Heatwave is an international funk/disco band formed in 1975. Its most popular lineup featured Americans Johnnie Wilder, Jr. and Keith Wilder (vocals) of Dayton, Ohio, Englishman Rod Temperton (keyboards), Swiss Mario Mantese (bass), Czechoslovak Ernest "Bilbo" Berger (drums), Jamaican Eric Johns (guitar) and Briton Roy Carter (guitar).
They were known for their successful songs "Boogie Nights", "Always and Forever", and "The Groove Line".
Heatwave's mainstream years:
Founding member Johnnie Wilder was an American serviceman based in West Germany when he first began performing; upon his discharge from the U.S. Army, he stayed in Germany. He sang in nightclubs and taverns with an assortment of bands while still enlisted. By mid-year, he decided to relocate to the United Kingdom and through an ad placed in a local paper he linked up with songwriter/keyboardist Rod Temperton.
Touring the London nightclub circuit billed as Chicago's Heatwave during the mid-1970s allowed them to refine their sound, adding a funk groove to disco beats. In search of a fuller sound vocally, Johnnie Wilder called upon his brother Keith Wilder (who was performing in a local band in Dayton, Ohio) to join the band on vocals. The group signed to GTO Records in 1976 (Epic Records would handle GTO's releases in the states). They were paired in the studio with GTO house producer/session guitarist Barry Blue and rhythm guitarist Jesse Whitten. Rhythm guitarist Roy Carter replaced Whitten after Whitten was killed in a stabbing incident. They began creating their first album Too Hot to Handle in the fall of 1976.
Their third single, "Boogie Nights" from their debut album, in 1977 reached #2 on the British popular music charts in January and in America in November. The single was certified platinum by the RIAA. The group's debut album, Too Hot to Handle, was released in the spring of 1977, giving Heatwave a #11 on the Hot 200 and #5 on the R&B charts, while the next single, the soul ballad "Always and Forever", reached #18 on the Hot 100 in April 1978 and #2 on the R&B charts. The single was certified platinum by the RIAA.
Continuing to use Barry Blue's production skills, Heatwave released their second album Central Heating in April 1978. Lead single "The Groove Line," reached #7 on the Hot 100 in July 1978. The single was certified platinum by the RIAA.
During the late 1970s the band changed. At first Eric Johns quit the band and Billy Jones was his replacement as guitarist. Then Rod Temperton quit the band. Although Temperton would continue writing new songs for Heatwave, he soon became better-known for his songwriting for other artists, penning award-winning songs for some of funk's biggest names, including Rufus, The Brothers Johnson and George Benson. He also wrote for Herbie Hancock and Quincy Jones, but his most famous partnership remains the one forged with Michael Jackson, writing three songs for his 1979 Epic debut Off the Wall - "Rock With You," "Off the Wall" and "Burn This Disco Out", and three songs for the 1982 Thriller LP, including the title track.
Despite these changes, Heatwave were about to return to the studio when Mantese attended a party at Elton John's house in London. He was with his girlfriend, who decided to go home early from the party, reason unknown. When Mantese arrived home, she was furious with him, perhaps from an incident that happened at the party and stabbed him. The knife hit him in the heart and for several minutes, he was clinically dead. When, after several months, he awoke from coma, he was blind, mute and paralysed in his entire body. To date, he has no memory of this tragic event. He decided not to press charges against his girlfriend, and moved in with her after leaving the hospital. Mantese was replaced by bassist Derek Bramble. Adding keyboardist Calvin Duke to the group, and now working with new producer Phil Ramone, Heatwave cut Hot Property, released in May 1979.
During the spring of 1979, Johnnie Wilder, Jr., suffered injuries in an auto accident while visiting family and friends in Dayton, Ohio. Although he survived, the accident left him paralyzed from the neck down and unable to continue performing with the group. After the accident, Johnnie remained a co-producer of the group, along with Blue.
Determined to continue working with the band he had nurtured since the very beginning, Wilder participated with studio work and, during 1980, Heatwave recorded the Candles LP, with Temperton again providing the songs, except stand out track "All I Am", written by Blue's former writing partner Lynsey de Paul. The group recruited James Dean "J.D." Nicholas, who later became a member of the Commodores, to handle vocals in concert.
Heatwave's popularity was on the wane, though, as the November single "Gangsters of the Groove" proved to be their last popular music success, scoring number twenty-one in the U.S., and number 20 in the United Kingdom early in the New Year. But the album peaked at a mere number 71 in the United States in December 1980.
Heatwave's 1982 LP, Current, marked yet another new era for the band, as they returned to producer Blue. The album managed only number 156 on the U.S. Billboard 200, although it scored the band a number 21 success on the R&B charts, where Heatwave continued to be a strong presence. A Rod Temperton penned single, "Lettin' It Loose," proved a minor success during August.
Derek Bramble quit the band at the end of 1982, like Roy Carter, for a career in production (he would go on to work with David Bowie on 1984s Tonight LP, and later masterminded Jaki Graham's breakthrough). J.D. Nicholas left to replace Lionel Richie as the lead singer of the Commodores. After this long series of departures, the remaining members of Heatwave effectively disbanded.
Post 1988 Heatwave:
Silent since early 1983, Heatwave reconvened in a new line-up to record and release the album The Fire in 1988. However, Keith Wilder was the only original member of the band present in this incarnation (although Billy Jones, who had joined the band in the late 1970s returned as well). Meanwhile, that same year, Johnnie Wilder released a solo spiritual album My Goals on Light. The Wilder brothers once again teamed up the following year for the gospel album, Sound of Soul. None of these late 1980s albums sold well, but Heatwave's recognition was revitalized in 1991, when a remix version of their "Mind Blowing Decisions" charted in the UK. By the middle of the 1990s, Keith Wilder had again reformed the band. Joined by bassist Dave Williamson, keyboardists Kevin Sutherland and Byron Byrd, guitarist Bill Jones, and original drummer Ernest Berger, the reborn Heatwave launched an American tour with a live album recorded at the Greek Theater in Hollywood, arriving in 1997.
Heatwave released an extended club remix of "Boogie Nights" in 2002. Keith Wilder is the lead singer of the current line-up (and the only remaining original member). The current touring line-up includes a host of lesser known musicians, including New Orleans keyboardist Jeremy Crump and Washington, DC keyboardist Elliot Levine.
Johnnie Wilder died in his sleep at his home in Dayton, Ohio in May 2006.