MARTY WILDE (by Colin Kilgour)

Born Reginald Leonard Smith, 15 April, 1936* London, England

*some say 1939 but usually the earliest date is the accurate one!

After playing briefly in a skiffle group, Marty 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. The christian name was coined from the sentimental eponymous Ernest Borgnine movie while the surname was meant to emphasise the wilder side of Smith's nature (as with Parnes' other discoveries)

Parnes next arranged a record deal 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 music programme, 6.5 Special.

Soon after having a hit recording of Jody Reynolds' `Endless Sleep' in 1957, 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 Marty with a new singing star Cliff Richard. Before long, Cliff had taken Marty'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 Vernon Girls was considered a bad career move at the time and partly contributed to Wilde's announcement that he would henceforth be specialising in classy, Frank Sinatra-style ballads. For several months he hosted a new pop show Boy Meets Girls and later starred in the London 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 scored some success as the writer of hits like 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, who would go on to achieve far greater chart fame in the UK and USA than her father. ============= BGO have released two Marty Wilde albums from 1959/60 on one disc. I've listed out the tracks and have scanned in the sleeve notes - and interesting reading they make too

For my taste, a British singer like Marty could never really hold a candle to the real American greats. That said however, he was one of ours and many of his covers were very creditable, not least the track that opens this collection ‘Down The Line’

I always thought old Mart had a curious twang to his voice. He does a very acceptable version of the classic ‘Dream Lover’ but Pomus/Shuman’s ‘Teenage Tears' proves even the great writers could have an off day

‘Honeycomb’ is almost embarrassingly bad but most of us would agree The Wildester does a decent enough job on the likes of ‘Endless Sleep’ and ‘Sea of Love’. Each time we have a quarrel someone would also nominate ‘A Teenager in Love’

He does a surprisingly smooth job on ‘Are You Sincere’ and to illustrate his versatility (and somebody's very good and very early choice of a great song), chugs along very nicely on ‘So Glad You're Mine’

If I had to pick just one MW track for that mythical Desert Island compilation, it would be the self-penned ‘Bad Boy, a stonkingly good effort. Don't laugh but one of the main reasons I got this package was to obtain ‘My Heart and I' which is an old cheesy, Vienn-esey song made famous by the monocled Richard Tauber who originated from somewhere in the old Hitler zone

The track slotted into that category of items which strike a chord from years back (Marty's version) but which for a number of reasons have (until now) remained elusive and ungettable. I think perhaps that's a good idea for another thread

Wilde About Marty:
Down The Line / Love Of My Life / Put Me Down / Blue Moon Of Kentucky / Dream Lover / You've Got Love / I Flipped / All American Boy / Mean Woman Blues / Are You Sincere? / High School Confidential / Don't Pity Me / Splish Splash / So Glad You're Mine

Honeycomb / No One Knows / The Fire Of Love / Endless Sleep / A Teenager In Love / My Heart And I / Donna / It's Been Nice / Sea Of Love / Teenage Tears / Bad Boy / Johnny Rocco

Firstly John Tobler’s notes - 2003 "Back in the late 1950s, British popular music came under the massive influence of rock'n'roll, which had already made a major impact in the USA. To be perfectly frank, many of the early British rock'n'rollers were poor copyists of the American model, and without mentioning any names, some of them were verging on pathetic. However, a handful of home-grown hopefuls shone out from the general run-of-the-mill impersonators; the one whose career has dwarfed the achievements of everyone else is, of course, Cliff Richard, but back in 1958-an unbelievable 45 years ago! - Cliff's greatest rival was a tall, dark and handsome 19 year old from Greenwich in south-east London named Reg Smith, who is better known as Marty Wilde.

An explanation of this pseudonym is probably called for, and it involves the first great British rock'n'roll impresario, Larry Parnes, who sensed that this new rock'n'roll epidemic needed British artists who would inevitably eventually equal the appeal of their American counterparts. Obviously, the act which eventually not only equalled the appeal of US rock'n'roll, but surpassed it, was The Beatles, but before the Fab Four came to prominence in the early 1960s, Mister Parnes Shillings & Pence (as Larry Parnes was dubbed, due to his ability to generate income for himself and his stable of artists) controlled the careers of many British vocalists, to most of whom he gave somewhat fanciful stage names; Billy Fury (real name Ronald Wycherley), Johnny Gentle, Lance Fortune, Dickie Pride (Richard Knellar), Dotty Power, Vince Eager.

In fact, the very first artist Parnes managed to success was Tommy Steele (Thomas Hicks), who went on to international stardom after topping the British chart in 1957 with `Singing The Blues' and becoming the first rocker to be immortalised in wax at Madame Tussaud's. Later, Steele moved on to stage musicals like 'Half A Sixpence' and then to Hollywood, where he starred in movies like 'The Happiest Millionaire and 'Finian's Rainbow'.

Tommy Steele largely turned his back on rock 'n' roll after achieving his breakthrough, but it should be understood that when the "wild" music of Bill Haley. Elvis Presley, Little Richard and the others emerged, it was generally regarded by showbusiness veterans as a five minute wonder which would soon be replaced by some other passing fad - which just goes to show how wrong they were. The stated ambition of many of the early British rock'n'rollers was to became an "all-round entertainer", thus guaranteeing a lifetime career.

Tommy Steele probably achieved that aim, but few others retained their fame for more than a few months after moving away from the style which made them famous.

Marty Wilde was propelled in the "all-round entertainer" direction, which in some ways was unfortunate. Larry Parnes had enjoyed considerable success with Tommy Steele, and was understandably keen for Wilde to go the same way. Parnes and his partner, John Kennedy, had spotted Wilde performing (apparently as Reg Patterson) at London's Condor Club in 1957, and quickly added him to a package show. While his first single, 'Honeycomb' (included here on `Showcase), a cover version of the US hit by Jimmie Rodgers, was not a hit, nor were his next two singles, Wilde got his first chart entry with a cover version of the Jody Reynolds US hit, 'Endless Sleep' (also on `Showcase), which peaked in the UK Top 5 in the summer of 1958. However, two further 1958 singles again failed to chart; both sides of the second of those singles, 'No-One Knows'/'The Fire Of Love', also appeared on `Showcase when it was released in May, 1960.

By then, Wilde had established himself as a chart regular with four more UK Top 10 hits during 1959, the first of which was his cover version of 'Donna' by Ritchie Valens, released in the spring of that year. This was Wilde's first UK Top 3 hit, and it was followed by another UK Top 3 success during the summer, this time a cover version of A Teenager In Love', which in Britain outsold the original version by Dion & The Belmonts - some achievement! A third consecutive Top 3 single for Wilde in the autumn of 1959 was his cover version of `Sea Of Love', a US hit for Phil Phillips. All three of those Top 3 hits are featured on 'Showcase', as is the flipside of 'Sea Of Love', a beat ballad titled 'Teenage Tears'. However, many feel that Wilde's last hit of 1959, 'Bad Boy', was the most important of his chart successes, because he wrote the song himself. 'Bad Boy' also became the first of his two US Top 50 hits, and his only US hit under the name of Marty Wilde - his second US hit (in 1969) was Abergavenny', which he released under the name of Shannon. 'Bad Boy' is included here on 'Showcase', as is its excellent flipside, 'It's Been Nice' (which was also recorded - as the A-side of a 1963 single - by The Everly Brothers).

However, 1960 was Wilde's penultimate year as a chart regular, and completing the 'Showcase' album was his second UK hit of that year, 'Johnny Rocco' (Top 30) and its flipside, `My Heart And I'. 'Showcase', which was released in May, 1960, was Marty Wilde's second LP. The fact that it failed to chart can be explained by the status of the LP record over forty years ago. 78 rpm singles had been replaced by seven inch 45s only a couple of years before, and not everyone yet had the hardware to play an album. Sure, Cliff Richard made the chart with his first two LPs, but then Cliff was unmarried; it has been said that Marty Wilde's fall from chart grace was largely the result of his marrying Joyce Baker (herself a pop star as one of The Vernons Girls) in late 1959, which meant that teenage girls regarded him as unavailable, ludicrous though this seems in the 21st Century.

The other half of this collection is Marty Wilde's first LP, 'Wilde About Marty', a 14 track album of cover versions of songs originally recorded by American acts. At the time of its release in August, 1959, it was regarded as a fine piece of work, and despite the passing of over 40 years, it still sounds pretty good to me. The song selection was excellent, with every song but one a classic, albeit in some cases a minor classic. `Down The Line', 'Put Me Down', 'Mean Woman Blues' and 'High School Confidential' were all known from versions by Jerry Lee Lewis, while 'Love Of My Life' was one of the many timeless hits written by Boudleaux and Felice Bryant and recorded by The Everly Brothers. 'Blue Moon Of Kentucky', written by bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe, was one of the early masterpieces recorded by Elvis Presley at the start of his career with Sun Records, and `So Glad You're Mine', which was also recorded by Elvis, was written, like 'That's All Right', The King's first single, by bluesman Arthur Crudup.

Presley also recorded `Mean Woman Blues'. Interestingly, there are two songs on 'Wilde About Marty' made famous by Bobby Darin 'Dream Lover' and Splish Splash', although the biggest UK hit version of the latter was, bizarrely enough, by comedian Charlie Drake. 'You've Got Love' was one of the brilliant tracks on 'The So Glad You're Mine Chirping Crickets', the first LP released by Buddy Holly, and - further street cred - the song's writers included Roy Orbison and Norman Petty, the man who made Buddy Holly a star (some say - others are less charitable). One of the more unexpected inclusions is All-American Boy', which had been a big international hit for Bill Parsons, who later turned out to be Bobby Bare, a well-rated country artist. All American Boy' was a jokey parody of the dynamic start to the career of Elvis Presley.

Even less likely was Are You Sincere', a 1958 US Top 3 hit for Andy Williams. Now Andy Williams was very much the American version of the "all-round entertainer", and his first 15 US hits were on the Cadence label, where his labelmates were The Everly Brothers. In those days, he was regarded as being on the edge of rock'n'roll, especially after his only US Number One, Butterfly' (in competition with a version by a genuine US rock'n'roller, Charlie Gracie, whose single also topped the US chart). However, Are You Sincere' wasn't really as good as Butterfly', so maybe this wasn't such a great choice for Marty Wilde. 'Don't Pity Me' was a 1958 US Top 40 hit for Dion & The Belmonts, whose first hit of 1959 was A Teenager In Love', which also provided Marty Wilde with a UK Top 3 hit the same year (included on 'Showcase). Arguably the only fairly obscure song on the album was 'I Flipped', an album track by Gene Vincent, but altogether, this was a very good LP (and one of the first purchased by yours truly), and it is about time that it is appearing on CD in its original form.

So that's the music - 26 tracks including half a dozen UK hit singles, one of which also made the US Top 50. Wilde's backing group were known as The Wild Cats, and included such stellar musicians as 'Big Jim' Sullivan on lead guitar (so nicknamed to differentiate him from the teenage guitar prodigy, Jimmy Page, later of Led Zeppelin, but in the pre-Zep 1960s, a session musician), Brian 'Liquorice Locking (bass) and Brian Bennett (drums); this latter pair went on to become members of The Shadows, replacing originals Jet Harris & Tony Meehan.

And what happened to Marty Wilde? He had appeared to great acclaim on early British rock'n'roll TV shows 'Oh Boy!' and 'Boy Meets Girls', in which he was the resident star, and even performed at a Royal Variety Performance. He made a cowboy-type movie, 'The Hellions', and appeared in the West End production of the stage musical, 'Bye Bye Birdie', but his hit singles became smaller and less regular, with occasional exceptions like 'Rubber Ball' (Top 10, 1961) and `Jezebel' (Top 20, 1962). While the beat group boom produced numerous new stars, Wilde was viewed as one of the old guard, and although he continued to record during the 1960s and early 1970s, he never again reached the UK chart as an artist - although as a songwriter, he enjoyed success with Status Quo's Ice In The Sun', `Jesamine' by The Casuals and 'I'm A Tiger' by Lulu.

In the 1980s, his daughter, Kim, enjoyed even greater chart success than her father two decades earlier, doubtless often benefiting from paternal advice and hit songs he wrote for her. Finally, the story goes that when Marty was performing in Birkenhead on a Larry Parnes package tour, a young Liverpudlian named Ron Wycherley came to the show because he wanted to play some songs to Parnes and Marty - which was Billy Fury's start in showbusiness. Unlike the unfortunate Billy Fury, Marty Wilde remains with us, an elder statesman and pioneer of rock'n'roll in Britain". -----------------------------

Now John Franz - from the original sleevenote for 'Wilde About Marty’ 1959

"In this day and age when, to coin a phrase, one can find new rock singing sensations under every stone it is inevitable that few of these discoveries in any way justify the extravagant claims of their managers and agents. We at Philips, however, sincerely believe this is not the case with Marty Wilde.

In 1957 when we were running weekly studio tests and auditions and listening to the outpourings of dozen after dozen of so-called new singing sensations (none of whom we have heard of since), Larry Parnes, the well-known impresario, brought along an extremely tall, friendly young fellow whom he introduced as Marty Wilde. After hearing his first song (`Honeycomb') he was signed on the spot and arrangements were put in hand for him to record that very song the following week; which he did with great success.

Around the same time Marty was appearing in cabaret and was seen by BBC producer Josephine Douglas, who immediately booked him into the very popular `6.5 Special' TV show three days later. The effect of Marty on TV screens throughout the country was quite overwhelming and brought forth avalanches of fan mail, telegrams, phone calls, etc. He immediately became a regular featured artist on this show and later on made many appearances on ABC TV's fabulously successful 'Oh Boy' programme.

During all this time his records were selling extremely well, although as yet he had not been fortunate enough to have one reach a high position in the Hit Parade. This came when he recorded `Endless Sleep', which at once made a great appeal to his legions of fans and in no time at all was one of the biggest hits in the country. A short while later this was followed by 'Donna', which was an even bigger hit, and at the time of writing the success of his `A Teenager In Love' disc can only be described as enormous.

With success following success it would have been easy for Marty to rest on his laurels, but he is not that sort of person; he has an admirable habit of never being satisfied with his work and is constantly experimenting and working hard in order to improve his undoubtedly great talent. Proof of his versatility is the fact that although he entered the business as a rock singer, he now includes ballads and all types of material. Also, he has appeared in a straight acting part in the new film 'Jet Storm' wherein he plays alongside such great personalities as Dame Sybil Thorndike, Diane Cilento and Stanley Baker.

The songs in this album represent many of his favourites and also some that have been big hits for other artists. Some of the accompaniments are head arrangements by Marty's own group - the others are by Wally Stott and Ivor Raymonde".

Additional material here is my own + from Guinness Who's Who of Fifties Music

Colin Kilgour: January, 2005

These pages were originally published as "This Is My Story" in the
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