April 20, 1991 – Steve Marriott (Small Faces and Humble Pie) was born in London on January 30th 1947. He started singing and performing, by busking at local bus-stops for extra pocket money. His father Bill was an accomplished pub pianist and the life and soul of many an ‘East End’ night. Bill bought Marriott a ukulele and harmonica which Marriott taught himself to play. Marriott showed an early interest in singing and performing, busking at local bus-stops for extra pocket money and winning talent contests during the family’s annual holiday to Jaywick Holiday camp near Clacton-on-Sea.
At the age of 12, he formed his first band with school friends Nigel Chapin and Robin Andrews, called ‘The Wheels’, later the ‘Coronation Kids’.
In 1960, his father Bill spotted an advertisement in a London newspaper for a new Artful Dodger replacement to appear in Lionel Bart’s popular musical Oliver!, based on the novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, at the New Theatre (now called the Noël Coward Theatre) in London’s West End, and without telling his son, applied for him to audition. At the age of thirteen, Marriott auditioned for the role. He sang two songs, “Who’s Sorry Now” by Connie Francis, and “Oh, Boy!” by Buddy Holly. Bart was impressed with Marriott’s vocal abilities and hired him. Marriott stayed with the show for a total of twelve months, playing various boys’ roles during his time there, for which he was paid £8 a week. Marriott was also chosen to provide lead vocals for the Artful Dodger songs “Consider Yourself”, “Be Back Soon,” and “I’d Do Anything,” which appear on the official album to the stage show, released by World Record Club and recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios. In 1961 the Marriott family moved from Strone Road to a brand new council flat in Daines Close, Manor Park.
Following Marriott’s successful acting debut in Oliver!, his family encouraged him to pursue an acting career. In 1961 he auditioned and was accepted as a student at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts in London. Because his family were unable to afford the private school fees, it was mutually agreed the fees would be deducted from acting work the school found him. After Marriott’s enrollment at the Italia Conti Academy, he quickly gained acting roles, working consistently in film, television and radio, often typecast as the energetic Cockney kid. Soon he lost interest in acting and turned his attention back to his first love, which was music. His parents were devastated and his decision to give up acting caused a family rift. As a result, he left the family home for a short period to stay with friends.
In 1963, Marriott wrote “Imaginary Love” and touted it around the big record labels in London. On the strength of “Imaginary Love”, Marriott secured a Decca Records deal as a solo artist with Dick Reagan (also an agent for Cliff Richard). Marriott’s first single was a song written by Kenny Lynch, “Give Her My Regards”, with Marriott’s self-penned song as the B-side. The single was released in July 1963 and promptly vanished. In the same year Marriott formed the Moments, originally called the Frantiks. The Frantiks recorded a cover version of Cliff Richard’s song “Move It” with ex-Shadows drummer Tony Meehan, who was brought in to help with production. Despite the single being hawked around the major record companies, no one was interested and the song was consequently never released. They then changed the band’s name to the Moments or ‘Marriott and his Moments’. They played support for artists such as the Nashville Teens, the Animals, Georgie Fame and John Mayall, playing venues such as the 100 Club in Soho, London, and the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond. The Moments gained a loyal following, and for a short time had their own fanzine Beat ’64, dedicated to ‘Steve Marriott’s Moments’, started by Stuart Tuck.
They are noted as performing a total of 80 gigs in 1964. The group was asked to record a single for the American market, a cover version of the Kinks’ UK hit song “You Really Got Me”, released on the World Artists record label (1964). When their version of “You Really Got Me” failed to get attention, Marriott was dropped from the band, with members claiming he was too young to be a lead singer. According to London R&B band The Downliners Sect frontman Don Craine, Marriott applied to join the band as a replacement harmonica player. Craine did not invite him to audition as he knew Marriott wanted to be lead vocalist.
In 1965, heavily influenced by American rhythm and blues, he founded The Small Faces along with Ronnie Lane, Kenney Jones, and Jimmy Winston, by 1966 Winston was replaced by Ian McLagan as the band’s keyboardist. They had numerous hit songs such as “Itchycoo Park”, “Lazy Sunday”, “All or Nothing”, “Tin Soldier”, and their concept album Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake, they evolved into one of the UK’s most successful psychedelic acts before disbanding in early 1969.
Marriott became a popular, often-photographed mod style icon through his role as lead singer and guitarist with the Small Faces in the mid to late 1960s. Marriott was influenced from an early age by his heroes including Buddy Holly, Booker T & the MG’s, Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Muddy Waters and Bobby Bland.
In late 1968 Steve formed Humble Pie with Greg Ridley, Peter Frampton and Jerry Shirley. Their debut single “Natural Born Bugie” was released in July 1969 becoming a No.4 hit in the UK Singles Chart and was quickly followed by the album As Safe As Yesterday Is, which peaked at No.16 in the UK album charts.
This album with a powerful Frampton on lead guitar was one of the first albums to be described by the term “heavy metal” in a 1970 review in Rolling Stone magazine. In later life Steve became disillusioned with the music industry and turned his back on the big record companies, remaining in relative obscurity. He returned to his music roots playing the pubs and clubs around London and Essex.
In 1996, the Small Faces were belatedly awarded the Ivor Novello Outstanding Contribution to British Music “Lifetime Achievement” award. Marriott was inducted posthumously into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012 as a member of Small Faces.
Steve tragically lost his life in a house fire at his home in Essex on April 21, 1991. He was 44.
Even more tragically, Steve Marriott truly was one of the most incredible voices in rock history, without ever getting that recognition.