Marty Wilde Biography

Reginald Leonard Smith, 15 April 1936, London, England. After playing briefly in a skiffle group, this UK rock ‘n’ roll singer secured a residency at London’s Condor Club under the name Reg Patterson. He was spotted by songwriter Lionel Bart, who subsequently informed entrepreneur Larry Parnes. The starmaker was keen to sign the singer and rapidly took over his career. Reg Smith henceforth became Marty Wilde. His first name was coined from the sentimental film Marty, while the surname was meant to emphasize the wilder side of Smith’s nature. Parnes next arranged a recording contract with Philips Records, but Wilde’s initial singles, including a reading of Jimmie Rodgers’ ‘Honeycomb’, failed to chart. Nevertheless, Wilde was promoted vigorously and appeared frequently on BBC Television’s pop music programme 6.5 Special. Extensive media coverage culminated with a hit recording of Jody Reynolds’ alluringly morbid ‘Endless Sleep’ in 1957.

Soon afterwards, Parnes persuaded the influential producer Jack Good to make Wilde the resident star of his new television programme Oh Boy!. The arrangement worked well for Wilde until Good objected to his single ‘Misery’s Child’ and vetoed the song. Worse followed when Good effectively replaced Wilde with a new singing star, Cliff Richard. Before long, Richard had taken Wilde’s mantle as the UK’s premier teen-idol and was enjoying consistent hits. Wilde, meanwhile, was gradually changing his image. After considerable success with such songs as ‘Donna’, ‘Teenager In Love’, ‘Sea Of Love’ and his own composition ‘Bad Boy’, he veered away from rock ‘n’ roll. His marriage to Joyce Baker of the Vernons Girls was considered a bad career move at the time, and partly contributed to Wilde’s announcement that he would henceforth be specializing in classy, Frank Sinatra -style ballads. For several months he hosted a new pop show, Boy Meets Girls, and later starred in the West End production of Bye Bye Birdie. Although Parnes was intent on promoting Wilde as an actor, the star was resistant to such a move. His last major success was with a lacklustre version of Bobby Vee’s ‘Rubber Ball’ in 1961.

Later in the decade he recorded for several labels, including a stint as the Wilde Three with his wife Joyce, and future Moody Blues vocalist Justin Hayward. Wilde enjoyed considerable radio play and was unfortunate not to enjoy a belated hit with the catchy ‘Abergavenny’ in 1969. He also found some success as the writer of hits such as Status Quo’s ‘Ice In The Sun’. By the 70s, Wilde was managing his son Ricky, who was briefly promoted as Britain’s answer to Little Jimmy Osmond. Ricky later achieved success as a songwriter for his sister, Kim Wilde. In 1994, Marty Wilde appeared at London’s Royal Albert Hall with Brenda Lee, Joe Brown, Eden Kane and John Leyton in the nostalgic Solid Gold Rock ‘N’ Roll Show. In the following year he presented Coffee Bar Kids, a BBC Radio 2 documentary programme that examined the origins of rock ‘n’ roll in the UK. In the new millennium he was still regularly performing at nostalgia concerts.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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