About Hereward Kaye

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From Composer of a Cameron Mackintosh Musical in the West End, to a member of The Flying Pickets, to playing a drunken tramp in a Tom Robinson rock video (which he insists wasn't type-casting!), Hereward wore many hats in his time, but never the one he was supposed to wear.

The whole story

Hereward Hilken Swain Kaye, to give him his full moniker, was brought into this world in Middlesbrough in 1953, for the sole purpose of taking over the family business: Kayes Tools, established in 1827 and passed on remorselessly from father to son ever since. And so it might have happened, if The Beatles hadn’t come to town on November 22nd, 1963; the date when – less importantly – President Kennedy was assassinated.

Twisting and shouting in his seat in row J, flanked by two screaming, wailing big sisters, Hereward discovered exactly what he wanted to do for the rest of his life – and it didn’t involve Kayes Tools!

By seventeen he was feverishly writing songs and had acquired a manager, one John McCoy, owner of The Kirk, the most stylish live music venue on Teesside. The burger chef there was Chris Rea (also managed by McCoy), and on Chris’s fag breaks the two would bet on which one of them would make it first.

Hereward formed a band in London with Raphael Doyle and Tom Robinson, called CAFÉ SOCIETY. Whilst playing at The Troubadour in Earls Court, they were discovered by Ray Davies of The Kinks, who produced their debut album.

A single was released, a song of Hereward’s called ‘Whitby Two-Step’. It came out the same month as Chris Rea’s first single and sold six hundred copies, after Hereward’s mother went out and bought the last eight. Chris’s song: ‘Fool If You Think It’s Over’ did rather better. It went straight to Number One in America. Er…cancel that bet.

Café did what bands do best – broke up. Hereward and Tom went on to record for E.M.I., Tom with his band T.R.B. (and the hit single 2-4-6-8- Motorway), Hereward as a solo singer/songwriter. But despite the fact that he was now as close to being a Beatle as he would ever get, recording at Abbey Road and signed to their old label, global domination simply refused to follow.

Then The Sex Pistols came along and rendered Hereward obsolete, a dinosaur at the grand old age of twenty-five.

Inspired by a book: Fat of the Land by John Seymour, Hereward and family escaped to a small-holding in Lincolnshire and a new life of self-sufficiency. Fortunately for the local animal kingdom, Hereward’s new role strangling ducks for dinner was short-lived. Salvation came in the form of Robert Longden, an actor/writer acquaintance and self-styled Cecil B. DeMille of fringe theatre, who had been invited to create a ‘pageant’ at Camden Lock, as part of the Capital Jazz Festival. ‘Something watery.’ They said. So Robert decided on Moby Dick, or A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DICK as he called it, and invited Hereward to write the songs.

At the same time, The London Bubble invited Hereward to write a late night musical review for them. The result was HELL CAN BE HEAVEN, a musical based on Dante’s Inferno. It toured the Greater London parks and open spaces for five months under a Big Top. Hereward suddenly had two shows running simultaneously and a new career in Musical theatre. He and his family moved back down south, and while they were at it, went vegetarian!

Moby Dick went through a name change and expanded from pageant to full-on musical for its second incarnation, at a gay roller-disco in Clapham. A benefactor had donated a backdrop of Venice that simply had to be incorporated, and so, at the stroke of Robert’s pen, the spittoon-rattling sea dogs of Melville’s classic instantly transformed into the genteel ‘gels’ of Muriel Spark’s Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, arriving in Piazza St. Marco singing Hereward’s hastily concocted school hymn and preparing to perform – MOBY DICK IN VENICE!

A third production followed, on a Swedish grain carrier moored in Bristol. But the backdrop wouldn’t fit and so Venice was ditched, though not the school uniforms. Miss Brodie’s ‘crème de la crème’ transmogrified into the hellish belles of St. Trinians. Thus was born the show that Cameron Mackintosh - eight years later - bought and took into the West End.

As a composer, and sometimes actor, Hereward’s other theatre credits include GOODBYE AMERICA (with Rony Robinson, for Eastern Angles, starring Alistair McGowan), CRAMP (with Tom Robinson and John Godber, Hull Truck, U.K. national tour), PRIMESLOT FRONTCLOTH (with Robert Longden, Old Red Lion Theatre, Islington, starring Anita Dobson and Caroline Quentin) and KOONEYWACKAHOY (Institute of Contemporary Art, starring Connie Booth).

As Actor/Musical Director/Arranger – RETURN TO THE FORBIDDEN PLANET (Liverpool Everyman and Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn); and as Musical Director - ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT by Alan Bleasdale (Pheonix, West End, Evening Standard Musical Of The Year award). Hereward is also proud to have appeared in concert with Willy Russell at the Liverpool Playhouse, and worked with him developing the songs for the film DANCING THRU THE DARK. For T.V. he composed the music for the I.T.V. series HOLIDAY SNAPS.

He was RICK WAKEMAN’s lead vocalist at one point, after Rick overheard his name in a pub, came over and said: “You’re named after Hereward The Wake, right? I’m descended from him; hence my surname Wakeman…man of wake…” “Fascinating,” said Hereward, popping a cassette into Rick’s pocket, “here’s my latest demo”. Three weeks later Rick invited him to be the vocalist on his next album, COST OF LIVING. 

The closest he ever came to a steady job was in THE FLYING PICKETS, the acapella band with whom he sang, toured, recorded and wrote for thirteen years, performing around a hundred shows a year, recording five albums and appearing on countless T.V. shows across the globe.

In 2003 Hereward helped re-vamp Moby Dick for the U.S. market in conjunction with Cameron Mackintosh and Russell Ochocki, via a workshop production in New York and a new cast album to accompany the hire script (available from www.mtishows.com).

SEX, CHIPS AND ROCK ‘N ROLL by Debbie Horsfield (Creator of T.V.’s ‘Cutting It’ and ‘Making Out’), set in the Sixties and based on Debbie’s award-winning BBC TV series. With Hereward on guitar in the band, the show ran through June, July and August of this year at the Manchester Royal Exchange, having opened to excellent reviews. More productions are planned for 2006, and it was nominated Best Musical in the T.M.A. Awards 2005, with one of the cast, Coronation Street’s Tracie Bennett, winning the award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical.

In recent years, in between commitments, Hereward lived in Andalucia with wife Pat, their three sons and a pig called Fairy. He spent his time gigging with the family band ORCHARD ROAD (with sons Leon and Joe), and writing a column for Malaga’s Trading Post Spain, under the pseudonym CAMPO DOG.

In 2006., having made West Sussex and his beloved Lindfield his home Herry set up Rok Skool with the aim of making music accessible for everyone, no matter what their age, background or ability. Rok Skool has gone from strength to strength moving into new purpose-built premises in April 2024.  Sadly, although Herry had spent many years dreaming about and planning the move he didn’t live to see his dream fulfilled.  Herry passed away peacefully on October 14th surrounded by beloved wife Pat and his sones, Leon, Joe and Rory.  He once said he had lived a rock and roll life but he still found the time, energy and love to foster 19 children. Prior to his death he published his first book.

Although he is missed by us all at Rok Skool his spirit fills the place with the joy, love and laughter he brought into every room he entered and his music will resonate and inspire us all for another generation.