Working with Ken: an appreciation

In the wake of Ken Pitt’s recent death, Colin Farmer – a colleague of Ken’s from the early 60s – contacted me. Colin kindly supplied a memorial to his ex boss, which also includes Ken’s account of his ‘dropping out’ from public view.

My memories of Ken Pitt probably date back earlier than many others who knew him. We both came from Middlesex and first met some 60 years ago, when he was in his late 30s and I in my early 20s. I was a journalist on the then Middlesex County Times newspaper in Southall and Ealing (close to the legendary Ealing Film Studios), which ran a weekly entertainment page. We met when Ken was organizing a show at the Southall Community Centre starring top British drummer and bandleader Eric Delaney. From then on our professional paths crossed from time to time and the following year I joined him temporarily at his Manchester Square office in London, working for several memorable months as his assistant.

Earlier, during the 1950s, Ken had handled the publicity for top American artists touring the UK – among them Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra and Mel Tormé, and eventually rock acts like Jerry Lee Lewis. Yet modestly he rarely spoke about his many success stories and achievements. I’ve heard it said that Ken was not as pushy or presumptuous as many of his professional contemporaries. Looking back now on our brief business relationship all those years ago, I can recall how calm and composed he always remained, even when under pressure. I never heard him raise his voice, and upon reflection I can say he sometimes even looked out of place during the heady heydays of the swinging sixties – very quietly spoken, mild-mannered and even almost intellectual in his approach and appearance. One could even be excused for thinking that he was perhaps working in the wrong profession.

My short time with Ken was a relatively quiet period professionally, but afforded me a fascinating insight into showbiz at the start of the swinging sixties. My work with him involved occasional contacts with Clodagh Rodgers of 1971 Eurovision Song Contest fame, the still currently active Bachelors (originating from Dublin) with their string of ’60s UK chart successes, and also Roger Whittaker who achieved UK and US top twenty hits. Journalistically I can also recall my interviews with Oliver Bart, Dusty Springfield, Cliff Richard and the Shadows, Adam Faith, American rock ‘n roll’s Gene Vincent, and (at his Ealing home) Matt Monro, all of them huge names in the 1960s. All these years later in fact I am still in contact with Matt’s daughter Michele, who has written a fine book about her father – “The Singer’s Singer”.

It was only after my departure from London in 1963 to settle permanently on the continent and continue my journalistic career in Germany and Switzerland, that Ken enjoyed his most outstanding years – managing David Bowie and also Manfred Mann. From Switzerland I stayed in occasional contact with Ken over the years and still possess a typewritten letter he sent me in 2007. In it he recalled: “In 1982 I split from London and ‘the business’ and spent 18 years in roses-round-the-door idyllic happiness in rural Sussex. Eventually, 13 acres became too much for me to handle and in 2000 I fled to the simplicity of a small retirement flat in Hertfordshire where gardeners do the work. I gave my address to only the closest of relatives and friends and I have enjoyed the blissful privacy. Not even a PC!”

At 82, I still have happy memories of the 1960s, including of course my time with Ken. I am still active professionally, so proud and privileged to mention his name on my CV. Apart from the insight he afforded me into showbiz at that time, we additionally had interesting discussions on topics not even remotely related to our profession. As you wrote, Paul, in your tribute, Ken was indeed an intriguing and multi-faceted man. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to share my memories.




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