KENNY CLAYTON - Musical director, arranger and accompanist to Petula Clark

Kenny Clayton

Pianist and composer Kenny Clayton b. 09 May 1936, took his first piano lesson at the age of seven. By the age of eleven he had passed all eight grades in piano examination and went on to study at Trinity Music College, London in 1947. By the age of twenty-one Kenny became a professional musician.

In the late fifties Kenny firmly established himself as a working pianist and accompanied Alma Cogan and Terry Dean on a tour of Empire theatres as well as working with Shani Wallis, Jeannie Carson, Libby Morris and Joan Turner.

Having achieved success on the popular UK variety circuit, Kenny was quickly signed to EMI / Parlophone and released his first single; Tenerife b/w String Gloves both produced by Walter Ridley. Kenny premiered his new single in September 1961 by performing a solo spot on the British TV music series Thank Your Lucky Stars. The single picked up radio airplay but failed to register in the UK pop charts.

Any hopes of more recording work for EMI / Parlophone were dashed when Kenny met with Petula Clark in 1962. Kenny recalls: "I had a call from my agent who said that Petula Clark was looking for a musical director / pianist for her upcoming tour of France as Petula's then pianist Kenny Powell, who had recorded an album with Petula (IN OTHER WORDS), was unavailable. I auditioned for Petula and her husband the next day and I was immediately taken on and then spent the next 15 months on the road with Petula - we travelled all around the Mediterranean, The South of France and Beirut. It was superb and one of the best times of my life."

Throughout the sixties and seventies Kenny became musical director and arranger for a number of popular singing stars that included: Dick Haymes, Shirley Bassey, Matt Monro, Robin Gibb, Cilla Black, Charles Aznavour, Sacha Distel, Anita Harris, Robin Gibb and Roger Whittaker.

Kenny briefly rejoined Petula in 1974 as arranger of Your Cheatin' Heart for the 1974 Royal Albert Hall Concert (issued on LP and CD) and also accompanied Petula as musical director on her trip to South Africa taking in concert venues in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. 

In 1979 (and until 2009), Kenny rejoined Petula as her permanent musical director and advisor.



Notable concerts as musical director to Petula Clark: Royal Albert Hall, London (1983), Alexandra Theatre, Toronto (1985 for a season), Kennedy Center, Washington (1986), Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas (1986),Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas (1987), Desert Inn, Las Vegas (1989), Barbican, London (1990), Hippodrome (1996) with the BBC Concert Orchestra, Theatre St. Denis, Montreal (2000), Palladium, London (2002), The Olympia, Paris (2003), Moon River Theatre, Branson (2005) for two seasons, Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London (2006) and Cadogan Hall, London (2008). 


One of the highlights from Kenny's 2015 album Hommage is a moving version of Give It A Try, a song he composed with additional lyrics provided by Petula. The song began life in the early 1980's when Clayton composed a melody and lyric to a song originally entitled Face To Face. He has since explained that the melody was his attempt at a writing a song in the style of Neil Sedaka's Solitaire. Clayton presented the song to Petula who adapted his original lyric and re-titled it Give It A Try, also composing an alternate chorus and bridge. Give It A Try was first presented live during a New Year's Eve special that Petula made for Yorkshire Television in 1983. Petula also performed the song on her 1984 UK concert tour. Two years later, on 19 September 1986, Petula recorded Give It A Try at Olympic Studios in Barnes. Give It A Try became the title track for an album Petula recorded for the Jango Music Corporation in the US. Petula re-recorded eleven of her classic hits together with two new songs including Give It A Try.


In 1983, Kenny collaborated with Petula on Life Is A Song, a special and personal 13 minute musical piece for the occasion of Petula's 40th anniversary concert staged at London's Royal Albert Hall broadcast by the BBC and issued on record. For the occasion, Kenny also devised and orchestrated a six minute opening Overture based on Petula's past successes. Kenny is also joint composer of the composition Amen written for the Clark / Shipman musical Someone Like You.


Clayton has worked on various other Clark recording projects including: Edelweiss (1981), London Revival recording of The Sound Of Music (1981), An Hour In Concert With Petula Clark (1983), Lollipops & Fish Fingers (1984), demo and commercial recordings for the Clark / Shipman musical Someone Like You (various 1985 - 1990), Where The Heart Is (1998), Here For You (1998), Sign of The Times (2001), Live At The Paris Olympia (2004), Together & Driven By Emotion (2006), Film Themes for In Her Own Write (2007) and Then & Now (2008).


Notable TV appearances as musical director for Petula Clark include: the TV musical play Traces of Love (1979), At The Turn Of Year (1979), Petula - 40th Anniversary Concert (1983), Petula - I Concentrate On You (1983), Thames Telethon (1985), Pebble Mill At One (1996), The National Lottery for Petula Clark in Sunset Boulevard (1996) and The South Bank Show - A Petula Clark Special (1998).


Petula and Kenny (1965)

Petula and Kenny (1979)

Claude Wolff, Barbara Clark, Petula and Kenny on the SS Norway (1984)

Petula and Kenny (1986)

Petula and Kenny (1990)

Kenny, Anita Harris and Petula at the Heritage Foundation Awards (2004)

Kenny and Petula in Branson, Missouri (2005)

"Petula is the most talented female performer that Great Britain produced in the 20th century, is my own humble and unbiased assessment of Petula. When one works so closely with an artist for a long period of time, one sees the inside of the works as well as making sure that the outside is as near perfect as can be. Petula's art is not merely singing. The sheer range of characters she portrays during her "tour de chante" makes her an actress of formidable 'standing', and as always, when working together we strived to make the next show better than the previous one. She is still using her magic on audiences around the world - she is simply the very best of British." - Kenny Clayton

"Petula was an absolute joy to work with. It was like being part of a family, we had been together for so long. One of the lowest points for the both of us professionally was when theatre impresario Harold Fielding pulled the plug on Someone Like You, a project she had invested so much time, energy, emotion and talent into writing and producing. He (Fielding) didn't even tell us his decision in person, we found out on a Wednesday afternoon when it went out on the LBC news." - Kenny Clayton

Kenny lives in Brighton and London and continues to entertain at his chosen clubs in Soho. His latest album Hommage featuring a new recording of the Clark / Clayton composition Give It A Try is available to order online. 

For further information on Kenny, visit: www.kennyclayton.co.uk


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Researched, compiled and created by Steven Warner & Tim Hutton
Selected graphics by Ray Leaning @ Muse Fine Art & Design 

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