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Alan Caddy 8/2000

guitar wizard alan caddy with the tornadoesAugust 16, 2000 – Alan Caddy (Johnny Kidd & the Pirates/The Tornadoes) was born on February 2nd 1940 in Chelsea, London.

Alan Caddy’s father was a dance band drummer who also ran his own jazz club. At the Emanuel School in Battersea, the young Caddy was head chorister and leader of the school orchestra. Naturally talented as a treble, he regularly sang at Westminster Cathedral and he studied the violin at the Royal Academy of Music. But he was enthralled by the emergent skiffle and rock’n’roll, and switched to the guitar.
He left school at 17 and played guitar in his spare time, moving through several amateur and semi-professional groups in the Battersea area. One of those bands was the Five Nutters, a skiffle outfit that he joined in 1957, who were based in Willesden and played five nights a week at their own club, known as the KKK. They added a new singer that year, one Frederick Heath, who later started billing himself as Johnny Kidd — and in short order, they were Johnny Kidd & the Pirates.

By 1958 he was regularly playing four or five nights a week and left his real estate agent job. Within six months Johnny Kidd and the Pirates were signed to the EMI imprint His Master’s Voice, in 1959 – between Caddy’s ferocious lead guitar sound and Johnny Kidd’s mournful, soul-drenched vocals, they made a huge name for themselves as a live act. With Caddy on lead guitar, they cut a series of beat classics including Please Don’t Touch, Growl, Feelin’, You Got What It Takes, Restless, Linda Lu and Weep No More Baby.

The real turning point for the band and Caddy came in May of 1960, when they were cutting “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby” and an original B-side that they hadn’t fully worked out, a Heath original called “Shakin’ All Over.” Driven by Caddy’s ominous and repetitive lead riff, and Kidd’s soulful singing, the song was good enough to get the record flipped, and as the A-side, it reached number one on the U.K. charts, as well as becoming the first British rock & roll original to be embraced as an international rock standard.

That riff alone, oft learned and repeated by the likes of Pete Townshend of the Who, among countless others, became Caddy’s claim to musical immortality. Unfortunately, he had little chance to follow it up on record, owing to EMI’s inability to exploit the opening that the song gave them. A split with Kidd followed in 1961, as all of the Pirates abandoned the singer. (Ironically, when a new incarnation of the Pirates came together, it featured guitarist Mick Green, who achieved tremendous fame with the group and is usually — and erroneously — assumed to have created the riff for “Shakin’ All Over” that actually came from Caddy).

In 1961 the Pirates (by now with Clem Cattini on drums and Brian Gregg on bass) jumped ship and abandoned Kidd to tour Italy with Colin Hicks’s Cabin Boys. The tour was a disaster and Caddy returned to Britain after just six weeks.

A few months later he replied to an advert in Melody Maker. Taking Clem Cattini along for moral support he found himself auditioning for Joe Meek. Meek hired Caddy and Cattini on the spot. Along with Heinz Burt, George Bellamy and Roger LaVern, they became the Tornados.

Meek was notoriously tone deaf, so it had been left to Caddy to work out the chord progressions and translate Meek’s demo into a form from which the other group members could work. Caddy was to arrange the majority of the Tornados’ recordings. One of these recordings was the hit single Telstar in 1962. Produced by Joe Meek, the disc swept to number one in Britain and the US, making the Tornados the first British group to top the American charts. With estimated global sales of more than seven million copies, Telstar remains one of Britain’s biggest-selling instrumental singles.

His period with the Tornados was relatively short, only about two years, after which Caddy quit, and also walked away from the life of a musician. For all of his success as a guitarist, Caddy reportedly suffered from a terrible lack of confidence in his ability — he’d lived with it and stood it for six years, but felt that it was time to switch gears in his career. What’s more, in his time with the group writing and arranging, and watching Meek work, he’d seen what could be done with music behind the scenes, and toward that end he founded Sound Venture Productions, his own company.  Now he was able to get involved with arranging and producing. He also released one collectable solo single, Tornado (1964). Most of the original Tornados reconvened in 1965 to release their own single, Spacewalk (very topical at the time), but they were banned from using the Tornados’ name by a furious Joe Meek, who threatened legal action. Instead they were billed as the Gemini. They retitled the B-side Goodbye Joe.

Caddy later worked as musical director and arranger for Polydor and for the singer Steve Rowland, but Rowland’s career failed to ignite and instead he became a producer for the Fontana label, later calling in Caddy to arrange material for Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich. Caddy also played on sessions and worked on arrangements for Tony Blackburn, Elkie Brooks, the Spencer Davis Group, Kiki Dee, the Pretty Things and Dusty Springfield.

During the 1970s he joined the former Outlaws drummer Bobby Graham to do the arranging for Avenue Records, which specialised in budget LPs with cover versions of contemporary hits. He also released LPs with the Alan Caddy Orchestra, as well as playing and arranging for some 1970s Vince Eager releases on Avenue.

Caddy’s last public appearance was in 1991 at a memorable Joe Meek Reunion Concert at Lewisham where the original Tornados, inevitably, played Telstar.

Having been an alcoholic for most of his life, it can be assumed that this had some effect on his sudden passing on August 16, 2000 at the age of 60.

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