Cliff Wade

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Cliff Wade is one of those odd figures in British pop/rock music of the 1960s who's managed to survive and thrive across decades without ever quite becoming a household name. In a four-decade career that's…
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Cliff Wade is one of those odd figures in British pop/rock music of the 1960s who's managed to survive and thrive across decades without ever quite becoming a household name. In a four-decade career that's seen him cross paths musically with the Who, Cream, and Pink Floyd and provide hit songs to Pat Benatar, fame has somehow eluded him. He came out of York, England, as part of the mid-'60s British soul boom, playing with several early groups including the Misfits, before forming the Roll Movement in late 1965, where he was both the lead singer and lead guitarist. They were good enough to beat Soft Machine into the finals of a 1966 Melody Maker-sponsored competition, ultimately finishing second behind Eyes of Blue. The group was good enough to rate support spots on bills with the Who and Cream, and Wade was good enough to get an offer from Spencer Davis to audition as Steve Winwood's replacement in the Spencer Davis Group, which he declined to do, preferring to stay with his own band. Alas, the Roll Movement never had a chance to show what they could have done on record. Their sole single, "I'm Out on My Own," released on the tiny Go label, was lost amid the gathering psychedelic haze that spread across music in the second half of 1967. The band eventually split up in the wake of the record's failure, and Wade jumped to a new outfit -- called Cucumber -- who didn't last long.

It was then that he moved into a somewhat peripheral end of the music business, going to work for independent producer Monty Babson and his corporate operation, known in the trade as the Morgan empire (home of the Smoke, of "My Friend Jack" fame), as a music copyist and jack-of-all-trades on the studio end of the operation, which eventually spawned its own label, complete with a progressive/experimental offshoot imprint. So it was in 1969 that Wade began recording under his own name with the Mellotron-dominated psychedelic pop single "You've Never Been to My House," released on the Morgan Blue Town label. It sank without a trace, but it was a beginning, and over the next couple of years he cut more sides, and also became a singer for an ensemble called Fickle Pickle, who scored a hit in Holland with a cover of Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed." Wade subsequently bounced around the music business, occasionally performing and recording (including some sessions with various old bandmates), under his own name and in association with various groups, including the Beaver Brothers, and playing sessions with promising new performers. He also wrote songs with his Beaver Brothers partner Geoff Gill, and enjoyed a hit with "Heartbreaker," which Pat Benatar took up the charts in 1979, at the outset of her career. Since then he's had occasional success as a songwriter, with Tina Turner, among others, and continued to play and record. His biggest splash in the latter department was in an archival mode, in 2004, when Edsel/Demon Records unearthed 21 tracks from the Morgan vaults representing Wade's mostly unheard late-'60s music, all in a solid pop/soul/psychedelic/sunshine pop mode, and released it as Looking for Shirley.