Sunday Supplement, 19th June 1966

Mary Payne explains about The Knack, The Knack's Knees and how she became an Honorary Member of the group

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Stop! Before You Get Me Going Knack Piccadilly 7N 35322

The clipping on the left, courtesy of John Bennett, is undated, but from its content, it would appear to be from September 1965. It depicts an early Radio London-promoted Knack appearance at the Wimbledon Palais. The Palais Big L Nights launched in May of 1965 and this was the 9th one. As the station was clearly eager to inform the readers of this feature, in four months, the audiences had increased by 400%. This success and that of the Marquee Club afternoons and other station-related onshore promotions, prompted Radlon Sales to recruit Gordon Sheppard as Big L's Entertainment Manager.

The piece refers to the Knack's first release She Ain't No Good/Who'll Be the Next in Line which came out on Decca in 1965. In March '65, Everybody's Gonna Be Happy by the Kinks had made a brief appearance in the Fab Forty, with Who'll Be the Next in Line as its B-side. The Knack did not feature in the Fab Forty till Stop... the band's third Piccadilly single, was released. However, with climber information incomplete for much of 1965 and early 66, it is possible that previous Knack releases had been on the Big L playlist. This Wimbledon Palais promotion would suggest as much.

The Knack (not to be confused with the American group who had the hit with My Sharona in 1979), were from London and joined the Knees Club at the Radio London Club Afternoon at the Marquee Club in Wardour Street, on Saturday, April 9th 1966. Band members whose knees were recruited that day were Paul Curtis, gtr, (#185), Brian Morris, gtr, (#187), (Graham) Topper Clay, drms, (#184) and Mick Palmer, bs, (#186).

Originally called the Londoners, the band was backing rocker Gene Vincent in 1964. Topper Clay began his musical career in a skiffle group at school. Brian Morris had been a member of Earl Preston and the Realms. The change of name occurred on the boys' return to London from a six-month residency at the famous Star Club in Hamburg. They were inspired by Dick Lester's 1965 'Swinging London' film, The Knack... And How to Get It.

The sleeve notes for PYE/Piccadilly compilation Ripples Vol 1, and other sources, list the group members who recorded Stop/Younger Girl as Adrian and Paul Gurvitz, Louis Farrell and Tim Mycroft. They were members of the Knack shortly before Paul folded the band in the autumn of 1967, but this final version of the Knack did not release any material. Thanks to misleading liner notes like this there had long been confusion as to exactly who the band members were. (To complicate matters further, Paul Gurvitz reckons that there were at least two other bands using the Knack name in 1966.)

(left) The band as The Londoners. Photo from Paul Gurvitz's personal website.

In January 2002, the two missing pieces of the Knack jigsaw puzzle were finally unearthed. First, the Radio London Webmasters received the following knee-mail:

I suppose I can unravel the mystery about The Knack, because I am Topper Clay. There was only one line-up as your article suggests. The line-up reported on the Pye compilation were the members of the later band The Gun, a band formed by Paul Gurvitz together with his brother Adrian. I suppose the record company in their wisdom decided to use this line-up because they enjoyed more success with record releases.

Coincidentally, Topper's message arrived just after the second piece of the puzzle had fallen into place, with the realisation that at some stage, the Curtis family had reverted to their real surname of Gurvitz. In fact, in a few bios, their name is listed as Curtis-Gurvitz, which is the one that will be used from now on in this feature, to try and avoid further confusion!

In the photograph on the left, Gearie Kenworthy (right) has already replaced Mick Palmer. Gearie (#273) also joined the KC at the Marquee on April 9th, but at that time was still a member of Kent outfit, the Limeys. From left: Paul, Brian, Topper and Gearie. (Sorry, Paul, but tartan-enhanced shirts never caught on before the Bay City Rollers.)

I was thrilled when the band gave me the white label copy of Stop/Younger Girl (right). Younger Girl is a much slower version of the Critters' hit, penned by John Sebastian. (A recording which coincidentally accompanied the Knack in the June 19th Fab, having shot up ten places from #24 to #14.)

Even more exciting, as far as I was concerned, the Knack's manager, Sam Curtis-Gurvitz, asked me to run a fan club for the band. I never realised at the time that Sam and Paul Curtis-Gurvirtz were father and son. Adrian and Paul Curtis-Gurvitz were born in Gants Hill. Dad Sam, had been a tour manager for bands like the Kinks and Cliff and the Shadows, and both sons were influenced to start singing and playing music while very young. Adrian was playing professionally by the age of fifteen, backing artists like Billie Davies.

Left: "I'm going to give you a damn good thrashing!" Car trouble for Sam. Photo from Paul Gurvitz's personal website.

My mother, Grace Wingert, was highly suspicious of the proposed fan club project and the effect it would undoubtedly have on my schoolwork. I was supposed to be studying for 'O' levels! Mum insisted on escorting me to Sam's office on Hendon Broadway to discuss this unpaid job. The letter from Sam, (left ) is complete with my scribbled instructions as to which bus we should catch from Hendon station to his office.

Although, much to Mum's relief, the fan club never came to fruition, the group made me an honorary member. So proud of this was I, that I used to sign my name 'M. Wingert, HMK' (Honorary Member of the Knack)'.

The Knees Club received the nice letter (far left) from Paul Curtis-Gurvitz, postmarked 20th July 66, and signed with a pair of knobbly 'Knack Knees'. In the tradition of writing romantic (or just plain rude) acronyms like 'S.W.A.L.K.' (Sealed With A Loving Kiss) on the backs of envelopes, Paul has written K.N.A.C.K. on his, translating it below as 'Kisses Never Always Crumble Knees'. (I think 'Kisses NEARLY Always Crumble Knees' would have been more apt!)

After a short gap of 36 years (!) I next heard from Paul on 22nd March 2002, (who, like me, was born in High Wycombe) via knee-mail:

Just for the record, my real name is Gurvitz. I was blown away by the Knack Page! I have not had a chance to take it all in yet, but I will go over it. Maybe I can add to your page, if there is anything you might want to add. It's been quite a while and a few things are a little blurry. Love Paul, 2002

In 2012, most of the band members are still part of the music business. The Gurvitz brothers have been involved in numerous musical projects since the demise of The Knack and Gun. Both are now living on the West Coast of America, and are still producing albums and touring.

Paul sang on the original film soundtrack of Tommy. He co-wrote Find The Time, a hit in the Eighties for (another) Essex group Five Star. Others who have recorded Paul's songs include Jermaine Jackson and Imagination, and he issued an album in 2002, called No Gun-No Army.

Adrian's songs have also been covered by many artists, including Aaron Neville, REO Speedwagon and Kenny G, and have enhanced platinum-selling albums.

A terrific collection of photographs of The Londoners, The Knack and later band incarnations Gun and Baker-Gurvitz Army including full-size versions of the small ones reproduced here, can be viewed on Paul Gurvitz's personal website, including some great shots of Gun wearing teeshirts depicting characters from the cult TV show, Rowan and Martin's Laugh-in. (Right)

Topper Clay joined New York Public Library in 1967, followed by ex-Knack-colleague Brian Morris, in 1968.

In 2002, Topper wrote:

"I didn't know that anybody out there would still remember us. My daughter was impressed that someone on the web was interested in bands that I've been in. When I talk about the 60s and gigs I've done I'm afraid I come under the heading of 'boring old fart'!

Today NYPL are still together, playing small gigs in the south around the Farnham area. We currently have two CDs out and are working on a third. The line-up includes the original NYPL singer John Kirby Woollard, and 1970 lead singer Peter Morrison."

More about NYPL and where to buy their CD Keep A Clear Head can be found here. (Photo of Topper taken in 2000, by Tony Willey from the CD liner.)

Brian Parrish (formerly Morris), now lives in Bremen, Germany. He writes:

"Hello Mary, very entertaining site!
I was a member of The Knack, the Knees Club, and so on... You have me as Brian Morris (true, I did answer to that name once!) However, much as Paul Curtis mutated into Paul Gurvitz (his real name) I also became Brian Parrish – around 1966/7 I think. Paul and I did an album or two as 'Parrish and Gurvitz' with George Martin producing, and I went on to form 'Badger'. There's much more to tell, but it's a long story.

What I really wanted to say is that if I may be of further help in adding detail to the info you have, I would be most pleased to do so. It would appear that Topper Clay stepped up to the role of "historian and keeper of the flame" in the Knack corner - but I can recall a lot of stuff regarding Sam Curtis and all those Sixties Happenings of which the Radio London events were very much a part.

I have been in touch with other members of the band (e.g. Geary, bass player, and of course Paul). All-in-all it seems we impacted each other's lives quite deeply, and as your website demonstrates, the entire era was an unforgettable experience for us all.

So let me once again complement you on the commitment and passion that has so clearly gone into the website. Great stuff. By the way I have checked me knees out in the mirror... and apart from being back to front (the mirror effect, you see) they seem to be in pretty good shape. Just thought you might like to know that."

So far, Brian hasn't been able to spare the time to send his personal update to this Knack feature, but I'm sure we'll get it eventually – and maybe even a picture of those famous patellae. As he says, "I keep very busy, (KNEE deep in work) and have more passion than before, if that is possible. Energy to go with it, too, thank God!" He has sent a link to a video clip that proves it! (Large file: may take a while to download.)

"This is me and the band having a knees up. What else? Be well and take it kneezy! Keep smiling! Brian Parrish."(Brian's personal website here.)

It's great to hear from the band members again and the question is, "Do I still qualify as an honorary member of the Knack?"

Mary




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