JOHNNIE WILDER was the singer with the multitudinous soul band Heatwave, whose crossbreed of disco, R&B and Funk in the late seventies proved a winner in discotheques around the world, whether with athletic grooves or mellow smoochers.
Johnnie James Wilder was born 3 July 1949 in Dayton, Ohio, where he was raised. From an early age he participated in various musical activities, as a church chorister and stage presentations at high school.
In 1969 he was drafted, along with brother Keith, into the US army and was stationed in Kaiserslautern, West Germany. The Wilders along with other servicemen formed a vocal quintet, The Noblemen, performing primarily in military base clubs. While awaiting a return to civilian life, they recruited backing instrumentalists to tour the European club circuit as Johhnie Wilder and the Chicago Heatwave.
The group relocated to Britain where they teamed up with songwriter, keyboardist, and later legend Rod Temperton. Shortening the groups name to Heatwave, they bagged a contract with GTO Records and issued the single 'Boogie Nights', as a taster for a forthcoming album, TOO HOT TO HANDLE, which was produced by Brit pop star Barry 'School Love' Blue. 'Boogie Nights' throbbing hard hitting captivating disco gem literally exploded onto the music scene, propelling it to the higher reaches of both the UK and US charts. The follow up, the album title 'Too Hot To Handle', reached the UK top twenty but failed in the US. The compelling riffy rhythm 'Groove Line' followed, which was another biggy disco romp for the group. The sensuous slow jam 'Always and Forever', was a hit in the US but not in the UK, until it was re-recorded and twinned with 'Mind Blowing Decisions' more than a year later.
'Razzle Dazzle' was a hit in May 1979. It was in June that year while Wilder was visiting Dayton he was involved in a tragic car crash that left him paralysed from the neck down. Showing incredible bravery, he fought back from a seemingly helpless disability. It was a year before he was released from hospital, yet, with extraordinary resilience, although confined to a wheelchair, he resumed his role in Heatwave, producing their work and singing in the studio.
The group hit the charts again in 1981 with 'Gangsters Of The Groove', and their last chart entry, apart from re-issues, 'Jitterbuggin' followed later that year.
Wilder returned to Christianity in the mid eighties, and regularly attended the Drayton church where a younger brother was a preacher.
Heatwave was sidelined as Wilder chose to concentrate more on producing records of a devotional nature, typified by those of Straight Company, a local gospel ensemble.
Later he released two sacred solo albums MY GOAL and the a cappella ONE MORE DAY. He continued to produce other artistes, and had become one of the most sought after producers of a cappella gospel music.
He passed away on 13th May 2006, cause unknown.