Dickie Pride (born Richard Charles Kneller; 21 October 1941 – 26 March 1969) was an English singer. He was one of Larry Parnes' stable of pop music stars, who didn't achieve the same successful career as most of his contemporaries.
Pride was born at 74 Parchmore Road, Thornton Heath, Surrey, now in Croydon. He attended John Newnham Secondary School in Addington before visiting the School of Church Music in Croydon, where a career as an opera singer was suggested. Later on Pride was a member of a skiffle group, the Semi-Tones. When Pride was 15 years old, his father passed away. He took on several menial jobs, to help support the family.
Discovery and early start
I dropped into a pub in Tooting and there was this incredible singer. I'd no idea who he was, but I was so impressed I talked to Larry Parnes about him. We went to see him the next week and took Lionel Bart with us. We were all so impressed that Larry decided to sign him on the spot.
Russ Conway heard him performing at the Castle Public House in Tooting, South London. Conway recommended him to Larry Parnes, who immediately signed him. Parnes gave him the stage name 'Dickie Pride'. At 16, he gave his first concert as Dickie Pride at the Gaumont State Cinema in Kilburn, which was then the biggest cinema in the United Kingdom. The music magazine Record Mirror stated that "he ripped it up from the start" and that the theatre shook so much during his performance that he should be known "The sheik of shake".
Successful performances and poor record sales
This was followed by tours, television and, in March 1959, his debut single, "Slippin' and Slidin'" (a cover of a song made famous by Little Richard). Pride made 8 appearances on the first teenage all-music TV show, Oh Boy! He also performed in 'The Big Beat Show' at Southend with Marty Wilde, Billy Fury, Terry Dene, Johnny Gentle, Duffy Power and Sally Kelly. However, the commercial performance of most of Pride's recordings was far below expectations. The only Pride single that ever made it into the Top 40 in the UK Singles Chart, "Primrose Lane", appeared in October 1959 for only one week at No. 28.
Television producer Jack Good had seen Pride sing in Southend. The first edition of Good's rock and roll TV show Wham!, shown on ABC-TV in April 1960, included Pride. Guitarist Albert Lee made his first professional stage appearance as an accompanist for Pride.
Pride was very successful during live performances, but had difficulty transferring this success to his recordings. In 1961, Parnes attempted to reposition him as a mainstream singer, and he made an album of 'Tin Pan Alley' standards with Eric Jupp and his Orchestra, called Pride Without Prejudice. However, the record sold very poorly and Pride was later dropped by Parnes. With his records not selling, Pride took a job as a van driver to help pay the bills for a short time. He later formed several other groups, including the Guvnors and the Sidewinders.
Back in 1959, Pride's misbehaviour got him in trouble with the law for stealing a car, he was then put on probation. In addition to mental health problems, Pride was under the influence of drugs, including heroin. In 1962, he married Patricia Arkel. 3 years later in 1965, they had a son, Richard Ludt. His musical career however started to decline and due to their drug addictions, the marriage fell apart. Shortly after they broke up, Pride moved back home to live with his mother and sister. In 1967, he was submitted to a psychiatric clinic, where a lobotomy was performed. For a year Pride had control over his habit and his appearance improved, but in the end he fell back on drugs.
On 26 March 1969, Pride's sister found him dead in his bed. He died at the age of 27, from an accidental overdose of sleeping pills. He became part of the 27 Club, among many notable people who passed away at the same age. Fellow Parnes artists such as Billy Fury and Joe Brown stated that Pride had been the most talented singer on Parnes' roster.
Pride was depicted in a 1994 BBC Radio 4 play, about Billy Fury titled, The Sound of Fury, written by Mike Walker.
In 1999, Charles Langley wrote the stage play, Pride With Prejudice, about Pride's tragic life.
On 16 July 2002, a BBC biography series called Jukebox Heroes narrated by Mark Lamarr, aired an episode on Pride's life and career.
Pride Without Prejudice - Columbia SCX 3369 - 1961
The Sheik of Shake - See for Miles Records - 1992
Slippin 'N' Sliding with Dickie Pride - Rigsby Records RIGCD-7752
The Complete Dickie Pride - Peaksoft PEA009 - 2010
Compilations featuring Pride
Great British Rock & Roll: As Good As It Gets - Disky Communications Europe BV 300 - 2001
"Slippin' And Slidin'" / "Don't Make Me Love You" - Columbia DB 4283 - 1959
"Frantic" / "Primrose Lane" - Columbia DB 4340 - 1959 - UK No. 28
"Fabulous Cure" / "Midnight Oil" - Columbia DB 4296 - 1959
"Betty Betty (Go Steady With Me)" / "No John" - Columbia DB 4403 - 1960
"Bye Bye Blackbird" / "You're Singin' Our Love Song To Somebody Else" - Columbia - DB 4451 - 1960
"The Sheik Of Shake" - Columbia - SEG 7937 - 1959
Dickie Pride – Slippin' 'N' Slidin'
A Slippin' 'N' Slidin'
B Don't Make Me Love You