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