Kenny grew up in Stepney, East London as one of 13 children; his sister Gladys (stage name Maxine Daniels) was a jazz singer of some note. After leaving school at 15 and various jobs, he did national service in the Royal Army Service Corps and was the regimental featherweight boxing champion. He was also a professional singer. He is the father of two daughters. His father was born in Barbados and his mother was mixed-raced British and Jamaican.
He had several UK hit singles in the early 1960s, including the two Top Ten hits, “Up on the Roof” in January 1963, and “You Can Never Stop Me Loving You” in August 1963. Kenny is also known for a single release of “Misery”, the first cover version of a Beatles song to be released.
In early 1963, Kenny had been on the same bill as the Beatles on the group’s first British tour; John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote “Misery” in January 1963, in the hopes that the artist on top of the bill, Helen Shapiro, would record it. Shapiro’s record producer turned it down, but Kenny took the composition and gave it a much more pop oriented arrangement than the Beatles would use when they recorded “Misery” themselves on their debut album, Please Please Me. Whilst on a coach with the Beatles (on tour with Helen Shapiro), Kenny reportedly offered to help them write a song, but quickly became frustrated and criticised their ability to compose music – at the time Lennon and McCartney were writing “From Me to You”. Years later he appeared on the album cover of Wings’ 1973 album, Band on the Run, along with other celebrities.
Much of Kenny’s material was self-written, but he also covered songs by writers of the Brill Building.
Kenny also wrote songs for others including actress Linda Thorson, Small Faces’ No. 3 UK hit “Sha-La-La-La-Lee” and Cilla Black’s No. 5 UK hit “Love’s Just A Broken Heart”, in collaboration with American songwriter Mort Shuman. “You’d Better Believe It” (co-written with Jerry Ragavoy) and “Sorry She’s Mine”, which also appeared on the Small Faces’ 1966 debut album, were both Kenny works.
Kenny took part in the A Song For Europe contest in 1962 with the song “There’s Never Been A Girl”, but failed to win through to represent the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest. Kenny had more success in 1978, as a songwriter and producer. That year, his song “Don’t Bother To Knock”, written for the group Midnight, placed second in the contest. The same year he wrote ‘”Love Crazy”, the theme used for Carry On Emmannuelle, and “You Can’t Fight It”, the vocal version of the theme to the John Carpenter film Assault on Precinct 13. He also oversaw the production for Hylda Baker and Arthur Mullard’s comedy version of You’re the One That I Want which reached 22 in the UK charts in September 1978. In the early 1980s, Kenny formed a songwriting partnership with former tennis player Buster Mottram, a long-time white nationalist political activist.
Kenny has appeared on various television programmes, including Celebrity Squares, Mooncat & Co., Room at the Bottom, Bullseye and Curry and Chips. He has also appeared on Z-Cars, The Sweeney, Till Death Us Do Part and Treasure Hunt.
Kenny has played in several charity football matches and has taken part in Michael Parkinson’s ‘Celebrity Cricket’ fundraisers.
In 2018 Kenny has a concert tour with Jimmy Tarbuck and Anita Harris, he appeared in ITV’s Last Laugh in Vegas.