Shakin’ Stevens was born Michael Barratt, in South Glamorgan, Wales in 1948 (the youngest of 12 children). In the late 60s, he teamed up with a Welsh rock revival group, The Backbeats, who immediately changed their name to Shakin’ Stevens And The Sunsets.
During the early 70s, the band, with Stevens as lead singer, recorded unsuccessful albums for Parlophone Records, CBS Records and Dureco Records in Holland, where The Sunsets had a large following. In 1976, they recorded a cover version of the Hank Mizell hit Jungle Rock before disbanding.
Stevens now began a solo career, and his debut single was Never, in March 1977. He appeared on stage in Jack Good‘s West End musical Elvis, which won a number of awards.
He also appeared on Good’s stage revival of his pioneering television series Oh Boy! and had further exposure on television with the same revival, which was later known as Let’s Rock.
His recording career still did not take off and following the disappointing Shakin’ Stevens for Track Records he signed a more lucrative contract with Epic Records under the guidance of his new manager Freya Miller.
Three singles followed; Roy Head’s Treat Her Right, Jody Reynolds’ death song Endless Sleep, in the style of 50’s UK rocker Marty Wilde, and Spooky, produced by ex-Springfields member Mike Hurst, but there was still no chart action.
A change of producer to Stuart Colman in 1980 brought Stevens’ first Top 20 hit, Marie Marie (first recorded by The Blasters) and the following year Colman’s infectious rockabilly arrangement of the 1954 Rosemary Clooney #1 This Ole House topped the UK chart and became a huge international success.
Over the next seven years, Stevens had 32 Top 40 hits in the UK, and similar popularity followed in Europe and beyond (he was the first artist to go double platinum in Sweden), although he made almost no impact in the USA.
Among his hits were three further chart-toppers – a revival, of Jim Lowe’s 1956 song Green Door (1981), Stevens’ own composition Oh Julie (1982), and Merry Christmas Everyone (1985).
With an audience equally divided between young children and the middle-aged, his other recordings included brief excursions into soul (The Supremes‘ Come See About Me in 1987) and MOR ballads (the Bing Crosby/Grace Kelly film theme True Love in 1988).
At the dawn of the 90s, even though he was hugely popular in Europe, there were signs that Stevens’ hold over his UK audiences was faltering. Although the Pete Hammond-produced I Might reached the UK Top 20, his subsequent records in 1990/91 made little impact.
A promotion campaign for the compilation The Epic Years failed to dent the UK Top 50.
1993 started badly for Stevens, as litigation with his former band The Sunsets was resolved, it was alleged that Dave Edmunds and Shaky had to pay out £500,000 in back royalties.