Forget Cliff Richard, Marty Wilde (born Reg Smith until his manager Larry Parnes changed his name) was recording and had a hit before Cliff made it with “Move It”.
Between then and 1962 he has 10 singles out and six of them made the Top 10.
His cover of “Endless Sleep”, which was released in America by Jody Reynolds and made the US Top 5, made the UK Top 5 in 1958. A year later he covered Richie Valens’ “Donna” followed by a cover of “Teenager in Love” originally recorded by Dion and the Belmonts.
His most successful song was probably “Bad Boy“. He wrote it himself and it was a Top 10 hit in the UK and made it into the American Billboard Top 50, his only US chart entry.
From mid-1958 to the end of 1959, Wilde was one of the leading British rock and roll singers, along with Tommy Steele and Cliff Richard. Wilde’s talented backing group was called the Wildcats.
His backing group also recorded as the Krew Kats (the Chet Atkins tune “Trambone“ was their only hit) and featured Big Jim Sullivan on lead guitar; Tony Belcher on rhythm guitar; Bobbie Clarke on drums; plus Brian Locking on bass guitar and Brian Bennett on drums (who both later joined The Shadows).
He appeared regularly on the BBC Television show 6.5 Special and was the main regular artiste on the Saturday ITV popular music shows Oh Boy! and Boy Meets Girls. He was the star of Oh Boy until his manager had a falling out with Jack Good the producer about who decided what clothes he wore on TV.
The story goes that to teach Larry Parnes a lesson he dropped Marty from the show and that gave Cliff Richard the opportunity to step up, and the rest is history.
My schoolfriend, and later vocalist with the Avalons, Dave Parkinson and I were big fans of Marty Wilde. We argued about which songs we liked the best. I liked “Endless Sleep” and “Danny” – probably because of the twangy guitar sound and the riffs (probably played by Big Jim Sullivan) – whereas David liked “Johnny Rocco”.
Marty’s last chart entry was another cover, Frankie Laine’s “Jezebel,” in 1962. He continued writing songs for other artists after his solo career came to a halt.
Some years later Dave and I were visiting clubs in the Nelson/Brierfield area touting for work for the Avalons when we met the Marty Wilde trio who were performing on the cabaret circuit. They were Marty Wilde, his wife Joyce Baker (ex-Vernons Girls) and Justin Hayward. Marty Wilde was a really friendly person and we were pleased to have met one of our early idols.
Justin Hayward later found fame as part of the Moody Blues replacing Denny Laine (who later joined Paul McCartney in Wings) and wrote their biggest selling single “Nights in White Satin”.
Cliff Richard found religion and got a knighthood, and Marty Wilde is still performing.