The Birth of the Knees Club
Knees Club Founder Mary Payne, explains what it is, why she started it
and why knees still haunt her
Quite often, I meet people who
don't appreciate the source of my obsession with knees. Why do I send 'knee-mail',
they wonder? Why do I always draw hairy knees next to my signature (apart from
on cheques and legal documents – banks don't have much of a sense of humour)? Why do I kneevamp perfectly ordinary words
at every opportunity, turning them into knee words? I felt it was
about time the club had a greater presence on the Radio London site. This, then,
is the story of how my knees were called to active duty in 1966, and I've written
it so that, hopefully, even those who never had the pleasure of hearing Radio
London, will understand. Now, whenever ankneebody asks me 'what's the knee-thing about?', instead
of saying, "Ah, it's a bit of a long story..." I can say, "There's
a page on my website that explains it all."
In the beginning, the voice of Luxembourg was heard in the darkness and the Bristolian called Batchelor spelt K.E.Y.N.S.H.A.M. unto the nations. Then Ronan, Son of Rahilly, saw that this was good and moved upon the face of the waters with the good ship Caroline. And those known as Teens sayeth unto one another, "I shall worship the Great God Pop for as long as the batteries shall last within my trannie."
Over-simplification perhaps, but that's roughly what happened. My fascination for music and radio stemmed from the Fifties – the days of Children's Favourites with Uncle Mac, and I was addicted to pop songs by the time I'd reached the age of nine. Unfortunately, the sounds I wanted to hear were hard to come by. I endured seemingly-endless trad jazz and the melodies of the Northern Dance Orchestra, in anticipation of the few crumbs of pop offered by the BBC. My salvation came nightly with the edited highlights of current singles phasing in and out across the airwaves from Luxembourg. The records were guaranteed to either fade out, or be faded out by the DJ, just as the bit I liked best arrived.
I was fourteen when Radio Caroline began transmitting test tapes in March 1964. Only the BBC was licensed to broadcast radio in the UK, so to circumvent the law, the new 'pirate' station anchored its ship three miles offshore, in international waters. Suddenly, I was hearing something amazing; all-day music! I was hooked from the start.
Caroline went on the air during the Easter holidays so I revelled in listening to it continuously, my trannie glued to my wrist. The arrival of a new music station was exciting, and though eons away from reality, the romantic image of broadcasters on a pirate ship held maximum appeal for a naughty schoolgirl. I loved it, even though the test tapes were far from pop-oriented in content. Included were gems such as Etta James' Pushover and a version of the Shoop Shoop Song which I've always recalled as being by Betty Harris, rather than Betty Everett. However, I have never found any information to confirm this, so I am assuming it is simply my poor memory. (It was an awfully long time ago!)
Radio London joined the new flotilla of outlaws in December, broadcasting from the converted USS minesweeper, mv Galaxy. My school friends and I were so besotted with the sound of Big L that we pledged our loyalty to it exclusively. We would not allow ourselves to listen to anything else, with some minor exceptions. It was permissible, for instance, to tune in to other stations whilst Big L broadcast its revenue-making American religious programme, 'The World Tomorrow'. Nobody could reasonably be expected to listen to that. However, on Big L in 1965, we discovered something we felt worthy of worship - The Kenny & Cash Show. Kenny Everett and Dave Cash produced hilarious hour-long daily tea-time programmes unlike anything we'd ever heard. (We did not even realise that much of its humour derived from the Goon Show, because we'd never listened to the Goons.)
Messrs Everett and Cash were surely the first presenters to use the 'zoo radio' format in the UK. When Big L's Texan Programme Director, Ben Toney, gave them tapes of KLIF in Dallas to listen to on the Galaxy, they heard the Charlie and Harrigan show. Numerous jocks over the years graced the KLIF airwaves in the roles of Charlie and Harrigan, but those heard by Kenny and Cash were played by Danny McCurdy - a jock who had once worked for Ben - and Ron Chapman. Everett and Cash decided they would attempt a similar, zany programme, and in April 1965, the Kenny and Cash show was born. Within weeks, this anarchic and hilarious programme achieved cult status, and changed the face of UK radio for ever. Brief bios of Dave and Kenny can be found on page three of this Knees Club History. I'm sure Dave had always wanted to be a Page Three pinup! The Kenny and Cash show was only on the air for a matter of months, but it has never been forgotten, and rare recordings of it are treasured by air-check collectors. In a 1997 interview, Dave remarked that he was amazed at how people would still talk to him with enthusiasm about a show which ran for such a short time, back in 1965!
True, the pair later
re-created the show on Capital Radio, the second land-based commercial station
to hit London, but the Kenny and Cash show could never have the same atmosphere
of innovative lunacy as back in 1965. Then, it was produced by a couple of young,
enthusiastic new DJs, stranded on a ship for weeks on end, with little output
for their creative energies except producing the next show. They gelled so well,
enlivening their home-made commercials with comments like "Ladies, it's wrong
to pong" (deodorant advert), and inventing 'guest' characters such as Myra Crelge
and J. Walter Beethoven. Kenny's swift mastery of tape-editing skills produced
memorably silly trailers and mock-adverts, and a frequently-mentioned source
of amusement was the subject of patellae. In an interview, Kenny told 'Fabulous'
magazine that he wanted a plastic kneecap dispenser for his 21st birthday. The
subject was so important to them and to us as listeners, that in 1965, Kenny & Cash released a Decca single
called Knees. A ridiculous idea began to form in my mind...
The more I listened to Big L, and to Kenny and Cash in particular, the more I wanted to get involved. First, my friends and I decided to do something really practical; in the middle of summer, we knitted the Dynamic Duo a 15-yard-long scarf. We waited anxiously as our precious gift navigated the perils of the postal service to the Curzon Street offices and journeyed onward on the tender to the Galaxy. I would dearly love to hear a recording of the day our heroes finally received the scarf. Kenny and Cash devoted a fair amount of airtime to raving about this magnificent monument to madness, but I was unable to tape any of it. I was trapped in a car, travelling towards Dover for a holiday with my parents. So it was that Mary, Mozz, Jenny and Lynn became the famous Scarfknitters of High Wycombe, and we finally felt we were a part of Big L.
Being besotted by Radio London, I wanted more involvement. By December, although the Kenny and Cash Show had already ended. Pete Brady left the Breakfast Show, Dave took over and Kenny and Cash as a Big L double-act were no more. I had decided that the great importance placed upon patellae by all the Radio London DJs, who always seemed to be talking about them, warranted my forming the Knees Club. January 7th 1966, was designated National Knees Day. Whether this was instigated by the Big Lil jocks or whether it was my idea, I cannot recall, but that was the day I launched the Knees Club. What was the point of this organisation? None whatsoever, other than to participate with others in a celebration of silliness. The club was a ridiculous project, based entirely upon schoolgirl logic and total lack of planning. Sensible matters such as a requirement for finance never entered my head. I was sixteen, and shortly to take 'O' Levels; I should have had my mind on higher things... but it was stuck firmly at knee-level.
(Picture: Also stuck at knee-level, Knees Club Officials (l-r) and co-scarf-knitters, Jenny Mance and Mozz Walker on patella parade with me in Frogmore, High Wycombe)
I then produced the first (hand-written) edition of Knees Monthly. This illustrious publication was devoted to patellae, their lives and loves, written mainly by my barmy self. It included send-ups of current TV hits, i.e. 'The Knee From A.N.K.L.E.' and an AgoKNEE column for lonely knees. Much of the material must have been virtually incomprehensible to anyone but a dedicated Radio London/Kenny & Cash fan, but of course, I assumed that everyone in the Universe shared my obsession.
(continued on Page 2)