Pioneering rock ‘n’ roller Marty Wilde talks to us with daughter Kim, pop star-turned-tv presenter, about 50 years in music

Rock ‘n’ roll hero Marty Wilde recently reached the momentous milestone of 50 years in the music business – and three generations of his family gathered to help him celebrate. Among those partying at the Wilde’s Hertfordshire home were Marty’s wife Joyce, 65, and their four children: Kim, 46, Ricky, 45, who co-wrote hit songs for Kim with Marty, Roxanne, 27, a singer and songwriter, and younger brother Marty Junior, 25, who has just set up a landscape and design business.
Kim, Roxanne, Marty Jr and Ricky all live within a ten-minute drive of Marty and Joyce, and are frequent visitors to the house where their parets have lived since 1969.
Now 67, Marty Wilde – real name Reginald Smith – was among the vanguard of Britis hrock ingers in the late 1950s and early ’60s, with Endless sleep, Donna, A Teenager in love and Sea of love among his Top Ten singles.
However, his heartthrob status suffered after he married Joyce Baker in December 1959 and the yhad Kim almost a year later. He turned from recording to songwriting, penning hits for many artists, Kim among them. He and Ricky wrote the million-seller hit Kids in America that launched her career in 1981.
To mark the occasion of his rock ‘n’ roll half-century, Marty has released a greatest hits album and is touring the UK in April and May. He and Kim, who has appeared on Channel 4’s Better Gardens and the BBC’s Garden Invaders, spoke exclusively to Hello!.

Marty, does it feel as though you’ve been in the business for 50 years?
No it’s gone so fast that it feels like only ten years. After you reach the age of 50, life whizzes by at such a rate it’s as if there’s a plan to get you out the way to make way for the new generation.

Kim, is this anniversary a big deal to the whole family?
It is. I’m really glad Dad has decided to celebrate because initially he wanted to forget it and play golf.

The two of you have recorded a first-ever duet for the new album. Why did it take so long to sing together?
Marty: It was an obvious thing to do, yet I always felt Kim should have her own career. But this year is about nostalgia and it seemed right.
Kim: We’ve recorded the Elton John song Sorry seems to be the hardest word. We first performed it at an AIDS benefit at Wembley in the mid-’80s.

And you’re also planning to perform on stage together again…
Kim: Yep, I’ll join Dad at the London Palladium and maybe some of the other concerts. Roxanne will be joining Dad for duets and her own set.
Marty: I’m looking forward to it with great pride.

Marty, you blazed the rock ‘n’ roll trail in the UK, with no one to show you the way…
That’s right. There was only really me, Tommy Steele and Terry Dene, all making it up as we went along.

When you started out, how long did you think your career would last?
I never gave it a thought but I was very ambitious and focused. The press then questioned whether rock ‘n’ roll would last, and of course it’s still a global phenomenon.

Do you look back upon that era as the best time of your life?
There are several: when Endless sleep became a hit, my first self-penned hit Bad boy, meeting Joyce – my manager warned me that marrying Joyce would have an impact on my popularity and it did. But I’d met someone I loved and that was it. At my shows we still get a lot of ladies…
Kim: …and they always say, ‘Oh it broke my heart the day you got married!’

Marty, was it hard for you when the hits stopped happening?
It was. At one point it was even difficult to earn money. But I was ambitious and wanted a bigger house, so I kept writing. Songs I wrote for other artists became hits, and we moved to this house in 1969.

When Kim was at her peak, did you envy her success?
Hand on heart, no. When Kim supported Michael Jackson’s 1988 tour, I was backstage at Wembley when Kim’s name was announced and a huge roar went up. That gave me a great buzz. By then I was happy to be the writer in the background.

Kim, did you feel bad that you were having success as a performer when your father wasn’t?
No, we were all having such fun, and being able to share success with my family was a big part of wha tmade it fabulous for me. Without them, I might have drowned in it all.
The realisation that I was no longer the hottest thing in town was hard. I recall doing a TV appearance and seeing a press pack on the stere tand thinking, ‘Oh, here we go!’ only to watch them whizz past me to get to Jennifer Rush (who had a 1985 No. 1 with The Power of Love). I cried my eyes out – it was like my first broken heart. The second time, when an album didn’t sell, I was more resilient.

When you became a mother yourself, how much did you draw on your parents’ example?
We never doubted how much we were treasured by our parents. But I never thought being in the pop world and being a parent were a good combination so I’m glad I took a big step out. I was watching TV the other night thinking, ‘I’d much rather be here at home stroking my son’s head and fixing dinner for (husband) Hal.’

Do you two think you’ve been given the credit you deserve as artists?
Marty: I know this sounds awful, but I don’t care what people think. All I hope is that I gave them pleasure.
Kim: For a while I had a sense that maybe people didn’t care whether I’d been around or not. But I realised people had a space for me in their hearts. Even now, to London taxi drivers I’m ‘Marty’s girl’ and they won’t charge me because of it.

Marty, how far back in the family does your musical tradition go?
My biggest musical influence was my dad, who was always tapping things, whistling, singing and harmonising.

As long as ten years ago, Roxanne was expected to be “the new Kim”.
Marty: She was with a band called Dime Stars and they made great records, but it didn’t work out.
Kim: Roxanne now spends a lot of her time songwriting, often with Rob Davis, who co-wrote Kylie’s hit song Can’t get you out of my head. So she might end up being behind other artists.

And wasn’t Ricky groomed for stardom?
Marty: Yes. I wrote a children’s song called I am an Astronaut, Rick recorded it, it got picked up by record companies. Suddenly we were the Osmonds, with Ricky as Donny – which we weren’t.
Kim: He was propelled into being a mini pop star but it made him unhappy and he got picked on at school. He resolved to stay in music but in a desk job.

What about your youngest, Marty Jr?
Marty: He’s a fine golfer and was on a golfing scholarship in the States for two years. He’s setting up a landscape design company called Wilde Ideaz and has become a dad. His wife Nina gave birth to Miller on 31 December.

So there might be another generation of Wildes in the music industry?
Harry (Kim’s son, aged nine) is going to be a very good musician. And the grandchildren will come and see me on this tour. It’s in the blood and just seems to carry on in our family.

And will you carry on, Marty, or bow out with this 50th anniversary?
When I’m on the road, I say I’m going to quit because the travelling is stressful. But once I get home, I start putting dates in the calendar! I don’t want to bore people to death or look a fool, but I’d like to keep performing till I drop. I don’t want to sit in a nursing home somewhere…
Kim: It’ll be the best nursing-home money can buy, Dad, I promise!