This British-based multiracial disco band were a breeding ground for future top writing and producing talent. Keyboard player Rod Temperton (who wrote their 1977 hit Boogie Nights) went on to write for Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson and George Benson.
Vocalist JD Nicholson replacing Lionel Ritchie in The Commodores and bassist Derek Bramble went on to work with David Bowie.
Johnnie Wilder Jr had a vision for the band while he was in the US army. When stationed in Kaiserslautern, West Germany, in 1972, he formed a vocal quintet, The Noblemen, with other servicemen, but rarely performed outside military bases
Upon leaving the military, he assembled some like-minded musicians and singers (including his brother Keith from Dayton, Ohio), and they began to tour as Johnnie Wilder and the Chicago Heatwave.
Shortening their name to Heatwave, the group relocated to Britain where they gained a contract with GTO Records and issued the single Boogie Nights (1977).
The single was produced by 70s glam star Barry Blue (of Dancin’ On A Saturday Night fame) and reached #2 in the UK and the US, while the follow-up, Too Hot to Handle, reached the British Top 20, but failed in the US.
Heatwave’s history was blighted by tragedy, with original guitarist Jesse Whitten being stabbed to death during an incident in a Chicago street in 1977.
In 1978, Spanish bass player Mario Mantese was stabbed in the heart by his girlfriend and was clinically dead for six minutes. He awoke from a five-week coma to find he was blind, mute and paralysed.
Founder and lead vocalist Johnnie Wilder Jr was involved in a car accident that left him paraplegic. Johnnie continued to sing with the band in the studio, but JD Nicholas was brought on board for the live work.
Wilder died on 13 May 2006 at the age of 56.
Rod Temperton died in London in October 2016, aged 66.
Ernest (Bilbo) Berger
James Dean (JD) Nicholas