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Emmett Hennessy
Emmett Hennessy

Emmett Hennessy Emmett kindly provides some memories from the Sixties, and his life, as recounted to Sixties City on 16th June 2004. Emmett may not be a personality whose name you immediately recognise but you will almost certainly have seen him as he appeared in many television programmes, films and documentaries, was signed by EMI and released two singles and has performed musically at many significant venues during and since the Sixties.

"I attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama as a part-time student while still at school at the London Oratory. I started doing bit parts in the early Sixties, in movies such as Lolita, The Young Ones, The Victors and Cleopatra, so I saw all the big Hollywood stars as a teenager, quite a thrill. I remember getting 'the eye' from Rock Hudson but, of course, thought nothing about it then. Who knew? I did a lot of work for the BBC and was once directed on an episode of Z Cars by a then unknown Ridley Scott. I was quite involved in the 'Beat' scene at the time and was able to source a bunch of authentic hairy 'Beats' needed for that particular Z Cars scene. I still have a great BBC still photo of the gang confronting a copper. I did some work in The Wednesday Play 'Cathy Come Home' with Ken Loach, who seemed to love the fact that I was an authentic Cockney, and I also appeared in 'Up The Junction'.

I guess my biggest gig was getting a starring role in the sexploitation flick, 'The Loves of Cynthia', which was filmed in Denmark in 1972. Fortunately my co-stars were already friends of mine from the acting scene (Paul Kirby and Flanagan) so it was fun. I actually found a company on the net recently that had copies of the film so I called them to order it and they sent me a free copy! I'd never seen it, didn't know the proper name of it, but just discovered it by typing my name into a search engine. It was quite amazing to see it after all these years. If you look it up, the guy on the poster art is me at 27.

Anyway, I was also into folk music and played guitar as we all did, but I was one of the better ones, busking in Cannes and the streets of London, and was featured in a TV documentary called 'The Buskers', which also featured an artist called Don Partridge. I used to hitch-hike to Brighton on holiday weekends, sleep on the beach and sing songs. My most interesting memory of that scenario was, right there in the thick of things, begging money for drinks on the street and pinching song books from a music shop in the West End was Rod Stewart, who was a buddy of mine at the time. Needless to say, he was even better than me at this music thing. I did the documentary 'Primitive London' in which, not as an actor but supposedly as a genuine Beatnik, the camera crew filmed me and my colleague, Ray Sone performing some folk music at the 'Duke of York' pub in the West End and we told about our exploits busking in the South of France. That's the film I would really love to get my hands on but I can't seem to understand how their web companies operate in terms of ordering the stuff online. Maybe I should try and call them first like I did with the over movie supplier".

Emmett Hennessy backing John and Yoko "At the time, Ray was the harmonica player in our duo 'Ray and Emmett. He went on to become a member of the Sixties band Downliner Sect. We had a weekly residency at Studio 51 / Ken Colyer's Jazz Club in Great Newport Street, which was also a regular performing spot for the then unknown Rolling Stones. I managed to get signed up by Columbia (EMI) Records and released two singles in 1965 called 'Nancy' and 'Babe, It Ain't No Lie' which sadly did nothing. I then auditioned for, and got the gig to replace one of the two original Scottish boys who were leaving The Karlins and I had to go and stay at Weston-super-Mare where they were appearing for the summer on the Norman Vaughan show at the end of the pier. I was there to watch their performance every night and learned their stuff during the day.

I actually brought my then girlfriend with me and that caused quite a stir as she was a Nigerian and this was Sixties Somerset. Her name then was Minah Uko, but after we broke up some years later she became quite a well-known model and then actress as Minah Bird. I sure can pick 'em!
Anyway, I just looked her up on the web and was sad to find that she passed away in 1995. With The Karlins I worked all the northern working men's clubs, staying in dingy digs and I hated it. I guess I was too young - I was homesick all the time and, anyway, what do you do all day in Barnsley until show time? I did make one record with them called 'It's Good To Be Around' and that was recorded in the Abbey Road studios, so a bit of history there. Our producer was Norman Smith who, I think, was a Beatles engineer and he also went on to have a hit record - 'I was Kaiser Bill's Batman' as Whistling Jack Smith".
Minah Bird  Emmett Hennessy: Up The Junction

We also appeared on television as regulars in one of Norman Vaughan's shows. I eventually got the boot from The Karlins, thank God, and carried on with folk clubs and my acting. Eventually I met a lovely Trinidadian girl and we got married out there in 1974. I'm living there now, working as a radio announcer and seem to be some sort of personality as I get to MC all the big concerts when stars come down here and in the last ten years or so finally got back into singing. That's been going quite well - I have worked with Engelbert Humperdinck and Kenny Rogers and got some great reviews, but mostly I do restaurants, weddings, etc. Immediately after we were married my wife Allyson and I went to live in Mustique where she got the job of chief chef at the Cotton House Hotel (she is cordon bleu trained and qualified). When they discovered that I could sing and play the guitar I was always the first name on the guest list for Princess Margaret's parties, where I would entertain her and her guests. She loved that kind of thing. They also found out that I was an accomplished horseman so I got the job of taking rich guests out on evening rides, including Princess Margaret's 'secret' boyfriend Roddy Llewellyn.

Emmett Hennessy and Ray Sone: Primitive London I met Mick Jagger as he had a house there and have met him a couple of times since in Trinidad. On one occasion he came with Jerry Hall for the carnival and we went to a pub for a drink - he is quite down-to-earth. My wife once received a call from the Hilton hotel to her restaurant saying that 'Mr. Jagger would be coming for dinner in an hour or so - could you make sure he's not bothered by anyone?' Sure enough, he breezed in all alone and had dinner with Ian Botham, who he is friendly with. In more recent times I had a bad experience in 1990 when a militant group of Muslims tried to take over the government and they attacked parliament and my radio station simultaneously. They managed to hold a group of my co-workers hostage but I made a run for it and they chased me all over the roof of the building, taking pot shots at me with rifles. I was shot in the right arm but managed to jump over a wall, out of their view, and flagged down a passing car (which I regrettably bled all over) and asked them to take me to the hospital. Fortunately the injury eventually healed up OK but I don't think I've ever really gotten over the trauma and terror of the experience".

Emmett Hennessy (16th June 2004)

Also see Emmett Hennessy's reminiscences in Pompey Pop about a gig they did at the Rendezvous Club (Oddfellows Hall) in December 1964. At one time Rod Stewart had slept beatnik-rough around Portsmouth and there is a suggestion that his first solo gig was in December 1964 with the Hoochie Coochie Men at Portsmouth's Rendezvous Club when Long John Baldry didn't turn up.
Sixties City note: In addition to the names mentioned by Emmett above, his screen credits also include: Adam Adamant Lives (2 episodes), Doctor Who (several episodes), Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, Softly Softly, Moonbase 3, Man About the House, Six Days of Justice, Villains, No Exit, The Guardians, The Very Merry Widow and How, The Man in Room 17, The Yellow Teddy Bears, The Frankie Howerd TV series, Eddie in August, Thirty Minute Theatre, Groupie Girl, The Ghost Goes Gear, Just For Fun, The Love Box

Since the original interview, we are sad to note the death of both the singer Don Partridge (27th October 1941 - 21st September 2010) and also Emmett's wife Allyson who was a notable Trinidadian personality in her own right, as can be seen in the tribute below.

Allyson Hennessy Allyson Hennessy (January 4th 1948 - May 7th 2011)

Trained in the United Kingdom, Allyson was a veteran television presenter who had started her career in the 70s as a media presenter at the Trinidad and Tobago Television station when she replaced host Melina Scott. She also hosted her own popular cooking show and later moved on to the Community Dateline programme where she was the main face for several years until 2005 when the station closed.
Multi-talented, Allyson had also mastered the craft of cooking at Le Cordon Bleu Restaurant School of cookery in London where she met fellow journalist, and her future husband, Emmett Hennessy. In 2009 she received a 'Media Excellence' award from the Trinidad & Tobago Publishers and Broadcasters Association and in 2010 began co-hosting 'The Box', a daily TV talk show on the Gayelle network. She also had her own television program, Allyson 10-12 and has had the honour of interviewing some of the most influential people in society as well as being the most sought after host for Carnival commentary, beauty pageants and business events.
She put her culinary skills to the ultimate test when she opened her family restaurant, Veni Mange, in December 1980 with her sister Roses Hezekiah. Allyson was hospitalised with an undisclosed illness in the intensive care unit at the St. Clair Medical Centre in Port-of-Spain in late April. She never recovered and died on May 7th 2011, aged 63.

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