Mike Patto:
Recollections from 
a Fellow Skyliner

Mike's brother, Phil McCarthy, shares some recollections about his brother Michael McCarthy, alias Mike Patto.

I recently decided to try and look up Mike Patto's brother, Phil McCarthy, in hopes of doing some sort of interview for the web site.  My hope was to learn more about Mike's years before Timebox and Patto.  Well, I did find Phil, and he and his wife were very kind and pleased to hear about the web site.

Phil was happy to share some of his recollections with Mike's fans.  Instead of a typical one-on-one interview, I gave him a list of topics about which he could write as much or as little as he wanted, and the results are included here.  Much of this information we would have never learned from articles in music papers.  I am grateful (as I'm sure all of Mike's fans that visit  this site are) to Phil for sharing some of his memories with us.  Thanks, Phil!

Ken Thornton
July 23, 2000


He grew up in Hingham, Norfolk, and also in London. We frequented backwards and forwards. He was a very keen cricketer, soccer player and also enjoyed swimming. When he was adult, he became a single-figure handicap golfer. He loved school, especially English. His written essays were brilliant. 

As a schoolboy, he became interested in amateur boxing. He became a schoolboy champion. He won the Norfolk schoolboy championship only five weeks after breaking his collarbone. He was supposed to give up boxing for several months, but ignored the advice and went on to win the County championship. The bout, against D. Hubbard from Diss, Norfolk, was so good the audience threw money into the ring as a sign of appreciation. I was urged to control my enthusiasm for the fight during the contest – I was very vocal. Only my father, Mike and I knew that he was not supposed to be boxing at all, let alone being involved in such a great contest. He was then 14 years old. 

He continued to box for several years on and off and, in fact, after a three year lay-off, he beat the British Army champion in a bout at Watton, Norfolk, winning on points. He was a classic, stylish boxer, with a ramrod left hand jab and a wicked right cross. He was a boxing artiste. His boxing ability came to good use on one occasion during a Timebox concert in the north of England. Some people were heckling Chris Holmes, the keyboard player. One man in particular was very offensive. During the middle eight of the song they were playing, Mike stepped down from the stage, knocked the guy out and returned to carry on singing the rest of the song. 

As a teenager, Mike was a brilliant dancer – rock and roll, jive, etc. In fact, many girls used to ask him to dance. He seemed to have rubber legs! He won several rock and roll competitions that he entered, once beating me and my partner in a dance-off to decide the winner. I remember it well. A dance floor full of people. Couples were being eliminated until it got down to two couples, Mike and partner, plus self and partner. We looked at each other, smiled, because we both knew what the outcome would be! He won a watch and I a record voucher – he gave me the watch. He also won his way through to a world championship rock and roll contest – he came second to a Mexican in the USAF stationed in the UK at that time. 

Early Musical Influences

Mike’s interest in music was very diverse. Our mother, Ada, was a classically trained pianist and had played for the King of England when she was 15 years old. She could have been a professional pianist, playing any mode of music. Mum used to play the piano in our front-room and Mike and I would sit round singing. That’s where we learned Al Jolson, Al Bowley, Bing Crosby songs, etc. Mike and I were really hooked on the new sounds in the 50's. We would sit and listen to Radio Luxembourg for a chance to hear the Johnny Otis show, Platters and especially Elvis. We used to visit fairgrounds and plead with the people playing the records to play Elvis over and over again. As mike grew older, he appreciated jazz more and more. Theolonius Monk was one of his favourites. 

Musical Beginnings: The Skyliners

Mike began his singing career using an old guitar that a catholic priest had taught us to tune. In the Hingham youth club with a group called The Skyliners. Mike sang and played guitar, myself, Phil McCarthy, played the washboard, and Michael ‘Curly’ Kenny, on teachest base. We played regularly at our local youth clubs and once in Norwich appearing with about 12 other bands at St. Andrews Hall. Maybe it was because we were so young – Mike and Curly about 13 and myself about 11 – we seemed to go down better than the other bands. We had a really great night. We played together for about two years. During this time, Mike guested with several bands as a vocalist and did a wicked version of Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode.

Early Bands

Mike’s first serious rock and roll band was called The Fretmen. This was also the first band he appeared on TV with. On that show was Gerry Dorsey, later to become Englebert Humperdink. The Fretmen consisted of Barry Wilson – Drums, Neville Freestone – guitar, Stan Wakefield – guitar and Mike on vocals. During one gig, Stan Wakefield’s guitar strings actually started to smoke. It was a really strange sight and Stan took no further part that night! They played mostly cover versions of popular songs.

His next band was called the Breakaways. Barry Wilson – drums, Mick Large – guitar, Neville Freestone – guitar. Played locally and Mike got more into rhythm and blues and formed a band called Mike Patto and the Bluebottles. Barry Wilson – drums, Paul Gunnell – organ, Ronnie Day – bass guitar, Roger Bunn – lead guitar. They were a superb rhythm and blues band – very popular in the club scene at that time.

Mike then joined the Continentals, replacing an American negro singer – Milton, who returned to the U.S.A. after finishing his service in the USA. Ivan Zagni – lead guitar, Harvey Platt – bass guitar. I can’t remember the others in the line-up, but they were a fantastic group, probably the best in East Anglia at that time, and there were several good bands in this area.

The next band he was involved with was called the News. He teamed up again with Barry Wilson and Ivan Zagni and a couple of other people I can’t remember. They played East Anglia and occasionally, London.

Tim Hinkley had seen Mike on a few occasions and invited him to join his band, The Bo Street Runners as their lead vocalist as their singer had to retire through ill health. The Bo Street Runners were a band who had won a nationwide music and talent contest on TV, and had been offered a contract with Brian Epstein, who was a judge on the competition. They actually turned him down and said they were o.k.! Drive My Car was a fairly successful single from those days.

Chicago Line – I don’t remember the line-up or much else about them – I was a young family man then and lost touch with the scene.

Mike also sang with the London Youth Jazz Orchestra, singing various jazz numbers which included Mel Torme and Frank Sinatra songs. He enjoyed this immensely. 

He also sang with Centipede, a 50-piece ensemble which included many famous musicians of the day. Boz Burrell of Bad Co. and King Crimson fame, amongst them. Boz has been, and still is, a dear family friend, who was one of Mike’s closest friends. They had, in fact, left Norfolk for London together, to ‘make it’. Boz continues to be of great support to Mike’s son and daughters and is a great friend of Mike’s wife, Val. In Centipede, the vocalists – four of them – were Julie Driscoll, Maggie Bell, Mike Patto and Zoot Money. Zoot of the Big Roll Band fame. The band was inspired and put together by Keith Tippet, who Julie Driscoll later married.

From McCarthy to Patto

Mike Patto, the name, came from a lead guitarist who had backed Mike when he won the Butlins national talent show. After this, Mike was offered a contract with the legendary Larry Parnes stable. Larry controlled such artists such as Tommy Steel, Marty Wilde, Billy Fury and Vince Eager. This was not taken up because our father, Tom, said "son, you must finish your apprenticeship first". Bloody amazing when you look back at things!

Mike served his apprenticeship as a motor mechanic at Frank Dye and Son at Watton. Often due to his late night returns from gigs all over the country, Mike would sleep on the trolleys laying under the cars and was given protection from his bosses by his great friend, David Fitt. Anyway, the lead guitarist in the band who backed him when he won the contest was called Johnny Patto. As there were many recording artists with names similar to McCarthy, he adopted this name. His real name was Michael Thomas McCarthy and all the other Irish sounding names attributed to him were to humour our late father, Tom. 

Humorous Stories

I remember one. The band carried out an early morning food raid in a hotel they were staying in. They got into the kitchens and were stealing food when they were disturbed by night security. On all fours, Mike crept towards the doors and put his hands on the security guard’s feet. The guard screamed, Mike screamed, the guard panicked and Mike and Co. escaped back to their room, unidentified, but they managed to hang on to the food they had pinched.

Spooky Tooth

Spooky Tooth – a fine band, but a definite personality clash between Mike and Gary Wright, the founder member. Mike spoke with a lot of respect and fondness for Mick Jones, who was a member of Spooky Tooth at that time and later joined Foreigner.


I had the pleasure of seeing them on three occasions. So talented, especially the first line-up. Tony Newman – drums, Keith Ellis – bass, Olly Hallsall – lead guitar and Mike. It was during their tour of America that Mike collapsed and lymphatic leukaemia was diagnosed. Mike had to return to the UK for treatment. This band then broke up. 

Boxer, the second line-up were formed at a later date. They were good, but different from the original Boxer band. Chris Stainton, the keyboard player, was especially talented. 

Brave Bout With Cancer

During Mike’s treatment for cancer, he appeared with Hinkley’s Heroes, who were formerly Dick and the Fireman. There were several household name musicians, the names of whom you can get from Patto’s Pieces. After the gig, they presented Mike and Val with a cheque, the proceeds from the gig. This was to enable Mike and Val to have a holiday. 

Mike fought his illness bravely and his wife, Val, must have had so much pressure on her looking after their three children – Michael, Kathryn and Alice, as well as Mike undergoing radiotherapy treatment, etc. Mike died on 4th March 1979, three years after he was first diagnosed. He is buried at Hingham in Norfolk (where Abraham Lincoln’s forebears came from). Many of our school friends visit the grave and place flowers on it. 


Mike’s records are still played on local and national radio, especially Beggin, which truly stands the test of time. 

Mike’s son, Michael is a fine musician, singer/songwriter and pianist. He is shortly to release his second album (he is a record producer at the present time) under Michael Patto, and we look forward to hearing it. 

Both Mike’s daughters, Kathryn and Alice, are blessed with fine voices, and could easily have followed in their father’s footsteps. Val is involved in graphic design and works in many parts of the world.

Phil McCarthy.

Note:  Patto’s Pieces is the scrapbook that Mike's mum made of all of the news clippings she could find on Mike and the various bands he was in.  A number of articles and images on this site were sourced from Patto's Pieces thanks to Phil McCarthy.

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