b. Wilfrid Pierce, 25 September c.1937, Annesley Woodhouse, Kirkby-In-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, England. Pierce drove tractors on the farm at the age of eight, but his ambition to be a farmer was never fully realized. When he was about 13 years old, his father, a miner, died, and he left school to work in the mines. His first singing experience came after his brother entered him in a local talent show around 1965. He won, and his deep, powerful voice found him a regular paid singing spot at the club. He bought himself a guitar (and later learned piano) and began to put together a repertoire of songs. In the late 60s, as Stuart Stevens, he made his first recordings for EMI Records, including the release of a single (‘Soft Is The Night’/‘Tender Hearted’). He also appeared on the Lonnie Donegan television show. In March 1970, he was booked to entertain at a reception for the American country stars of the Wembley Festival. Performing as Willard Pierce, he created such an impression that it led to him appearing at the Festival itself the following day - seemingly the first British artist to do so. He made a noteworthy appearance onOpportunity Knocks in 1972 (unfortunately falling foul of the ‘never work with children or animals’ adage, losing by three votes to a child drummer). He recorded for the Youngblood label in 1972, with the subsequent album, Stories In Song, selling some 12, 000 copies. In 1973, he performed at a disc jockey convention in Nashville, subsequently appearing at many major venues, including the Grand Ole Opry and on network television. He was signed by Cliffie Stone to the US Granite label in 1974, who released his Youngblood album in the USA and in Europe. His recording of ‘My Woman My Woman My Wife’ became popular on both sides of the Atlantic, even drawing praise from the song’s writer, Marty Robbins. Further trips to the USA followed until, sadly for him, both Granite and Youngblood ceased record production, leaving him without a label in either country.
Stevens had continued to play the British clubs, first with his band Silver Mist, then with Pat and Roger Johns, before eventually appearing with his two sons Stuart (bass guitar) and Steven (keyboards). He also opened his own recording studios and worked on production with other artists. He formed his own Major Oak, Eagle and Ash labels and released albums that proved popular with his British fans. Twelve out of 28 unissued Youngblood tracks later appeared on his albumThe Loner. In 1979, he almost made the British Top 40 with ‘The Man From Outer Space’, which, after initially being released on his own Eagle label, was picked up by MCA Records and received air play and jocularity from Terry Wogan on BBC Radio. Further singles followed, including ‘If I Heard You Call My Name’, ‘One Red Rose’ and ‘Hello Pretty Lady’, which sold well for country records, but not well enough for a major label seeking pop record sales. This resulted in him parting company with MCA. Stevens’ national popularity increased and he regularly played the theatre and concert hall circuit, always doing it his way and always refusing to perform anything he did not wish to sing.
In 1984, Stu and his wife were devastated by the death, from a rare heart disease, of their youngest son at the age of 19. Steven, a keyboard player of very outstanding abilities, had appeared on stage from the age of seven. Although Stu Stevens played out his immediate special bookings, he soon tended to withdraw from active participation in the music scene. However, after many years of silence ‘The Voice’, as he was affectionately known to his fans, released a new album on Ash Records in 2003.