Marty Wilde was born Reginald Leonard Smith in 1939 in Blackheath, London. He grew up the son of a professional soldier and lived in various parts of England throughout his childhood before coming back to London as a teenager. Young Reggie could play the ukulele and loved the new skiffle movement, so he was soon performing as Reg Patterson in the Condor Club in Soho. One night Tommy Steele’s manager, Larry Parnes saw Reggie and was keen to sign him. Parnes loved to give his acts memorable names which were designed to leave an impact. He liked short and sharp sounding surnames such as Steel, Eager, Fury, and Power. Reg Patterson was renamed Marty Wilde, and became an overnight sensation on a package tour which was touring the UK. This catapulted Marty into the public eye and television, and a recording contract with Philips Records, followed. His first single was a cover version of Jimmy Rogers "Honeycomb," but this made no impact on the charts.
In 1958 "Endless Sleep" entered the UK charts giving Marty his first hit.
Marty’s band the Wild Cats, were an exceptional set of musicians for the time and included Big Jim Sullivan (lead guitar), Tex Makins (bass), Tony Belcher (rhythm guitar), Alan LeClair (piano), and Bobby Woodman (drums). Unlike a backup set of musician they became an integral part of Marty’s performances suffice in partnership they became more popular. The line up changed and Brian "Licorice" Locking replaced Tex Makins and Bobby Woodman left and Brian Bennett (Shadows) took his place. This was considered the best format and The Wild Cats backed Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent when they toured England. Marty Wilde was billed as the mean and moody singer with a dark and brooding quality to his voice. His balled style was reminiscent of Gene Vincent. In 1959, Marty released cover versions of Ritchie Valens' "Donna"; Dion’s "A Teenager in Love" and "Sea of Love," all of which did well in the UK charts.
It was the fashion then for UK and Australian artists to cover US hits which often sold better than the originals. His last single for the year was the dark and threatening "Bad Boy," which he wrote and it became an overnight hit even charting in the US.
Although he just predated Cliff Richard they were billed as major rivals but in truth became good friends. Mary Wilde had become a firm fixture on UK television’s Oh Boy and Boy Meets Girl and regularly appeared on BBCs 6.5 Special. When Cliff Richard joined Jack Good’s Oh Boy the two singers shared star billing. Larry Parnes was unhappy and pulled his star from the popular program and Cliff continued to become the major star. Marty tried his luck as a film actor in 1959 and appeared in Jet Storm but was back in the charts in 1961 with another hit, this time a cover version of Bobby Vee’s “Rubber Ball.”
Marty’s last song to reach the UK hit parade came a year later with “Jezebel.”
By 1963 changes in popular musical tastes meant Marty’s career as a pop star were over and like Joe Brown and Jess Conrad he tried musicals, appearing in the West End version of Bye Bye Birdie. In 1968 Marty saw his song writing skills bare fruit with his compositions entering the charts with Ice in the Sun by Status Quo, "Jesamine" by The Casuals, and Lulu's "I'm a Tiger“.
Marty also made his last chart entry in the US with "Abergavenny," under the pseudonym, Shannon.
In the early 70s Marty briefly tried to reinvent himself as Glam Rocker, Zappo but did not share the success Shane Fenton’s had with his transformation to Alvin Stardust.
In 1975 Marty appeared in the Stardust movie which starred Adam Faith and David Essex. Marty was on hand in the studio to help and encourage his daughter Kim, who enjoyed popularity with new wave.
Marty Wilde continues to perform and enjoys popularity on the nostalgia and retro circuits.
Worth a listen:
Endless Sleep (1958)
A Teenager In Love (1959)
Sea Of Love (1959)
Bad Boy (1959)
Rubber Ball" (1961)
Ice in the Sun (1968)
I’m a tiger (1968)