Terence "Terry" Nelhams-Wright, known as Adam Faith (23 June 1940 – 8 March 2003), was a British teen idol, singer, actor, and financial journalist. He was one of the most charted acts of the 1960s. He became the first UK artist to lodge his initial seven hits in the Top 5. He was also one of the first UK acts to record original songs regularly
Faith became one of Britain's significant early pop stars. At the time, he was distinctive for his hiccupping glottal stops and exaggerated pronunciation. He did not write his own material, and much of his early success was through partnership with songwriter Les Vandyke and John Barry, whose arrangements were inspired by the pizzicato arrangements for Buddy Holly's "It Doesn't Matter Anymore".Faith began his musical career in 1957, while working as a film cutter in London in the hope of becoming an actor, singing with and managing a skiffle group, The Worried Men. The group played in Soho coffee bars after work, and became the resident band at The 2i's Coffee Bar, where they appeared on the BBC Television live music programme Six-Five Special. The producer, Jack Good, was impressed by the singer and arranged a solo recording contract with HMV under the name Adam Faith. His debut record "(Got a) Heartsick Feeling" and "Brother Heartache and Sister Tears", in January 1958, failed to make the charts. Good gave him a part in the stage show of Six-Five Special, along with the John Barry Seven but the show folded after four performances. His second release later that year was a cover of Jerry Lee Lewis's "High School Confidential", backed with the Burt Bacharach and Hal David penned "Country Music Holiday", but this also failed.
Faith returned to work as a film cutter at National Studios at Elstree until March 1959, when Barry invited him to audition for a BBC TV rock and roll show, Drumbeat. The producer, Stewart Morris, gave him a contract for three shows, extended to the full 22-week run. His contract with HMV had ended, and he sang one track, "I Vibrate", on a six-track EP released by the Fontana record label. Barry's manager, Eve Taylor, got him a contract with Top Rank, but his only record there, "Ah, Poor Little Baby"/"Runk Bunk" produced by Tony Hatch, failed to chart due to a lack of publicity caused by a national printing strike.
Despite the failure, Faith was becoming popular through television appearances. He became an actor by taking drama and elocution lessons, and appeared in the film Beat Girl. The script called for Faith to sing songs and as Barry was arranging Faith's recordings and live Drumbeat material, the film company asked him to write the score. This was the beginning of Barry's career in film music.
Faith's success on Drumbeat enabled another recording contract, with Parlophone. His next record in 1959, "What Do You Want?", written by Les Vandyke and produced by Barry and John Burgess, received good reviews in the NME and other papers, as well as being voted a hit on Juke Box Jury. This became his first number one hit in the UK Singles Chart, and his pronunciation of the word 'baby' as 'bay-beh' became a catchphrase. "What Do You Want?" was the first number one hit for Parlophone, Faith the only pop act on the label.
With songs like "Poor Me" (another chart topper), "Someone Else's Baby" (a UK #2) and "Don't That Beat All", he established himself as a rival to Cliff Richard in British popular music. A UK variety tour was followed by a 12-week season at Blackpool Hippodrome and an appearance on the Royal Variety Show.
His next release was a double A-side single, "Made You"/"When Johnny Comes Marching Home". Both made the Top Ten, despite a BBC ban for "Made You" for 'a lewd and salacious lyric'. His 1960 novelty record "Lonely Pup (In a Christmas Shop"), to coincide with his Christmas pantomime, gained a silver disc.
His debut album Adam was released on 4 November 1960 to critical acclaim for the inventiveness of Barry's arrangements and Faith's own performances. The material ranged from standards such as "Summertime", "Hit The Road to Dreamland" and "Singin' in the Rain" to more contemporary songs, such as Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman's "I'm a Man", Johnny Worth's "Fare Thee Well My Pretty Maid", and Howard Guyton's "Wonderful Time".
Still 20 and living with his parents, he bought a house in Hampton Court for £6000, where he moved with his family from their house in Acton. In December 1960, he became the first pop artist to appear on the TV interview series Face to Face with John Freeman.
Faith made six further albums and 35 singles, with a total of 24 chart entries. In the early 1960s, his backing group was The Roulettes.
Later Years And Death
He married Jackie Irving in 1967 and they had one daughter Katya Faith who became a television producer. In 1986, he was hired as a financial journalist by the Daily Mail and its sister paper The Mail on Sunday.
In 1985, he appeared on a BBC Radio 2 tribute programme to James Dean, written and presented by Terence Pettigrew. You're Tearing Me Apart was aired on the 30th anniversary of Dean's death. Dean had been his idol, and the film Rebel Without a Cause had inspired the teenage Faith to become a singer and actor. "That movie changed my life", he admitted on the programme. In 1986, Faith had open heart surgery.
In the 1980s, Faith became a financial investments advisor. He had a financial involvement with television's Money Channel. But the channel proved unsuccessful and closed in 2001. Faith was declared bankrupt owing a reported £32 million. He also advised and invested monies for Michael Winner via Sir Nicholas Goodison and also with Roger Levitt's financial group. However, both these investments lost money.
He became ill after his stage performance in the touring production of Love And Marriage at Stoke-on-Trent on the Friday evening, and died at North Staffordshire Hospital of a heart attack early on Saturday, 8 March 2003.
British tabloid newspapers reported his last words as "Channel Five is all shit, isn't it? Christ, the crap they put on there. It's a waste of space". Although it is not certain these were his words, it has become an urban myth.
|Birth name||Terence Nelhams-Wright|
|Also known as||Terry Nelhams|
|Born||23 June 1940|
Acton, London, England
|Died||8 March 2003 (aged 62)|
Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England
|Associated acts||The Worried Men (1957), The Roulettes, Bobby Vee, Cliff Richard, Billy Fury, Lonnie Donegan, Buddy Holly|