Bryan Hemming

short stories, comment, articles, humour and photography

Mick Pini plays Hey Joe! like it was meant to be played

Early last year I wrote a piece titled Old Bones Put Leicester on the World Map (for the whole article click onto the title) where I mentioned as many bands and musicians I’d known in and around Leicester during the late 1960s. There was at least one I missed. Mick Pini is recognised by many leading musicians as being one of the finest exponents of blues. One of the great unknowns, so to speak. My omission has now been corrected.

Having listened to a couple of live recordings of Hendrix’s own version of the Hey Joe!, I’d go so far as to say Mick Pini’s impromptu version is actually better, even if his vocals don’t quite match his mastery of the guitar on this amateur recording. And I know. I saw Hendrix play live at Spalding in 1967.

Though I’ve never seen Mick Pini play live  – more’s the pity – I played tag with him in the playground, as we attended the same school for a couple of years. The following piece is an edited excerpt from the full article, which includes pieces on Family and Legay, the band led by Robin Pizer that later achieved  some fame as Gypsy.

Mick Pini

And talking of Daniel Lambert, as I was a whole lot of paragraphs ago, there was Mick Pini, who I’ve been trying to Google for ages. In about 1962, Mick Pini was sentenced to a couple of years schooling at Mill Hilll in London Road, Leicester. My school. Well, one of them.

At more than 13 stone (almost 83kg), he was the fattest boy in his year. The fattest boy in the whole school, in fact. That was in the days when British schoolboys linked the name McDonald with Old MacDonald who had that farm with a moo-moo here and a moo-moo there. It was a time of post-war austerity when most of we English were rather thin for lack of hamburger. English hamburgers were actually sold under the brand name ‘Wimpy’, so you can picture how weak and wizened most of us looked from a very early age.

Nicknamed Tiny by some, and Titch by others, as you might imagine, I was even weaker and more wizened than the rest of the boys in my year. For some horribly weird, bullying, small boy reason, I used to chase Mick round the playground and punch him as soon as he got too breathless to keep running. Though his weight went against him, my skinny, little legs went against me. But once I’d got them going at full speed, I’d eventually catch up. However, punching him was was like pushing my fist in to a giant balloon filled wobbly jelly wearing big school blazer; very unfulfilling. Worse still, Mick was incredibly friendly. My efforts for domination only made him giggle. To my immense annoyance, he treated my attempt at bullying it as a game. I was a mouse to his elephant.

It wasn’t until a decade later,  the early 1970s I recognised him in Camden High Street. Maybe it was in a queue outside the Roundhouse. We didn’t have much to say to one another. Though big, he wasn’t fat anymore. His hair was frizzed out so much it resembled one of those great tumbleweed bushes you see blowing down Main Street in Westerns, after the townfolk have been slaughtered, or the gold at the mine has long run out. He told me he was in a band.

And then I never saw him again until today, when I came across this youtube video of him playing the blues. Excellent! Even if a good deal of that tumbleweed has has whitened, or blown off to another town. If you like guitar playing, you have to listen to his version of Jimi Hendrix’s Hey Joe. It made my blood run cold, the spirit of Hendrix runs through it so strong, And I know. I saw Hendrix play live at Spalding in 1967. 

The Abergavenny gig was videoed by Ceri Williams and posted on Youtube after Mick made an impromptu appearance at the Drum and Monkey near Abergavenny in 2010:

To read more about Leicester bands of the sixties click here. And if you have any news or stories to add, contact me through the comments section.

Copyright © Bryan Hemming 2014


6 comments on “Mick Pini plays Hey Joe! like it was meant to be played

  1. hairs nick
    April 21, 2017

    hi Brian , don’t know how i found your page … i was at Spalding too and Mill Hill School … failed 11 plus so got sent there by parents. Fucking hated the place and those brutal so called teachers. Mr Harrison ?? Bastard 😦



    • Bryan Hemming
      April 21, 2017

      Harrison, was the art teacher if I remember right. he was a vicious psychopath! Wearing a white lab coat, he used to do the inspection each morning at line up to make sure our caps were straight and not pushed to right the back of our heads. I seem to recall him carrying a ruler with him like a baton. And then there was that little creep of a maths teacher we called Fred, with his wide Oxford bags, and tiny glasses with lenses like the bottom of pop bottles. The pair of them looked like a couple of doctors from Auschwitz.

      I think most Millhillians had been judged academic failures by our parents and the state by the age of eleven. I was sentenced for three years, managing to get early release for bad behaviour. Well, not quite, I persuaded my dad sending me to Longslade Comp would save him a few quid. But I did manage to have a few laughs at Mill Hill, so it wasn’t all bad, just a massive rip-off. Nevertheless, half the teachers would be in prison if anything like it existed today.


  2. And
    June 30, 2015

    Mick’s still going strong. Yes, he lives in Germany now but comes over a few times a year to play. Last I heard, he’s coming back over for a tour next April and is sure to play in Leicester.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mick Reynolds
    October 17, 2014

    Mick Pini is actually doing a small tour in England at present, he plays The Musician in Leicester next Sunday 19 October 2014, let me know if your in the UK Bryan and we could go and take a look! I understand that he now lives in Germany.


    • Bryan Hemming
      October 17, 2014

      Shame, but I’m not. I’d love to see Mick again, he really is an amazing guitarist. I looked up some of the people he’s played with and the list is quite incredible.


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This entry was posted on February 28, 2014 by in Articles, Music, Review and tagged , , , , , , .

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