Kenny Slade was a drummer well-known amongst older Sheffield musicians, most famous for playing with Joe Cocker, but who never quite reached the heights he might have and faded into obscurity. He died on 23rd May 2023 after spending some time in a Beighton Care Home.
Slade, whose real name was Kenny Bates, hailed from Canterbury. His debut on the Sheffield scene was replacing John Hall with Dave Berry & The Cruisers in 1961. From here he moved to Jimmy Crawford’s Messengers in early 1963, where his unpredictable off stage behaviour often got him into trouble. The line-up disbanded before the end of the year.
Like many others (including The Beatles) Kenny also got the ferry out to Hamburg in 1963 where he and Harry Kershaw played in a band called The Giants, who also cut an album – “The Giants Live” (Polydor 1964), the line up being Harry Kershaw (Bass), Kenny Slade (Drums), Tex Cameron (Lead Guitar), Alan Monger (Rhythm Guitar, Baritone Saxophone), Elmy Durrant (Tenor Saxophone) and Tony Vincent (Vocals). Fellow band mates remember him swopping out parts from another group’s van to get theirs going again!
Dave Berry’s first backing was The Cruisers, a British R&B group, active in the early 1960s. The initial line-up of The Cruisers was John Fleet (bass & piano), Roy Barber (rhythm guitar), Frank Miles (lead guitar) and Kenny Slade (drums). Dave Berry parted ways with them in October 1964, chasing a solo career. His new backing group for live appearances was the Frank White Combo (Frank White, Johnny Riley, Pete Cliff and Alan Taylor).
In mid 1964, Slade joined The The Dae-b-Four. Rex Brayley, the guitarist from this band went on to join The Love Affair . In early 1965, Bob Carpenter took over from Slade on drums, who joined The Sheffields, although they disbanded in the same year.
There were short spells with Paul Jones, while he also backed visiting US stars at a time when MU rules stopped them bringing their own bands over. So he found himself backing Del Shannon and Bobby Hebb. With Hebb (famous for his self-penned “Sunny” hit) he found himself working with Nick Simper (who later founded Deep Purple) on a December 1966 tour of the UK. This went well and Nick suggested to Kenny that they talk about forming a new version of The Pirates together (the late Johnny Kidd’s backing group) but by the time he got back in touch Kenny had made other plans.
According to the Sheffield Star Slade led his own group, “Slade’s All Stars” with organist Paul Bailey at the Penny Farthing Club during summer of 1967 and Joe Cocker often sat in.
His time with Cocker seems to have been quite short. On the album “With a Little Help from My Friends” (April 1969 recorded early 1968) he played on the track “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”. He also appears on 4 tracks from “Joe Cocker And The Grease Band – On Air”, on tracks from BBC Radio Sessions – Run Shaker Life / With A Little Help From My Friends / Can’t Be So Bad / Marjorine. We think he is featured on the amazing performance from 1968 shown on this page.
Kenny and Dave Green, when they were not on the road backing Joe Cocker, played in the Scot William Combo. Kenny always wore a narrow brimmed trilby whilst on or off stage. Dave once leaned on the stage curtain whilst playing bass, thinking it was solid and did a Del Boy bar flap fall, Kenny fell backwards off his stool laughing.
By the early 70’s Kenny was working with the Frank White band in what people who saw the line-up remember with awe for the power on-stage. But his off-stage antics continued. One local remembers a gig when the rest of the band went off for a break during his drum solo, and hid backstage to see how long Kenny could keep going. Finally he threw his sticks up in the air, said “I’m fucked” and walked off stage!
Kenny had stints with the Alan Bown Band then formed his own short lived prog rock outfit, Sea Bird. He is also remembered as working with Tony Hirst (one of the best Blues harp/guitarists) in the Big Mama Blues Band in the 70’s) for a while and also recorded with a band called Riff Raff, formed by keyboard boss Tommy Eyre and bassist Roger Sutton, grew out of the Mark-Almond Band and recruited vocalist Alan Marshall, drummer Kenny Slade, and guitarist Martin Ball. They recorded demos and a debut album for Richard Branson – “Outside Looking In” in 1972featured Slade on the tracks “Child Of The Summer / For Every Dog / Morning / The Garden”, but this wasn’t released until 1999 in Spain!
In the late 70s Kenny and his mates used to drink in the Royal Hotel on the corner of London Road and Abbeydale Road. They used to run talent nights in the concert room and one night his mates dared him to get up and play so they might win the cash prize, as nobody knew who he was. He took over from the local backing drummer, blew everyone away and got a standing ovation.
After this, it’s hard to find out much more, although Slade played numerous gigs in Sheffield over the years. If anyone has photos or more information (or can correct any of the details above), please get in touch with us.
We are planning a proper memorial event and would welcome contact from any of Kenny’s friends and colleagues who might be willing to help.