by dance troupe, Hot Gossip.

In an age prior to video the show was very popular and stars from tv and pop, queued up to make cameo appearances. The series ran for four seasons and achieved high ratings for Thames but Kenny fell out with the management and left in 1981 to start up a similar show with the BBC. It too enjoyed high ratings but the format was now rather passé albeit it ran until 1988. Kenny did return to the BBC radio (Radio 2) in 1981 but after telling a rude joke about the then, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher his contract was not renewed. Undaunted he went back to Capitol where he continued until failing health forced him to retire in 1993. Kenny was diagnosed as HIV positive in 1989 and died from an Aids-related illness two years later. Much of Cuddly Ken’s success was his ability to play excellent music combined with his natural talent to entertain. Certainly influenced in his early career by the masterful Jack Jackson his style was unique due to his command of reel to reel recording. Many have subsequently tried to copy Kenny Everett’s mikemanship including Noel Edmonds and Steve Wright but no one has ever surpassed his on air brilliance. Kenny Everett was to on air broadcasting what Joe Meek and Sir George Martin were to recorded music.

Further Reading
Hogg J & Sellers R (2014) Hello, Darlings!: The Authorized Biography of Kenny Everett Bantam Press

No comments: