Mickie Most, born Michael Peter Hayes (June 20, 1938 - May 30, 2003), successful record producer notably with a string of Number 1 hit singles with his own RAK Records label and bands such as The Animals, Herman's Hermits, and Hot Chocolate.
Most was born in Aldershot, Hampshire. The son of a regimental sergeant-major, he moved with his parents to the north London suburb of Harrow in 1951. Most was heavily influenced by skiffle music and early rock 'n' roll in his youth. Leaving school at the age of 15, he worked as a singing waiter at London's famous Two I's Coffee Bar where he made friends with future business partner Peter Grant, and formed a singing duo with Alex Wharton who billed themselves as The Most Brothers. They scored a minor hit with Decca Records called "Takes a Whole Lotta Loving to Keep My Baby Happy" before disbanding. Wharton later went on to produce the Moody Blues single "Go Now". After officially changing his name to Mickie Most in 1959, he travelled to South Africa with his wife, and formed a pop group, Mickie Most and the Playboys. The band scored eleven consecutive number 1 singles playing mostly cover versions by Chuck Berry, Ray Peterson, Gene Vincent, and Eddie Cochran.
Returning to London in 1962, Most appeared with other musicians on package tours as well as recording "Mister Porter", which became a minor hit in 1963. Becoming tired of touring clubs, Most decided to concentrate on other aspects of the music industry. His first job involved selling records in stores and displaying them on racks (which was the later inspiration for naming his own record label, RAK) before finding a niche with production for Columbia Records. After spotting The Animals playing at Newcastle's Club A-Go-Go, he offered to produce their first single called "Baby Let Me Take You Home" which reached Number 21 on the UK charts. Their follow-up 1964 single, "House of the Rising Sun", became a worldwide Number 1 hit. Most then won the "Producer of the Year" award at the 1964 Grammy Awards. His down-to-earth handling of the band and a knack for selecting hit singles made Most much in demand as producer throughout the 1960s.
He had instant success with Manchester's Herman's Hermits after being approached by their manager Harvey Lisberg. Most thought their singer Peter Noone looked like John F Kennedy, and would therefore sell well in the United States. Their first Most production, "I'm Into Something Good", went straight to Number 1, in 1964. It began a run of incredible singles and album sales (10 million units over 12 months) by the band, that it challenged The Beatles in popularity. Most had equal success with other artists notably, Lulu, the Nashville Teens, and Donovan often employing his own session musicians Jimmy Page on guitar, John Paul Jones on bass guitar and arrangements, and Nicky Hopkins on piano. He produced Jeff Beck's hit singles "Beck's Bolero" and "Hi-Ho Silver Lining" and signed up new artists such as singer-guitarist Terry Reid. Most set up his own production office at 155 Oxford Street, sharing it with his business partner Peter Grant. It was through Most's association that Peter Grant was asked to manage The Yardbirds. In 1968, Most and Grant jointly set up RAK Management, but Grant's involvement with The Yardbirds and then Led Zeppelin meant that Most had control in late 1969. RAK Records and RAK Music Publishing were launched in 1969.
By 1967 music had been turning to a heavier and improvisational sound that did not always suit Most's formulated singles selection format. After producing The Yardbirds album Little Games, he decided to steer clear of rock groups realising they did not share his same vision. The Yardbirds objected to his obsession of aiming to cut every song in under three minutes and that albums were just an "afterthought" proceeding the singles. Despite this set back, Most's success continued with Mary Hopkins in the 1970 Eurovision song contest entrant, "Knock Knock Who's There?" followed by Julie Felix's hit "El Condor Pasa". The growing roster of artists signed to RAK Records included Alex Korner's CCS, Chris Spedding, Smokie, Kim Wilde, and Hot Chocolate who became RAK's longest active band. Hiring the songwriting production team of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, Number 1 singles continued with The Sweet, Suzi Quatro, New World, Mud, and Racey.
Most was also a panellist on various television talent shows such as ITV's New Faces and presented Revolver, a program devoted to punk rock which was at odds with his "old fashioned" approach to music. In the 1980s, the band Johnny Hates Jazz, which featured Micky's son Calvin Hayes was also signed to RAK Records. RAK was sold to EMI Records in 1983 but revived in 1988. Most was one of the first producers to own the rights to his own records and his RAK Studios in St John's Wood remains active. His later productions included "Perfect Stranger", which featured ex-Uriah Heep singer Peter Galby. In 1995, Most's fortune was estimated to be valued at £50 million and he appeared in the Sunday Times annual Rich List amongst the Top 500 in England. His house was claimed to be the largest private home in Britain worth an estimated £4 million. His production work became less numerous after he was diagnosed with cancer in 2000. On May 30, 2003 Most died of mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer, in his London home. He is survived by his wife Christine and three children.