When Kenny had their first hit in late 1974, you could be forgiven for thinking that yet another teen-band had been recruited via adverts in The Stage. In fact they were all local boys from Enfield whose roots went back to the beginning of the decade and a group called Legend, playing the standard blues-rock of the era. Legend subsequently evolved into Chuff, a prog-rock outfit who got to play at prestigious gigs like the Windsor Free Festival.
From this start, hit singles like 'Fancy Pants' seemed a long way off. But then in 1974 Chuff were introduced to songwriters Martin & Coulter, who'd recently lost the Bay City Rollers account and were looking for a new teen scream act. 'They played us some tracks of what they wanted us to do,' remembers bassist Chris Redburn, 'and we went: Don't really fancy it, that's not what we're into, we want to do like Pink Floyd numbers and Yes songs. And they said, "Well yeah, but if you do this, you can make some money and get on TV." And we thought: yeah, great. Yeah, we'll have some of that.'
The first single was 'The Bump' (previously a Rollers' b-side), rapidly followed by 'Fancy Pants', 'Baby I Love You OK' and - best of all - 'Julie Ann'. Admittedly that was the sum total of their hits, and there was just the one album The Sound of Super K, but for a year or so, Kenny were a great act. They didn't necessarily play on the hits since Martin & Coulter were firm believers in the value of session-players, but they always looked like they were having fun on TV and enjoying their moment in the limelight.
Then came the court case. Despite Mickie Most's suggestion that they should fight for b-sides (Yan Stile and Rick Driscoll did write one lovely song 'Happiness Melissa' for the b-side of 'Nice To Have You Home'), the band were struggling to make any money out of their deal. Like just about every band in their situation, they sought to break free of the production team who had given them their first hits, but in their case they found Martin & Coulter reluctant to let go. The way they saw it, Kenny was their creation and they were entitled to keep hold of the name at least, regardless of what the members did.
A week in court resulted in a complete victory for the band, though it proved to be pyrhic. Kenny signed a new deal with Polydor, released a single 'Hot Lips' (which was out of exactly the same mold as the Martin & Coulter hits) and a second album Ricochet and disappeared without trace. 'Hot Lips' wasn't helped by a BBC ban - apparently it was considered too suggestive, which seems odd a year after 'You Sexy Thing' - and one might be forgiven for wondering why Kenny received no support from the industry.
A split with your writers didn't normally prompt a sustained run of success, but bands like Mud, Sweet and the Rollers did score big hits on their own. Then again, they didn't sue their former producers. You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to conclude that maybe Kenny had pushed their luck too far and displeased the industry of human happiness.
At this stage the band were still doing well elsewhere, particularly in Germany, but when Yan Stile, the most influential member, got seriously injured in a car crash, paralysing his arm, it was clear that the project was over.
Kenny are the one band that never re-formed after splitting. The members went their own ways, with Chris Redburn going back to the family tradition of road haulage. He now runs Redburn Transfer, a successful company of hauliers, and looks back with fondness to the scream-days: 'You've got to be realistic about it: it's only going to last for a little while, you've got to make the most of it. Which we did, I think.'
One word of warning. There is a group called Kenny playing today. They have no original members, no connexion with the real band and are entirely unauthorized.
click for hit singles
the problem of imposters