Birth of the Knees Club - Part 2

My Club Officials, friends Jenny, Mozz and Lynn and I, would ask absolutely anyone to join. School friends and neighbours became members by signing the sacred Knees Club Book, but being dedicated autograph hunters, what we wanted most was to go to gigs and meet the stars. To our way of thinking, a star could be anyone from a chart-topping act to a member of a local group, their manager or even their roadie. On the whole, we endeavoured to meet them in person and they had to sign the book. Knee inspection was a bonus, if not essential. Everyone working for Radio London as a DJ (and there were many in 1966) qualified as star members automatically, although we never managed to meet them all. The station's Head DJ, Tony Windsor, who had been the subject of numerous Kenny and Cash jokes regarding 'TW's knees', was designated President. The Kenny and Cash Knees single was, naturally, adopted as our Club Song. By the end of January our membership topped fifty (100 patellae – assuming that all members possessed a full complement of them. Sometimes, it was impossible to check); it doubled in February.

Sharing hand-written copies of Knees Monthly quickly proved impracticable, so I had to persuade kindly friends to type a stencil, duplicate the masterpiece and supply the paper, all for free. 1966 being well before the proliferation of photocopiers, stencils were a frequently-used business duplication system. People would help us out for a month of two, then the membership numbers would increase beyond the limit of their benevolence and I would have to find someone else. As the grandly self-titled Editor and Founder Member, I signed each copy myself, and sold them at 1d each to ordinary members. 1d - one old penny - is an amount too small to attempt to translate into current coinage. Twenty-four of them equalled ten new pence. The pennies I collected just about covered the postage for sending free copies to special (i.e. 'star') members. This was not well-thought-out. Schoolgirls were paying their pocket money to fund postage for those who presumably had much more cash.

I don't recall membership cards ever going beyond being hand-produced. Mine (pictured below) reads: "This is to certify that Mary Wingert is No.1 founder member of the Knees Club, founded 7.1.66, also editor of 'Knees Monthly', and her knees may be called upon any time for active duty. Club song: 'Knees' by Kenny and Cash on Decca." I have encountered very few people since who have retained their membership cards.

The first group to join the KC, at Beaconsfield Youth Club, was the Sorrows, who had a pirate 'hit' with Take A Heart. By that, I mean that the single did well in the charts compiled by the offshore stations – it reached #3 on Radio London's Fab 40 – but never sold in sufficient quantities to reach the national charts.The Sorrows' lead singer Don Maughn, (Knees Club member #9), achieved greater fame in 1970 with a number 3 hit, Indian Reservation, under the name of Don Fardon.

From then on, new members famous and otherwise, came thick and fast, and the club received frequent mentions on Radio London. With the KC's commercial radio links, one or two artist managers spotted promotion opportunities for their groups. The KC Officials and I were asked to run fan clubs, and willingly agreed to do so, despite the demands of impending exams, and scarcely being able to find the time to produce Knees Monthly. The Knack, Crispian St Peters and self-styled King of Chelsea, Peter Fenton, all asked, and we refused no-one. Fortunately, for our parents' sanity, none of these fan club projects materialised. I remember my mother being quite concerned every time the Knees Club received a Big L mention and our address was given out. Mum envisioned the post van arriving with mountains of mail and our home disappearing under paper!

(Left: My Knees Club membership card, 'A' side, autographed by Dave Cash, Chris Denning, Paul Kaye, Earl Richmond and Ed Stewpot)

The lucky man receiving the special KC award of a plastic knee for becoming our 100th member was Ray Ennis of the Swinging Blue Jeans, who was so impressed by the organisation that he actually REQUESTED to become its vice-president! (Ray takes his membership very seriousknee.)

Possibly our greatest Superstar pair of knees belonged to David Bowie, who appeared on March 18th at the Target Club, High Wycombe, known during the daytime as the Co-op Memorial Hall, as it was sited above the town's Co-op store. The Knees Club Officials were the only members of the audience sufficiently interested to go and ask poor, unknown David for his autograph, and he was only too pleased to sign up as member 127. At the time, he was some seven years away from his success with Sorrow. However, by a strange quirk of fate, when the Merseys, Tony Crane and Billy Kinsley, joined the K.C. about three weeks after him on April 9th, they were a mere nineteen days away from entering the national charts with that very song.

Vying for the Superstar Knees title, Jeff Beck became member number 247 when the Yardbirds played Wycombe Town Hall in May.

In July, by coincidences worthy of the Twilight Zone, four future members of Deep Purple joined within ten days of each other, Ian Gillan and Roger Glover from Episode Six, at Beaconsfield Youth Club, and Rod Evans and Ian Pace, from M15, at a Radio London Club afternoon at London's famous Marquee Club. Ritchie Blackmore was already a member, having been one of Neil Christian's Crusaders when they'd played Wycombe Town Hall back in April.

Few people refused to join the Knees Club. I believe this was mainly because they either had no idea what it was all about, or were too high to care. One gentleman from an insignificant 'psychedelic' band flashed a lump of what I now realise must have been LSD, in an effort to impress me. It didn't. I had absolutely no idea what it was! The only person too downright sensible to join was John Mayall. No other star ever rejected the idea of membership to an organisation called the Knees Club as being too silly.

At the beginning of '66 I was a schoolgirl who started a ridiculous club. By the end of it, I had acquired (surprisingly) 5 'O' Levels, a job, a boyfriend and an organisation with 376 members (752 knees).

(Right: Membership card, 'B' side, autographed by 'Marshall' Mike Lennox. Club Official, Lynn, asked Mike if he would marry her as he was the only person who could wake her up in the morning!)

By the start of 1967 everything was changing. Being out at work, I was able to spend less time listening to Big L and the supply of friends prepared to duplicate Knees Monthly had dried up. I was already beginning to wonder if I might possibly have said all there was to say about patellae when, in early February, our K.C. President TW left the station, I reluctantly decided I would have to close the Knees Club.

Later that year, my beloved Radio London closed too. On that black day of August 14th, when Big L was executed by the Marine (etc.) Offences Act, I took a day's leave from work so that I would not miss a minute of the final hours. I was touched to hear both myself and the Knees Club mentioned during that last day's broadcast. After the 1500 closedown I sat in the bath crying, staring at a radio tuned to static and emptiness.

One of the great legacies of Lil was that she assisted in finding me a husband. In 1968, still obsessed by radio, I joined the Wycombe Hospital Broadcasting Service, where I met a man called Chris. I was attracted by the ever-present stopwatch swinging from his neck, his psychedelic shirts and tangerine cord flares, but once I discovered he possessed a recording of the Kenny/Cash Show, how could I resist him? We married in 1970. However, neither of us envisioned that well into the new millennium, we would still be devoting all our spare time to Radio London, as I did over 50 years ago in 1966.

One more confession... although I can confirm that Chris possesses a pair of patellae in perfect working order, he has never joined the Knees Club!

Read about the occasion when David Bowie joined the Knees Club here.
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