Marty Wilde

HoneycombPhilips PB 750
Endless SleepPhilips PB 835
DonnaPhilips PB 902
A Teenager In LovePhilips PB 926
DannyPhilips PB 926
It's Been NicePhilips PB 972
Bad BoyPhilips PB 972
Your Loving TouchPhilips PB 1121
Tomorrow's ClownPhilips PB 1191
Bless My Broken HeartColumbia DB 7145

Marty Wilde photo 1


Marty Wilde playlist



Marty Wilde poster 2

Marty’s first show in 1957 headlining with Tommy Steele’s brother!
As seen on the Marty Wilde Facebook Fanpage


Contributor: Dave Stephens

Marty Wilde?

Father of Kim and songwriter for her, right?

Yes, but before that, in fact, well before that?

Oh yes, he was one of Britain’s rockers, a member of that not-all-that large grouping of artists who, for a relatively short period of time circa the second half of the fifties and a little beyond, attempted to make a living out of music that was not invented here. That list would have started with Tommy Steele, possibly as the only member, but he was one of those rare beasts who actually made a successful transition to musical theatre, or what most of those beings who ruled our musical world at that time would have called ‘real music’ as opposed to that dreadful stuff that was hitting us from across the pond. Tommy’s place at the top of that list was taken by Cliff Richard and Billy Fury jointly in terms of record sales/broad popularity, and the fact that both switched more to ballads and/or teen fodder as the sixties followed the fifties shouldn’t be frowned on too much since it was but a reflection of a move away from ‘pure’ rock and roll, for a variety of reasons in the US. And, no, I haven’t forgotten Johnny Kidd; that record of his still tops the lot for Brit rock’n’roll but consistency wasn’t his strongest point.

In terms of popularity Marty wouldn’t have been all that far from those guys who headed that list, in fact for many of us he was up there with them, but he differed from Cliff and Billy (and Johnny, and Adam Faith, come to that), in a very specific way. He was the covers guy. While almost from the outset, the others had songs written for them and/or, wrote some themselves, Marty very largely recorded covers as A-sides and, by and large, those were the tracks he had his hits with.

I’m well aware that the subject of covers can get very emotive. Before proceeding I would note that I’ve put some general thoughts on the subject into footnote #1. I’d also register the fact that we didn’t have the culture of independent labels that had largely grown up since the Second World War in the US and it was those labels that had driven the rock and roll revolution. Over there, many covers were of majors covering indies’ records though that didn’t stop indies covering indies (or even black covering white which did occur too).

Let’s make it very clear at this juncture, like all of his peers, Marty’s record career was strongly governed by his record label and/or his manager; the amount of say he would have had in terms of selection of songs to record would have been minimal. Hence, if the label said you’re doing this song, that was it, you made the best of it. This situation didn’t dramatically change until the Beatles and the Stones hit the scene in the following decade. Let’s state also: covers were a big feature of the UK market. We had none of the US heritage of rock and roll following rhythm and blues even if the latter had been semi-hidden from the white audience. So UK record producers were on a steep learning curve and one of the responses was to copy American records; hence covers.

Illustrations are in order. Let’s take a listen to a couple of those covers from Marty:

Honeycomb adorned the A-side of his first single which was released in October 1957 (dates from 45cat), three months after the US version from Jimmie F. Rodgers (and I’ve included Jimmie’s middle initial purely to differentiate him from the country singer Jimmie Rodgers). I also said “version” not “original” because the first appearance of the song came four years earlier from a gent called Georgie Shaw and it was more of an up-tempo novelty record, unlike the later cut. Rodgers was a curious artist in that he wasn’t 40s/50s lounge nor was he rock and roll. Instead, his records offered easy listening with something of a pop folk feel. Honeycomb was his breakthrough hit and one of his biggest sellers; it hit the numero uno spot in the Billboard Hot 100 but only scraped a #30 in the UK. The Wilde version was different again. Rhythmically, it’s more of a shuffle, driven by Bert Weedon’s guitar with the rest of the backing minimalist until the vocal lot join in on the middle eight. Marty does his damnedest to get some Presleyish inflexions into his vocal and it works, with the result emerging as a kind of gentle rocker (if that’s not an oxymoron). Although, judging by the low YouTube figures, the track doesn’t have great appeal – and it didn’t at the time – I rather like it and actually prefer it to the original (which isn’t a comment I’d make very often about a cover).

The reader will note my reference to Bert Weedon on guitar. Contrary to the credit on the record – “Marty Wilde And His Wildcats” – the supporting musicians were not Marty’s road band, the Wildcats (later Wild Cats), they were a team of session musicians with very limited experience of this new rock’n’roll thing. Bert himself was used on many such sessions – see also the footnotes.

The flip, Wild Cat which was penned by Marty himself with help from Lionel Bart – yes, that Lionel Bart – was more of a rocker but the execution from the support guys doesn’t quite realise what one would guess were Marty’s expectations. Not a bad try though.

Jumping forward to single #4 (with both the releases in between featuring covers on the A-sides, one of which was another attempt at a Jimmie Rodgers track but neither garnering any sales of note). That record was Endless Sleep. Which was a big step forward. The original was one that would inspire a whole rock ballad subgenre of teen tragedy discs. It came from Jody Reynolds and, in the eyes of your humble scribe, Jody was ‘the greatest of them all’ in terms of one hit wonders – I tell the story in my Toppermost devoted to the man. Consequently, you could say that I’m just a bit biased when it comes to this original.

But, and it’s a big but, the Wilde cover was by no means without merit. It was easily his best realised effort so far which, judging by an interview with the man which is contained within Jack Watkins’ review of his first album, Wilde About Marty, for Vintage Rock, was partially due to the fact that he got more involved with the arranging and production aspects of the session. These are his words:

“But it was Bert that did that ‘ba-a-ung’ intro. To start with, they were playing it as ‘jay-ing’, using chords, but I said, ‘Bert, there’s a guy called Duane Eddy who is playing all single notes on the bass strings. Can you do it like that?’”

The production, aided of course by the plugging – and it was almost always the Wilde record that I remember hearing at the time – worked, propelling the disc to the #4 position in our chart, leaving the original out in the cold. Not fair? Of course not but that’s the way the record industry worked. Did we care? No, we were just proud that a British artist had issued a record that we really liked and wasn’t a straight copy of an American one. Even today – well 2011 anyway – a commentator in 45cat opines: “I rate this as the first real British rock record”, and he’s right; it may have been a slowie or a ballad (though that might have been pushing it), but it rocked. In addition, it was released roughly a month before Move It.

He was born plain Reginald Leonard Smith on 15th April 1939 in Blackheath, a desirable part of South London. He was among the earliest of the ‘future stars’ to be signed up by Larry Parnes in 1957, after the latter’s success with Tommy Steele. And it was Parnes who rechristened him and found him a record contract with Philips. A backing group was put together and called the Wildcats. At various times this included the legendary British lead guitarist Big Jim Sullivan plus Brian Bennett and Brian Locking, both of whom went on to join the Shadows.

You might have thought that Endless Sleep would have been the start of something good for Marty but it was and it wasn’t. His next two singles did zilch but come 1959 and everything he touched seemed to turn to gold. Three in a row covers made the Top Five – Donna (original from Ritchie Valens), A Teenager In Love (Dion and the Belmonts) and Sea Of Love (Phil Phillips) – and for those of us of a certain age, all are indelibly associated with Marty. The best position attained by any of the ‘opposition’ was #28 for Dion and the boys. None of these covers could be called rock and roll but they were American Pop as filtered through the hit machine called Marty Wilde. Not satisfied with that, Philips/Marty gave us a double A-sider consisting of two originals, the Pomus & Shuman It’s Been Nice with the self-penned Bad Boy, before the year was out and that almost made the Top Five too (topping out at #7 for those of us who love all the chart detail).

But in terms of serious chart success, that was almost that. In 1961, a cover of Bobby Vee’s Rubber Ball gave Marty his last Top Ten entry and in the following year, a version – it was so long after the original for me to call it a cover – of Frankie Laine’s Jezebel gave him his last Top Twenty entry. That wasn’t quite all: in 1968/9, a co-composed song entitled Abergavenny achieved success in Holland, New Zealand and the US (low-end Top Fifty) but not the UK – more on that one later.

In 1961, Marty followed the path of Tommy Steele into the world of musicals. His debut came via the West End version of Bye Bye Birdie; he played the role of the Elvis figure, Conrad Birdie. Here he is on One Last Kiss with the rest of the cast coming in for the song’s finale. He followed this with parts in Dr. Dolittle, Half A Sixpence and Paint Your Wagon. He also managed a more conventional pop career through the 60s and 70s via some successful songwriting and involvement in the burgeoning nostalgia industry – the only time I saw him live was during the ‘rock revival’ timeframe. In the 80s he had that second career producing and writing songs for his daughter Kim.

He’s still with is. His last album Running Together on which all the tracks were written or co-written by himself was released in 2020.

To the music and I feel it would be churlish not to mention Marty’s record number two, Love Bug Crawl if only for the fact that this would be one of those rare occasions when a rock number graced a Wilde A-side. Continuing with the Philips policy of sticking with covers, this one came from out of nowhere in the US: the artist was a man called Jimmy Edwards – apparently, but see footnotes – and his original ascended to the glorified heights of #78 in the Hot 100. In spite of several further attempts, Edwards never got anywhere near the charts again.

While it can’t be denied that Marty lays on as good an Elvis impression as we’d heard from anyone on record from the UK up to this date – and it’s likely to have to have been totally intended since the original was something of a pastiche affair – the disc sounds somewhat laboured in terms of tempo and arrangement compared with the spritely original (which just happened to be graced by some Nashville superstars).

On to ‘the big three’, Ritchie’s Donna, Dion & the Belmonts’ A Teenager In Love and Phil Phillips (with the Twilights) Sea Of Love. All three, great records and all three – particularly the last – distinctive, each in its own different way.

But the covers had Marty whose voice by now, was recognisable as the man himself, not Ritchie, Dion or Phil. And that voice added its own nuances to all three of the songs. On Donna, there could have been celebratory hints of a great romance even if it was now over and that voice wasn’t let down by a totally different arrangement to the original.

And there was a positive sparkle to his approach to A Teenager In Love adding flesh and complexity to the Dion original. Now you might have thought that could have pushed the performance more in a teenie direction but, to these ears, it didn’t and I’m not alone in this opinion: two of the commentators in 45cat rated the Wilde version as better than the original and another put it very close (and the best cover Marty had ever cut). In addition, the lip-synched clip of the Marty version below has achieved 2.7m views to date.

(Incidentally if you watch any live clip of Marty and the Wildcats playing this song within relatively recent years, you’ll find him holding the mike out to the audience for them to sing the punch line; they always oblige and clearly very much enjoy doing so.)

Which all leads up to a story about the flip side of this single. The song, Danny, was originally recorded by a certain Elvis Aaron Presley on 11th February 1958 for the film, King Creole, based on the Harold Robbins novel “A Stone For Danny Fisher”. However, given the name that was eventually decided upon for the film, the track didn’t get used and it sat in the can until it got included in the compilation, A Legendary Performer – Elvis, Volume 3 in 1978 (and was subsequently added as a bonus track to the King Creole album). As the reader by now will have guessed, well before that date, Danny saw official release as the flip side of Marty’s A Teenager In Love. Give the track below a spin and you’ll note a chalk and cheese style difference between the two versions: Presley is understated and intimate, Wilde has turned the drama control up to high either on his own instigation or, more likely, under instruction from his producer – that possibility is given credence by an arrangement which matches Marty’s vocal in the drama stakes. So, a cover but not a cover and two very different arrangements.

My name should be trouble
My name should be woe
For trouble and heartache
Is all that I know
But Danny, yes, Danny is my name

The story doesn’t end there. Seven months later, in December 1959, a single was released in the US from Conway Twitty, entitled Lonely Blue Boy which was essentially Danny but with the new title appearing instead of “Danny, oh Danny” in the final line of each verse. Confirming the sourcing was the presence of the same two writers, Ben Weisman and Fred Wise, in the composer credits. The record was very successful for Twitty giving him his highest chart position, #6, since It’s Only Make Believe. What was intriguing about his record, apart from the unexplained title, was the arrangement and the vocal approach, both of which echoed the Wilde single but with that drama control almost twisted off the amp, it was so far up – Conway was already known as something of a Presley caricaturist particularly on rock ballads. So we see here a very rare case of an American covering a British record and doing very nicely out of it. Flattery perhaps? For anyone who might think that the Twitty record was actually cut quite a few months earlier– well more than seven anyway – to the extent that it preceded the Wilde session and that a copy of it found its way into Marty’s producer’s hands, I can tell you that SecondHandSongs states that the Twitty single was cut on 11th November 1959, that is, within a month of the release date (and after the Wilde release).

For completeness I should also put on record that Cliff Richard beat Marty in terms of releasing a version of Danny in the UK but his interpretation was less emotional and didn’t have that distinctive guitar work which appears in the Wilde and then the Twitty version – that said, I wouldn’t knock the Cliff interpretation, it’s one of his better records. It also puts the Marty version into context: it was a cover after all but of another Brit aping an American.

Back to the plot and record #3 of Marty’s big three, Sea Of Love, and yes, just like the other two I loved it at the time. Marty and his producer had succeeded in making a fine rock ballad out of an unusual original and the only reason it doesn’t make the Ten is my love for the swamp pop of southern Louisiana and southeast Texas which only emerged into the popular domain after various music people – mainly Brits – started writing about it. The Phil Phillips record was one of the rare examples of a disc from that genre making the charts: in spite of the release of several covers it actually made #2 in the Hot 100. I prefer to remember that and treasure the primitivity of the record with the Twilights doo wopping away somewhat lugubriously behind Phil.

But 1959 wasn’t over yet and Marty would release one more record of note before the end of the decade. The A-side, It’s Been Nice was penned by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. Marty had already cut A Teenager In Love from the prolific (but excellent) duo plus the much more obscure Misery’s Child which had appeared on a flip side in ’58 and could well have been an attempt to recreate the mood of Endless Sleep. Unusually, It’s Been Nice hadn’t been cut by any US artists when the Wilde version came out (though it would later be recorded by Freddie Cannon, the Everly Brothers and Gene Vincent among others). In the Notes on the Ace UK website pertaining to The Pomus & Shuman Story, there is the statement: “In November 1959, the New York songwriters, Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, came to London for a special edition of the ITV show, Boy Meets Girls, devoted to their work.” The Wiki author of the Bad Boy piece, states that “Mort Shuman had intended to give It’s Been Nice to Elvis Presley, but instead gave it to Wilde after the two struck up an instant friendship”, referencing Graham Vickers in his book, “Pomus & Shuman: Hitmakers Together & Apart”. This inevitably must have happened on the duo’s UK visit. The Liner Notes to the set also state that the pair actually stayed for several months and “revelled in their British celebrity”. Whatever, it was a good song combining a near-rock approach, a goodbye theme, a melody that just stuck with you and a brilliant punch line, and wasn’t it great for Marty to have a hit with an original.

I took you out to dinner, then I took you to a show
I had a pocket full of money and I spent all my dough
Now I see that look in your eyes
You’re about to say bye bye
I don’t wanna hear you say
It’s been nice

There is some doubt as to whether It’s Been Nice or its flip, the Wilde-penned Bad Boy was the A-side and it could well be that the latter should take the glory; certainly the 15th Edition of the “Guinness British Hit Singles” flags it as the charting side although 45cat has It’s Been Nice as the one the DJs were meant to plug. The track’s semi-acoustic sound was a new venture for Marty – these days we’d probably call it singer/songwriter style in its approach – but the fact that, only a few weeks earlier, Cliff had released Travellin’ Light which had a broadly similar sonic palette and the early signs were that the buyers were loving it, augured well for Marty. The side didn’t quite emulate Travellin’ Light (which was a chart topper) but did register a very creditable #7 position. It deserved more. Both melodically and in terms of overall performance/production, the track was superb featuring several unexpected chord changes which chimed beautifully with the mood the team were attempting to convey. And, for all the mums out there, Marty made it clear eventually in his lyrics that he wasn’t really a bad boy.

All the people down the street, whoever you meet
Say I’m a bad boy, say I’m a bad boy
Say I’m a bad boy

In terms of major chart success it was largely all over after 1959 for Marty. Only three more discs from him would grace the Top Twenty, the already mentioned Rubber Ball, Little Girl in late 1960 and a nod to one of his heroes, Frankie Laine, with Jezebel in ’62.

I have three ‘wild card’ tracks from Marty from the ’60 to ’63 timescale, only one of which charted. Two of them are Wilde penned numbers with the first of the pair being Your Loving Touch from 1961. It’s a slick teen pop affair which you could imagine a Ricky Nelson releasing, and/or Cliff/Billy. To call it irresistible might not be pushing the record’s qualities too hard. And, if either one of the last two gentlemen had come up with it in the same timescale, I’ve no doubt whatsoever it would have been a hit. This is the track. Give it a whirl.

The second of the pair is Marty’s Tomorrow’s Clown, which saw release later that same year and it’s this one which did scrape a relatively lowly #33 chart position. It’s a rock ballad of a type that could easily have been cut by Billy F with Marty painting a picture where the singer’s love is unrequited and she has her eyes firmly on another, but, he warns “I hear him say he’ll love you so/ But don’t believe him, he’s leavin’ town/ And he’ll make you, umm-umm, tomorrow’s clown”. The track is very evocative of the times, from the early 60s Atlantic era rhythm establishing the tone to the outlaw guitar taking over as lead instrument (and with those tympani getting banged in all the right places re-establishing the Atlantic connection). It’s a disc which shows who the producer had been listening to but those influences help to provide the charm that the record oozes.

My final wild card is Bless My Broken Heart which came out in ’63 during Marty’s brief period with Columbia. The track is a cover but not a cover of a hit which is unusual to say the least. The artist was Ronnie Self and his original self-penned effort (pun unintended) had come out three months or so earlier. It’s a deceptively simple affair for which I’d again reach for the descriptor ‘singer/songwriter’ but with country undertones. Ronnie operated both as an artist in his own right and as a composer: with the latter hat on, he’s particularly famed for Brenda Lee’s Sweet Nothin’s and I’m Sorry.

Before turning to the Wilde track I would just comment that I do find some similarities between the Ronnie Self record and those Jimmie Rodgers records that Marty covered right at the start of his career. Having said that, I would add that, to me, the Self disc is considerably more interesting and entertaining than, say, Honeycomb – sorry Jimmie.

The Marty version is a tad more poppy than the original but not a lot; for example, the swelling strings that appear in the middle eight are in the original but they’re quieter there. The twelve-string guitar from the original is retained – from Big Jim Sullivan? – and if anything, it’s more prominent. Marty also has a Mr. Bassman who utters “ay-um” in all the right places – he’s a bonus! And while Marty may be acting out a role on his record compared to the conversational Mr. Self, it’s still a lovely disc and a great one to end the selections with.

Thus far I’ve given scant attention to Marty’s rockers, totally ignored his LPs and hardly talked at all about those tracks that didn’t quite make the cut. Hopefully the next few paras will address those omissions and even throw a light on a few more singles.

Let’s tackle the LPs first. Philips issued two during Marty’s hits period, Wilde About Marty (1959) and Versatile Mr Wilde (1960). The US equivalent (Epic) also issued Showcase and Bad Boy, both in 1960 and both effectively compilations.

Wilde About Marty was (largely) a rock and roll album and it was a good rock and roll album, no a very good rock and roll album. In fact, given that it was British, and taking into account the rarity of British rock and roll albums – what was there apart from the superb The Sound Of Fury and the coming-up-on-the-rails Cliff? – I’m inclined to upgrade that very good to excellent. AllMusic may have only given the set 3 stars but their reviewer, Bruce Eder, opened with the statement below:

“This is one rocking album, in terms of sound about three parts Gene Vincent to one part Everly Brothers (“Love of My Life”) and two parts Elvis Presley “Mean Woman Blues”). Marty Wilde was one of England’s early rock & roll stars, good enough to get him compared with Americans of Gene Vincent’s caliber.”

Two important things about the album: Philips had allowed Marty to use the Wildcats for support – and they now included new boy Big Jim Sullivan on guitar – and they’d given him carte blanche on choice of songs. In my view he made a couple of errors in his rocker choices: both High School Confidential and Mean Woman Blues are so associated with their ‘owners’, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis/Jerry Lee respectively that no one could expunge those original renditions from the listener’s brain – that’s certainly the case with me – but I strongly suspect they got picked because they went down well in the stage act.

In terms of rock numbers I would instead zero in on Down The Line, Put Me Down and So Glad You’re Mine but before you say that the first two had been cut by Jerry Lee and the last by Elvis (having gotten the song from his favourite blues man, Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup), I’d say that the first was a flip from the Killer and the last two were LP/EP tracks, so none of the three were big sellers in their own right. I’d add, too, that Roy Orbison who had the original of Down The Line (entitled Go, Go, Go) was an unknown name in the UK at that time. If you know those originals, note how in all three cases the arrangements have undergone significant change (with very in your face usage of drums on the first and the third, indeed on So Glad Your Mine those drums effectively replace Shorty Long, the pianist used on the Elvis track).

The reader might have noted a strong Jerry Lee thread on the album and quite how Bruce Eder missed that in his opening comment I don’t know. I’d also differ from Bruce in that he disses three of Marty’s selections as “unfortunate” (his word) teen pop. I’d stick with two of those selections, Are You Sincere (originally from Andy Williams and a fine record) and Don’t Pity Me, both of which I’d categorise as ballads. The last named originally came from Dion and the Belmonts – it was the single that preceded A Teenager In Love and it achieved a slightly less stunning #40 in the Hot 100. The Wilde version – see below – is more striking than the original and plays more to his Endless Sleep audience but with less of the rock aura. If the powers that be at Philips had really listened to this one I think they could have lifted it and made it a successful single. It’s one of the strongest of my also-rans.

Another strong also-ran from the set is the Marty take on Dream Lover (and I’ve deliberately included the original to encourage comparison). I’ve always loved the Darin track and seen it as one of the few great exceptions to the unwritten rule on teen pop. I find myself in agreement with Bruce Eder this time; he says Marty “displays good depth on Dream Lover” and that’s true, he’s giving those lyrics more attention than the gent who wrote the song; with hindsight you can almost imagine Bobby D looking forward to those finger-clicking days. The arrangement has been simplified too – less latin and girly responses and more doo wop – so you’re inclined to focus the mind on that vocal just that bit more.

I can’t leave the album without a comment on Marty’s Blue Moon Of Kentucky (and this breaks my advice on avoiding the obvious tracks from obvious artists). Marty, aided well by the band, treats the number with respect and confidence – he’s obviously listened hard to Elvis’ country take on rockabilly (and Big Jim has listened just as hard to Scotty Moore). Would that Marty had cut more along these lines.

I’ve lavished a lot of attention on Wilde About Marty but with his follow-up LP, Versatile Mr Wilde, we could find ourselves counting words rather than paragraphs in terms of the coverage I’m giving it. I do wonder whether Philips did a deal with Marty on the two albums, he had his way (almost) totally on the first, they had their way totally on the second since Versatile Mr Wilde is packed to the gunnels with oldies/standards or that style of material. Not that they’re bad, Marty would have a go at singing anything and usually acquitted himself well – his Autumn Leaves is a sample from the album – but the audience he’d acquired via the singles was unlikely to go for such material. And for all true rockers out there, this was selling out! In defence of Philips I would say that they were only attempting to protect themselves and their possession – Marty – since none of the major record labels in those days expected this rock’n’roll/teen pop thing to last.

Back to the singles and specifically Fire Of Love which appeared two releases after Endless Sleep. The original was another slow doomy rocker from Jody Reynolds and it appeared on the flip side of his follow-up to his hit. (Marty’s version was also officially a flip to a fine reading of a Dion & the Belmonts ballad, No One Knows, which was ever-so-slightly marred by the ubiquitous muted trumpet). However, both the Reynolds original of Fire Of Love and the Marty cover stand out as something special for their time, a fact that’s been recognised by subsequent covers from the Gun Club and MC5.

… and I’m still wondering how this missed out on my selections.

I should briefly mention the fact that, for the duration of two singles released in ’65 and ’66 respectively, Marty appeared as one of The Wilde Three; the other members were his wife Joyce who used to be one of the Vernons Girls, a group which backed lead singers on TV, plus Justin Hayward prior to him becoming a Moody Blue. All four sides were written by Marty using the pseudonym Frere Manston which he also used on certain other tracks he wrote. The first of the A-sides, Since You’ve Gone gives a feel for the tracks.

Back in solo mode, Marty’s version of By The Time I Get To Phoenix in ’68 deserves mention too and I don’t see why that shouldn’t be in the same sentence as the excellent original. Apparently this one ‘bubbled under’ our Top Fifty at the time – we only officially counted up to 50 in those days.

Which neatly brings me up to Abergavenny, later on in the same year. Let’s say immediately that this one isn’t my cup of tea but I recognise its appeal to a large number of record buyers in many places around the world. Once again, Marty used that alias Frere Manston for the songwriting credits and his co-writer Ronnie Scott (not the sax player/club owner) also used an alias. He (Marty) also used the name Shannon for the performing credits on the US release. Given the track’s popularity I thought, could I possibly turn it down as a closer?

Taking a trip up to Abergavenny
Hoping the weather is fine
If you should see a red dog running free
Well, you know he’s mine



*   *   *   *   *   *




1. There’s a chapter in “RocknRoll” which has the heading: “Pat Boone and the practice of covering records”. Below is the second para from that chapter:

“The first thing I feel I should say is that if the record covered is not current, and by current let’s say released in the same year as the original, then it’s not strictly a cover in that it’s not competing with the original for sales. Unfortunately, no other form of wording exists so exactly the same terminology is used. When the cover is current then this is invariably a recognition of the saleability of the original and a deliberate attempt to take sales from the same. It was not unusual in the 50s to copy the entire arrangement of an original. Whilst not all of this was covers of records by black performers by white performers, a very large amount of it was, which more than suggests a very considered strategy by record labels to make money via such practices. I rather suspect that, in most cases, the artists at the time had little to do with decisions on what they should record. Such decisions were made by the record label’s A and R men and/or other record company operatives.”

Add into the above the explosion in pop music (and its audience) in the US in the mid-fifties and the exporting of that music to other countries, particularly the UK, then it was inevitable that the practice of covering US records would start to flourish in such countries, i.e. Marty Wilde wasn’t unique. None of the foregoing is offered as any form of apology for such practices but I have to add a note of subjectivity. I know very well that I wasn’t alone in having a bit of sneaky admiration for artists like Marty if they showed some signs, even if limited, of matching up to their US counterparts and what more natural way of doing this was there than via covers/versions?

And you haven’t heard of Pat Boone? Let’s just say that he was probably the most notorious of the white guys who covered black rock and roll (including Fats Domino and Little Richard) in its early days.

2. Wiki uses the heading Jimmie Rodgers (Pop Singer) for the man who had the original hit with Honeycomb to differentiate him from you know who. He was born in 1933 in Washington State and died relatively recently in 2021. He was something of a child prodigy musically and it was his entry in the Arthur Godfrey Talent Show which brought him to the attention of Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatori who signed him up to Roulette Records. However, that wasn’t actually his first label: a dip into 45cat reveals a platter on Zig Zag Records (out of Vancouver) with tracks I Always Knew and I Won’t Sing Rock And Roll. Whether the flip represented anything personal to Rodgers we know not but in later life he did cut a version of Bo Diddley from which he managed to expunge most aspects of rock’n’roll.

Regardless of the last few lines, Honeycomb, Jimmie’s first single for Roulette was the start of a career in the pop charts which lasted to the onset of the British Invasion (in the US) in the sixties and to an extent beyond though not in the UK where his last record to chart was English Country Garden in 1962. Continuing the subtheme of this Topper, Honeycomb wasn’t an original; it had first been cut by a man called Georgie Shaw as stated in the main text.

In terms of rock and pop history, Jimmie is largely a forgotten figure these days, in part, I guess, because he didn’t align to any of the major trends from the 50s and the 60s. His most memorable record for me was Kisses Sweeter Than Wine (the follow-up to Honeycomb) – I can’t say I’m crazy about it but I do understand the pop appeal.

3. Bert Weedon, or to give him his full name Hubert Maurice William Weedon OBE, was born in 1920. He was probably of a similar age to the majority of the session musicians who appeared on early British would-be rock and roll records, be they originals or covers. Like the other session guys he was brought up in the jazz-cum-dance world working for band leaders like Ted Heath, Mantovani and Cyril Stapleton. While much of his session work went largely unseen – we didn’t celebrate such musicians in the way we do now – he achieved visibility to us Brits in two ways which weren’t emulated by his peers. Firstly, in 1959, he recorded an instrumental under his own name, Guitar Boogie Shuffle which rose to a magnificent #10 in our Pop Chart, and it spawned a host of follow-ups which attained lesser success (but still often charted). Secondly, he put together a guitar tutorial entitled “Play In A Day” which must have been bought by at least every other budding rock/pop guitarist in the UK if not a lot more; another tutorial “Play Every Day” followed. And, yes, I did have a copy of “Play In A Day”. The Wiki article on Bert contains tributes from Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton.

4. The story of Love Bug Crawl starts with a gent called Jim Bullington who, at the time, was working on the Buick assembly line in Flint, Michigan. He and a friend, Jack Foshee, had written two songs, Love Bug Crawl and The Way To My Heart, and they approached local DJ Bill Lamb hoping to record their songs – Bill just happened to own a recording studio. The project ended up going further than that: the two tracks were cut with Jim on vocal with local rockabilly talent handling the backing and then the trio actually set up a label, Wednesday Records, in order to release the platter with 500 copies being pressed for sale locally. The next thing that happened was that Mayflower Music (who were based in Flint) picked up on the disc and signed Jim up. Mayflower arranged to have the record recut in Nashville (with Chet Atkins, Floyd Cramer and Buddy Harman in the backing team) but with Honey Lovin’ another Bullington penned number (on his own this time) on the flip. The masters of the two tracks were sold to Mercury and it was at that stage that young Jim picked up his new name, Jimmy Edwards. The record hit the #78 spot in the Hot 100 and #12 in the Country Chart. All the info in this para came from the TIMS Blackcat article on Jimmy and I have to thank Dik de Heer and co wholeheartedly; I was unable to find anything of this depth anywhere else on the internet (and the above is merely a precis of but a portion of the TIMS essay).

Jimmy made several more records – apparently Chet Atkins was quite impressed with him – but didn’t trouble the charts again.

And the slightly puzzling title? The following couplet from the song provides a little explanation: “She’s got that love bug/ Crawling down my spine”.

5. Ronnie Self was an artist mainly in the rockabilly field who never seemed to achieve his potential. He was reportedly a frantic performer and some of that came through in records like Ain’t I’m A Dog and Bop-A-Lena which were released in ’57 and ’58 respectively on Columbia US Records.

He was born on a farm in Missouri and was playing music from an early age. His talent was recognised by established country manager Dub Allbritten who took him into his group of artists and got him signed up initially with ABC-Paramount and then Columbia – later records from ’59 onwards appeared on Decca. The provision of songs for Brenda Lee came about because she was another artist managed by Allbritten and the two numbers mentioned in the main text weren’t the only ones Ronnie wrote for her. That Ronnie Self eluded greater fame in his relatively short life – he died in 1981 – must be put down to his alcoholism which didn’t always make him the easiest artist to deal with. And I have to credit TIMS Blackcat once again for providing an excellent biography on the man.

6. I’d point anyone who’s in love with Wilde About Marty to a relatively new compilation, Marty: A Lifetime In Music 1957-2019, which appeared in 2019. Much of disc 3 of the four disc set is devoted to a hitherto unissued session held for Radio Luxembourg in 1959 i.e. with that band (or near-as-dammit) backing him. It’s as good or maybe even better than you’d expect it’s going to be with the false starts and count-ins fully confirming the ‘live’ atmosphere. For a sample, try the opening track, My Babe which puts most other versions of the old warhorse to shame. I’m also pleased to see (and hear) a version of Rip It Up wherein Marty belatedly follows what was virtually a rite of passage for white US fifties rock heroes in covering Little Richard numbers usually on LPs (and Cliff had beat him to it in the UK with his take on Reddy Teddy on Cliff). The album is on Spotify.

7. 1969 saw a kind of belated encore to Abergavenny via the release of the LP, Diversions. It was devoted to songs from Marty and his co-writer, Ronnie Scott and included Marty’s own takes on two songs which had been successful for others: Jesamine (for the Casuals who got to #2 with it) and Ice In The Sun (for Status Quo who achieved a #8 chart showing). There was a long delay before the album saw CD release during which time it picked up something of a cult status. However, that omission was rectified in 2018 when it saw the light of day with a new title, Abergavenny: The Philips Pop Years 1966–1971, and included bonus tracks.

8. After writing those words about Versatile Mr Wilde and my interpretation of the attitude of his label, I did ponder a little and the thought emerged that Marty had conjured up the perfect voice for late 50s, early 60s pop/rock. There were touches of Americans like Dion (evidently quite a favourite) and Ricky Nelson but with enunciation that was largely his own, ending up with a mix that was recognisable as Marty. But was it this vocal image which held him back (at least in part), and effectively locked him into that timeframe when viewed after the emergence of the Beatles etc. as ‘yesterday’s music’. In comparison, as we moved into the sixties, Cliff largely developed his own sound which was less related to the time period in which he operated. Or am I talking rubbish?

9. Under the heading, ‘Songwriting’, the Wiki author of the Marty article lists 18 “notable songs” (the author’s words) that he’d written or co-written for Kim. Strangely, the only song that’s listed as written for himself is Bad Boy.

10. Some readers may be aware that I do sometimes include a live clip at or near the end of the footnotes. I have two for Marty. First, one of him on UK TV (The Arthur Haynes Show) in 1964, singing a number that’s not associated with him, Barrett Strong’s Money. Just imagine it without the bow tie, tux and hairstyle: that would have been a pretty good performance, Note particularly his mouth harp solo.

And secondly, leaping through hyperspace to 2007 and the Born To Rock And Roll Tour, celebrating his 50 years in showbiz. He’s joined on stage by the Shadows including all the original members, Marvin, Welch, Harris and Bennett, plus his daughters Kim and Roxanne on backing vocals. Why don’t you Roll Over Beethoven.

11. When the album Dreamboats & Petticoats Presents The Very Best Of Marty Wilde was released in April 2019, it contained a track which hadn’t appeared before (though it would later crop up as a highlight on Running Together which is referred to in the main text). The track was entitled Eddie:

Eddie and Gene came to England
Here on a tour that would keep alive their names
Rock and roll needed heroes
So out on the road they came
One of them would lose a good friend
And one of them never would see his home again
But the devil was sure about
The night that car went out
Taking Eddie

In an article for The Independent written by Spencer Leigh and published on 14th January 2010, he reports that Marty met Eddie Cochran when he arrived in the UK in January 1960 for the fated tour:

“The first thing I noticed about Eddie was his complexion. We British lads had acne, and Eddie walked in with the most beautiful hair and the most beautiful skin – his skin was a light brown, a beautiful colour with all that California sunshine, and I thought, You lucky devil.”

A supplemented Wildcats provided support for the artists on the 1960 Cochran/Vincent UK tour but Big Jim Sullivan couldn’t attend the last concert (in Bristol) prior to the car crash. According to this article written by David Acaster, Sullivan had offered to drive Cochran, Vincent and Cochran’s girlfriend Sharon Sheeley to Heathrow Airport after the final show but was called away to back Marty in the London Palladium so headed off in the London direction earlier. As a consequence, they got a cab instead. The driver apparently got lost and was driving into Chippenham on the A4 at too high a speed when he crashed into a lamp post.

Eddie, would you play me your guitar

Marty Wilde MBE



Marty Wilde poster 1


Joe Brown poster 3






Marty Wilde official website

Marty Wilde (Wikipedia)

Marty Wilde and the Wildcats Pictorial UK Discography

Marty Wilde biography (AllMusic)


Kim’s first of many hits in 1981 was written by Marty and Ricky Wilde


Dave Stephens is the author of two books on popular music. His first, “RocknRoll”, is described by one reviewer as “probably the most useful single source of information on 50s & 60s music I’ve come across”. Dave followed this up with “London Rocks” in 2016, an analysis of the early years of the London (American) record label in the UK. You can follow him on Twitter @DangerousDaveXX

TopperPost #1,063


  1. Andrew Shields
    May 5, 2023

    Very interesting – I came to this piece as more or less a complete novice about Marty. Only thing I knew really was that he is Kim’s father. Enjoyed listening to these selections a lot – he has a very fine voice. And some of the covers come very close in quality to the originals. The piece convinced me that he was one of the best of the early British rockers.
    Also interesting to find a link between Marty and Jeffrey Lee Pierce.
    Thanks again…

    • Dave Stephens
      May 5, 2023

      My intro was tongue in cheek since, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, I do try and get an attention grabber right at the start. Glad to hear that you enjoyed the clips, most if not all of which you wouldn’t have heard before. At the end of the day, that is the point of the exercise. In this instance I also tried to convey a little of the flavour of the music scene as lived-in at the time. We had covers on the radio – that is to say, Radio Luxembourg – all the time and it didn’t seem that terrible. Mind you, Marty’s covers were head and shoulders above the rest. I should add though that I was an early music snob with almost all my early record purchases coming from America – Donegan was the main exception – but I wasn’t alone in that.

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