This interview was first published in November 1976
With the increase in non-American soul oriented acts reaching a peak, tasty funk combos are appearing almost literally out of the woodwork. One of the most worthy and interesting though, is Heatwave, a six piece, self-contained group from such diverse backgrounds as Madrid, Czechoslovakia, Chicago and romantic Cleethorpes!
The sextet's front man is Johnny-Wilder and thus you have the explanation of why the band used to be known as Johnny Wilder's Chicago Heatwave. Actually, Johnny — and his brother, Keith, who is co-lead singer with the band — hails from Dayton, Ohio, but he tends to refer to Chicago as 'home'.
From sunny Cleethorpes, you have Rod Temperton, who plays all forms of keyboard and who also penned all nine soungs on the debut album by Heatwave, which has just been released over here via GTO Records.
Eric Johns — from Los Angeles — plays lead and rhythm guitar and is the third of the band's black members. Bass player is Madrid's Mario Mantese and Ernest 'Bilbo' Berger is drummer and percussionist and comes originally from Czechoslovakia.
The band was actually formed in Germany, where Johnny was in the American Army until 1971. During his service period, he formed a group called the Cashmeers and they entertained at local hops and the such like without ever really progressing any further.
It was in 1973 that Johnny first became involved in the British scene and that was when British agency, McLeod Holden Ltd., brought them in for their first tour and it was they who dubbed the band Johnny Wilder's Chicago Heatwave. By this time, Rod Temperton had answered an advertisement in the Melody Maker for an organist and the present group was starting to take shape.
The initial success of that first tour was enough to bring them back to this country on three further occasions — the impetus growing to the point where they toured as support act to the Fatback Band earlier this year.
Earlier this year, they were signed to GTO Records and immediately attracted soul and disco attention via the compulsive "Ain't No Half Steppin'" and, more recently, "Super Soul Sister" — both tracks from their recently released "Too Hot To Handle" album and both penned by Rod Temperton.
The main aim for the group, of course, is to become established in the U.S. but they are fully aware that they first have to break through in Britain.
"We turned down a tour to the Far East to concentrate on promoting our album around Britain," Johnny confesses with his usual smile. "Sure, I'd love to go home to the States and kill 'em — but because London is so close to America, we feel we'd be better off trying to really make it here first."
Certainly, judging by the quality of their initial album, Heatwave looks a safe bet to be the next British-based soul act to make the big time.