From there I joined a band called the Maniacs...a real band. We played all over the area and won a talent contest. After I left that group I got a trio together called Heatwave in which I sung and played drums...way before Phil Collins.....but this was not enough. I made a deal with my parents that if they gave me 2 years off between school and university then if I had not done anything by that time then I would abandon a career in music and knuckle down to college. So I caught a train to London and stayed with a distant relative."
Kirke spent his early years living in the borderlands of Wales. Leaving school at 17, he returned to London and set about finding a drumming job in the booming blues scene.
"During the next year I had all sorts of jobs: working on a demolition site, operating a pneumatic drill, washing cars( a nice cheerful job in winter, that was!) working in a bottling factory... during this time I answered ads in the music papers and went to a couple of auditions. I nearly joined the Love Affair...(Jeez that was a close one) but got beat out by Mo Bacon who was the managers son... another band called Sweet Pain who never got off the ground . Also a band called Matons Magic Mixture which featured a guitarist called Terry Thomas who I would meet 25 years later when he produced a couple of our albums....."
After a fruitless 18 months he was resigned to returning to the country when he met Paul Kossoff who was playing in a band called Black Cat Bones. Kirke was offered the drumming position in the band for which he played for six months. Among others, Kirke played Hayman drums.
"But the big break, of course, was seeing The Black Cat Bones at the Nag's Head in Battersea early in 1968. I was just a couple of months shy of the allotted time my parents had set. The clock was running out... I joined the Bones that week... they were getting rid of their drummer the night that I saw them and collared Paul Kossoff at the bar. I was overjoyed at being in a real live professional blues band. We did all the standards: Rock me Baby, Killing Floor, Albert Kings's Cold Feet, Dust My Broom...and Koss was knocking me out every night. We had been together a few months when Koss took me aside and said he wanted to leave the Bones and team up with a great new singer he had found out about across town - Paul Rodgers. We went to meet him but my hear dropped a bit when I saw that there was another drummer in the room and this guy was shit hot....Andy Borenius. Well, we all played and nothing was decided but I heard later that day that I was in...we were now 3."
Simon and Paul Kossoff left the band [Black Cat Bones] and with Paul Rodgers and Andy Fraser formed Free.
"Alexis Korner was a great British/Greek blues man at that time. A great many people had passed through his band...Charlie and Mick from the Stones...a couple of Yardbirds.. Long John Baldry... and Alexis knew of this stunning young bass player named Andy Fraser who was just getting the elbow from John Mayalls Bluebreakers. He was only 15 years old! We got together at the Nag's Head(they should put a plaque up on that place) and Free was born......"
In the four years Free were together they had an enormous influence on many bands on both sides of the Atlantic. Their biggest hit "All Right Now", a number one hit in more than 20 territories and recognised by ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) in 1990 for more than 1,000,000 radio plays in the US by late 1989, and in 2000 an award was given to Paul Rodgers by the British Music Industry when "All Right Now" passed 2,000,000 radio plays in the UK.
After the disbanding of Free in 1973, Simon and Paul Rodgers again teamed up to form Bad Company. They were joined by guitarist Mick Ralphs (Mott the Hoople) and bassist Boz Burrell (King Crimson).
After Bad Company ended in 1982, Kirke was briefly involved with another band, Wildlife. Their album was produced by former Bad Company bandmate Ralphs, and also featured Kirke playing saxophone on one track. Despite being signed to Led Zeppelin's label, Swan Song, and Kirke's high-profile involvement, the album failed to sell. Wildlife's core members, brothers Chris and Steve Overland went onto greater success with the band FM. Kirke returned to Bad Company when it reunited in 1986.
As well as touring with Ringo Starr's All Star Band on three occasions, Kirke is an accomplished songwriter, releasing Seven Rays of Hope in 2005. He has also worked with Wilson Pickett, Bo Diddley, Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, and Eric Clapton.
In 1980 Kirke played drums alongside Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham for their two song encore in Munich.
A governor on the board of NARAS (the Grammy Award Committee), Kirke lives in Manhattan with his wife, Lorraine, and his four children. His daughter Domino is trying to follow her father into a musical career.
Kirke made an instruction DVD of hits from Bad Company and Free, entitled Lessons from a Legend: Simon Kirke. The DVD was produced by Rockstarz in 2006.
Kirke is a fan of Aretha Franklin, and a recurring counsellor at Rock 'n Roll Fantasy Camp.
He toured with Bad Company in 2009. He has been playing with New York rock band Zeta Vang as a side project.
Simon Kirke (born Simon Frederick St George Kirke, 28 July 1949, Lambeth, South London, England) is an English rock drummer best known as a member of Free and Bad Company.
"I was born in London 8-30 in the morning in London on the 28th of July 1949. My mother's name was Olive May and my Dad's was Vivian Percy. They named me Simon Frederick St. George Kirke. The St. George has been in our family for centuries. The Kirke's go back a long way but the Gibson Craigs (my paternal grandmothers family) go back to before records were kept. My dad had a string of jobs and we were pretty poor most of the time. I spent my first few years in London and Watford before being moved to the wilds of the Welsh border when I was 7.
I have 2 brothers: Nicholas, 4 years older than me and Miles, 18 months younger. They live in Prague, Czechoslovakia and Bristol respectively. We lived in this remote part of Shropshire until I was 17. For the first seven years we lived in a primitive cottage...no electricity and no running water. Our rent was one pound a week. I love telling my own kids that...with todays modern conveniences and gadgets which are taken for granted I wonder how they would find life.