Obituary: Kenny Pickett
Tuesday 21 January 1997
Born Kenneth George Pickett in 1952, he was educated at Hertford Grammar School. When the British Beat explosion happened in 1963, he worked as a driver for Neil Christian's Crusaders before taking on the stage name Kenny Lee and joining forces with Eddie Philips (guitar), Mick Thompson (guitar), John Dalton (bass) and Jack Jones (drums) to become the Mark Four. Signing to the Mercury label in early 1964, the band took the then usual cover version route and recorded versions of Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock" and Marvin Gaye's "Try It Baby".
When both singles flopped, Pickett and Philips tried their hands at songwriting and came up with the powerful "Hurt Me If You Will" which came out on Decca in August 1965. By then, the band had lost Thompson and replaced Dalton (who later joined the Kinks) by first Tony Cooke and subsequently Bob Garner. After a last single for Fontana entitled "Work All Day (Sleep All Night)", the group followed the advice of their manager Tony Stratton- Smith and changed its name to The Creation, an expression Pickett had found in a Russian poetry book.
The quartet had all the right connections and were represented by the prestigious Robert Stigwood agency. In early 1966, Stratton-Smith hooked them up with the American producer Shel Talmy who had already helped the Kinks and The Who make an impact on the British charts. Talmy signed The Creation to his Planet label and oversaw the recording of "Making Time" which came out in June that year. Described then by Phillips as "red with purple flashes", this dynamic, primal single only reached No 49 in the charts.
The Who and The Small Faces seemed to have the mod scene sewn up but The Creation built an incredible reputation as a live act. Eddie Phillips would play his guitar with a violin bow (a move later copied by Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page) while Pickett would spray paint all over a huge canvas which he'd later set fire to. "Biff Bang Pow!" indeed, as screamed the feedback- laden B-side of their next hit single, the catchy "Painter Man", which got as high as No 36 in the hit parade.
Things were looking up, but the volatile relationships within the band proved its undoing. In February 1967, Pickett caught the rest of the group rehearsing one of his songs, with Bob Garner as vocalist and Kim Gardner on bass, and walked out. The Creation struggled on, touring Germany with the Rolling Stones and releasing the album We Are Paintermen on Polydor there and in Holland and Scandinavia. In the meantime, Pickett became one of Shel Talmy's in-house songwriters but, the following year, after Eddie Phillips and Bob Garner's departure, Pickett rejoined, as a version of the psychedelic "How Does It Feel to Feel?" appeared on Polydor. In March 1968, Ron Wood joined for Dutch and German tours before The Creation finally split after the release of Midway Down.
Pickett became a jack of all trades, acting as tour manager for bands like Led Zeppelin and Steppenwolf and co-writing songs with Roger Cook for the likes of Blue Mink (of "Melting Pot" fame). However, he really struck gold with the infuriating "Grandad", a British No 1 for the actor Clive Dunn in 1971 and a children's radio favourite ever since. The ditty even earned Pickett (and his co-writer Herbie Flowers) the prestigious Ivor Novello award.
In the early Eighties, Pickett recorded as The Kennedy Express, continued to write songs and briefly reformed The Creation. When a British Rail employee, Alan McGee, launched his own record label in 1983, he immediately thought of his favourite psychedelic band and used its name as the title of the label ("Biff Bang Pow!" also provided him with an alias for his own group later). This obsession eventually led to The Creation signing to Creation and releasing a single called "Creation" in 1994.
The same year Pickett and his cohorts appeared at the label's 10th anniversary (held a year late) at the Royal Albert Hall alongside Bob Mould, The Boo Radleys and Oasis, whom they'd already supported in Manchester. Following a short-lived reconciliation of sorts, Pickett and Philips recorded the Power Surge album which eventually came out last year.
With Ocean Colour Scene and Paul Weller (always a Creation fan) once more extolling the virtues of mod and The Who reviving the quintessential mod movie and album Quadrophenia, Swinging London has gone full circle. Joe Foster, Head of Revola Records (re-release subsidiary of Creation), who did much to nurture The Creation's comeback, acknowledges that "Kenny Pickett had [also] brought his career full circle. More was planned but he went too soon."
Kenneth George Pickett, singer and songwriter: born Ware, Hertfordshire 3 September 1942; married Teri King (one son, one stepson, one stepdaughter); died London 10 January 1997.
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