Simon Kirke of Bad Company & Free
I was born in London 8-30 in the morning in London on the 28th of July 1949. My mother's name was Olive May and my Dad's was Vivian Percy. They named me Simon Frederick St. George Kirke. The St. George has been in our family for centuries. The Kirke's go back a long way but the Gibson Craigs(my paternal grandmothers family) go back to before records were kept. My dad had a string of jobs and we were pretty poor most of the time. I spent my first few years in London and Watford before being moved to the wilds of the Welsh border when I was 7.
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I have 2 brothers: Nicholas who is 4 years older than me and Miles who is 18 months younger. They live in Prague, Czechoslovakia and Bristol respectively. We lived in this remote part of Shropshire until I was 17. For the first seven years we lived in a primitive cottage...no electricity and no running water. Our rent was one pound a week. I love telling my own kids that...with todays modern conveniences and gadgets which are taken for granted I wonder how they would find life with out them.
School and beyond
I went to Bishops Castle Grammar School some 6 miles from our house...if I missed the bus I was made to walk...this instilled in me an obsession with punctuality. Music didn't figure much in our family before me...all my ancestors were either in the military or the Church. I sang in the choir at school and learned the recorder (a wind instrument sort of like a cousin to the flute).
Every Christmas I sang the lead verse in "Once in royal David's City" solo until my voice broke and then I was out of the choir. I didn't mind because by then I had discovered the Beatles and drumming...and I pretty well knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
I got my first full kit at the age of 15 and drummed alongside a guy who had a disco: playing all the hits of the day and yesterday.. I guess it was from here that I got my sense of rythmn. From there I joined a band called the Maniacs...a real band. We played all over the area and won a talent contest. After I left that group I got a trio together called Heatwave in which I sung and played drums...way before Phil Collins.....but this was not enough. I made a deal with my parents that if they gave me 2 years off between school and university then if I had not done anything by that time then I would abandon a career in music and knuckle down to college. So I caught a train to London and stayed with a distant relative.
During the next year I had all sorts of jobs: working on a demolition site, operating a pneumatic drill, washing cars( a nice cheerful job in winter, that was!) working in a bottling factory... during this time I answered ads in the music papers and went to a couple of auditions. I nearly joined the Love Affair...(Jeez that was a close one) but got beat out by Mo Bacon who was the managers son... another band called Sweet Pain who never got off the ground . Also a band called Matons Magic Mixture which featured a guitarist called Terry Thomas who I would meet 25 years later when he produced a couple of our albums.....
A Real Blues Band
But the big break, of course, was seeing The Black Cat Bones at the Nag's Head in Battersea early in 1968. I was just a couple of months shy of the allotted time my parents had set. The clock was running out... I joined the Bones that week... they were getting rid of their drummer the night that I saw them and collared Paul Kossoff at the bar. I was overjoyed at being in a real live professional blues band. We did all the standards: Rock me Baby, Killing Floor, Albert Kings's Cold Feet, Dust My Broom...and Koss was knocking me out every night. We had been together a few months when Koss took me aside and said he wanted to leave the Bones and team up with a great new singer he had found out about across town - Paul Rodgers. We went to meet him but my hear dropped a bit when I saw that there was another drummer in the room and this guy was shit hot....Andy Borenius. Well, we all played and nothing was decided but I heard later that day that I was in...we were now 3.
Onwards and Upwards
Alexis Korner was a great British/Greek blues man at that time. A great many people had passed through his band...Charlie and Mick from the Stones...a couple of Yardbirds.. Long John Baldry... and Alexis knew of this stunning young bass player named Andy Fraser who was just getting the elbow from John Mayalls Bluebreakers. He was only 15 years old! We got together at the Nag's Head(they should put a plaque up on that place) and Free was born.......
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