Rock 'n' roll legend Marty Wilde is celebrating 50 years in show business by performing for one night only at The Beck Theatre. He talks to JANE HARRISON about his early influences and what he thinks of the pop music scene today
STILL bursting with energy at 69, Marty will be stealing the show at the Beck Theatre on Wednesday, October 22, with hits like Teenager in Love, Donna, Sea of Love and Jezebel.
As the UK's leading rock 'n' roll singer of the late 50s and early 60s, he had 13 consecutive hit records which stayed in the charts for 117 weeks.
Born Reginald Leonard Smith in Greenwich, he was discovered by Tommy Steele's manager, Larry Parnes, while performing at the Condor Club in London.
He was using the stage name Reg Patterson, but Parnes gave his protegés surnames like Fury, Power and Pride so Smith became Wilde. Marty came from the acclaimed 1955 film of the same name.
Marty says: "He took a chance on me after being tipped off that I could be the next big thing. He actually came to my house with a contract, which I couldn't sign because I was only 17."
So his parents signed it the next day, setting him on a singing and later songwriting career during which he would pen hits for Lulu (I'm a Tiger) Status Quo (Ice in the Sun) and a number for his daughter, Kim Wilde (Kids in America).
He also had another break with the advent of the UK's first rock 'n' roll TV show, Six-Five Special and then became one of the stars of Jack Good's new ITV programme Oh Boy!
Marty always thought he would make the big time. The father-of-four says: "I was a very focused young man. You have to be if you want to do something.
"You do need a lot of luck and everything must be in place but if Larry hadn't signed me, I would have made it anyway. I love to entertain. Deep down I was born to do what I did."
Perhaps coming from a musical family helped. He says: "My father was one of my big influences. He was always singing or whistling.
"I could harmonise perfectly from around six. I always wanted to be a singer although that didn't formulate into concrete feelings until I was 14.
"Then I told everyone I wanted to be a pop singer. I'm not sure they believed me!"
Marty was signed to the British recording arm of Philips Records and became one of the leading British rock 'n' roll singers with his backing group the Wildcats. Along with the likes of Tommy Steele and Cliff Richard, Marty's music helped change the shape of the British music scene.
He says: "There had been nothing like it before. It was a big step from dance bands at the Palm Court hotel to frenzied rock 'n' roll with guitars and drums."
And that is still something that appeals to audiences today. He says: "A lot of them weren't even born when I was around, but they still like rock 'n' roll. They look back and are inquisitive about that period of time; the most exciting time that's ever been."
Which does not detract from today's talent, although he derides shows like The X Factor. He says: "There's a lot of great music around today. Some of the talent is awesome, particularly for a small country. X Factor is sad, though. It's OK if you are outstanding like Leona Lewis but for most of them it will break their hearts."
Looking back on a stellar career, Marty loves what he is doing now in his nationwide Born to Rock 'n' Roll tour. He says: "I love theatre work. It's probably the nicest part of my career, much more relaxed. It's a joy to work in these theatres. They are an important part of our country's culture.
"I also love the songwriting. With a show you are forgotten once it's over. You will remember a song forever."
Marty Wilde and the Wildcats are at the Beck Theatre, Grange Road, Hayes, on Wednesday, October 22, at 7.30pm. Box office: 020 8561 8371.