Johnny Dark & The Midnighters




This band was based in Muswell Hill, North London, and featured three musicians who had worked with Johnny Kidd: Tenor saxophone player Pete Newman, baritone saxophonist Jeff Wickens, and guitarist Vic Clark.
Indeed they had played in the Mike West Group and did stand-ins for Johnny Kidd & the Pirates for whom Mike was a back-up singer until late 1959 ("Please Don't Touch" and "Feelin").

Pete Newman and Jeff Wickens first met at a local school called Dudden Hill, in Willesden, North London. They formed their very first band there with Ray Edmunds (aka "Ray Taylor") on drums, John Welsh on clarinet, and Terence "Jet" Harris... also on clarinet, in the early 50s (1). Harris later switched to upright double bass and went on to do many great things as bass player of The Shadows.

Newman and Wickens both joined up The Fabulous Freddie Heath Band in September 1957, before moving to the Mike West Group which were rechristened "Johnny Kidd & the Pirates" while recording at abbey road studios (2).
When Johnny Kidd decided to work with a power trio, in late 1959, Pete Newman and Jeff Wickens teamed up with Vic Clark, who stood-in several times for Pirates' guitarist Alan Caddy, to form the Midnighters.

The rest of the band consisted of Charles "Charly" Parker on piano (not related to the Black American pianist) and the late Brian Norman on drums.
Basically, they were an instrumental band just covering American records such as Johnny & the Hurricanes hits. Then they added singer Johnny Dark whose father owned a pub called The Black Bull in Whetstone, North London, and that allowed them to have free rehearsals and then a residency there.

They used to cover songs of Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Cliff Richard and even early Johnny Kidd's numbers, and some instrumentals: "Johnnie B Goode" (Chuck Berry); "Sweet Little Sixteen" (Chuck Berry); "That'll Be The Day" (Buddy Holly); "Peggy Sue" (Buddy Holly); "Move It" (Cliff Richard); "Please Don't Touch" (Johnny Kidd); "Red River Rock" (Johnny & the Hurricanes); "Beatnik Fly" (Johnny & the Hurricanes); "Wild Child" ect. But they also played numbers of their own such as "The Werewolf" which inspired Johnny Kidd's "Feelin" (2).

Unfortunately, as Vic Clark recalls, their material was never released because they had a sound unlike anything in England at that time and The record companies considered them un-commercial (3).

Between June 1960 and early 1961, they used to back Screaming Lord Sutch as his new Savages.
In fact, according to Vic Clark, Dave Sutch, an old crony of Pete Newman’s from his 2I's Coffee Bar time, approached them one night, while they had a residency at The Black Bull (4). He introduced himself and said he had this fantastic Act inspired from the American performer Screaming Jay Hawkins but he needed a band. So the members of the Midnighters invited him to their next rehearsal at The Black Bull.
According to Vic Clark, Screaming Lord Sutch did his first live gig ever with them the following Saturday at 'The Athenium' at Muswell Hill, North London, the place where Emil Ford had been discovered and where they were playing once a month.
Once They became The Savages, Johnny Dark went, then Pete Newman and Vic Clark took over the vocals With Dave Sutch finishing off the shows.

By late 1960, their association with Dave Sutch broke off because The manager of the 2I's Coffee Bar Tom Littlewood wanted to save on cost and booked Vince Taylor's backing band, the Playboys, instead of them.

Pete Newman went on to join local Harrow based semipro group Douggie Dee & The Strangers, and then worked with Joe Meek as session musician, recording on Screaming Lord Sutch's debut single "Till the Following Night", and subsequently touring with the Tornados for a while before they backed Billy Fury who replaced the brass section by an organ.
He still worked with Screaming Lord Sutch in the late 1980's, backing him with the band he formed with his son Paul and that became known as "Some Like It Hot."

Vic Clark also worked with Joe Meek, at first with Chris Dors & the Del Fi's, who recorded at RGM studio and Phillips from june 1961 and had a couple of releases on the Fontana Label, then with the Sack'o'Woes who supported
The Rollingstones and Jerry Lee Lewis in Brighton Hippodrome in late 1964. Then Vic teamed up with Pete again in a band called The Beat Society who evolved into Felders Orioles.

Vic Clark now lives in Australia since 1966. He's actually the father of Malcom Clark, drummer of Aussie band Sleepy Jackson. Pete Newman still play saxophone for various acts. Brian Norman, who went to live in Africa, passed away a few years ago.


(1) Pete Newman:
"I had a very old sax given to me by a school friend and was told that the sax I learned to play on once belonged to a very famous English sax player called Freddie Gardner."

(2) Pete Newman and Jeff Wickens wrote an instrumental called "The Werewolf" which inspired Freddie Heath to write the B side of the his debut release, "Feelin". Mike West and Pete Newman did the backing vocals on both sides of that record - "Please Dont Touch" as well as "Feelin" - which was made at abbey road studios and became the first Johnny Kidd's hit single.

(3) Vic Clark about their sound: "We had a sound unlike anything in England at that time. We were probably ahead of our time. The record companies considered us un-commercial. I guess the best way to describe our sound was the same genre as George Thorogood, but remember we were more than 20 years ahead of him! So the Midnighters sound became the Screaming Lord Sutch sound."

(4) Pete Newman knew Dave Sutch since late 1957, thanks to his sister Pat who had met him at Cricklewood Rollin Skating Rink, in North london, and brought him back to their house in Cobbold road, Willesden, because at that time he had just started playing with Freddie Heath & his Rock & Roll Combo... Therefore Dave became Pat's boyfriend, and Pete occassionally backed him at the Two Eyes between jobs with Johnny Kidd...


Johnny Dark & The Midnighters (Late 1959 - Early 1960)
  • Peter ?? (Lead Vocals) aka "Johnny Dark"
  • Vic Clark (Lead Guitar)
  • Charlie Parker (Keyboards)
  • Pete Newman (Tenor Sax)
  • Jeff Wickens (Barytone Sax)
  • Brian Norman (Drums)


More on the line-up of The Midnighters that became The Savages in 1960 here

Special thanks to Vic Clark and Pete Newman for providing recollections and photos


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