Nicky Hopkins (1944-1994)
Hopkins was undoubtedly
one of the most talented piano players to have graced British rock during this era.
A South Londoner, he was born there on 24 February 1944. He was playing piano before
he went to school and later trained at the Royal Academy of Music.
His first big band was Screaming Lord Sutch's Savages featuring Led Zeppelin's Jimmy
Page, then in late 1962 he progressed on to Cyrill Davies All Stars- a pioneering R&B
band. You can hear him on piano on their Country Line Special album.
His career was often hampered by bad health and his spell with Cyrill Davies culminated in
a period of hospitalization partly as a result of exhaustion. When he recovered he
resumed his career working as a session-man rather than as a full-time group member in the
hope that this would prove less exhausting. Top sixties bands he recorded with
included The Who (on their My Generation album), The Kinks, The Rolling
Stones, The Easybeats and Quicksilver Messenger Service.
In 1968 he joined the Jeff Beck Group after working with them on their Truth album.
When he left them in the summer of 1969 he moved to California ( he'd already guested on
Jefferson Airplane's Volunteers album whilst with Beck ), first sessioning
with The Steve Miller Band on Your Saving Grace then joining Quicksilver Messenger
Service (though he continued to do session work for the Rolling Stones among others.
Indeed he turned down an offer to join them in 1969).
Earlier in 1966 he'd recorded his Revolutionary Piano album and a couple of
singles. Highlights of the Revolutionary Piano album were cover versions of
Yesterday, Goldfinger and Satisfaction as well as a rockin' rendition of Tchaikovsky's
Piano Concerto No 1, on which he is assisted by The Mike Sammes Singers. The
second, released in 1967 was produced by Shel Talmy and credited to Nicky Hopkins
and His Whistling Piano. The A' side was a Ray Davies number and consisted of
Hopkins on piano, a drummer and an anonymous whistler. He also collaborated on a
one-off project called Aquarian Age. The High On A Hill 45 credited to him was
actually by Nigel Hopkins.
In 1973 he not only put out his second solo album, on which he was assisted by George
Harrison, Mick Taylor and Klaus Voorman. With the benefit of hind sight many now
regard the album, which sold poorly, as a prototype power-pop album. He also recorded an
album for CBS with several other musicians under the collective title, Sweet
Thursday. He continued to be a highly respected keyboardist whose
individual achievements in no way reflected his very considerable talent. He recorded a
third album Long Journey Home, which remains unreleased. In 1974 he
moved back to the UK from California, settling in Egham, Surrey. He died on 6
September 1994 in Nashville, TN. He is survived by his wife Moira. At the time of his
death he was working on his autobiography with Ray Coleman who has also since passed away.
But hopefully his autobiography will someday appear in print.