English keyboardist Pete Wingfield has done session work with numerous rock, blues, and R&B acts, among them Freddie King, Jimmy Witherspoon, the Hollies, and Van Morrison, as well as being a member of the Olympic Runners. A fixture within the music industry -- especially in England -- from the early to mid-'70s, his fame before the public has derived from his fine single "Eighteen with a Bullet" for Island in 1975. While it only reached number 15 on both the pop and R&B charts the week of November 11, 1975, "Eighteen with a Bullet" was actually number 18 with a bullet on the pop chart. It was also a charming, expertly bit sung of falsetto soul.
Wingfield was born in Liphook, Hampshire, England in 1948. He was a devotee of American R&B and soul music, and learned the piano as a boy. His interest in soul music was sufficient to lead him to an early career as a music journalist while still in his teens, founding one fanzine devoted to soul music and publishing articles on the subject in other, established magazines. He also led a group called Pete's Disciples and attended Sussex University, where he and fellow students Paul Butler (guitar) and John Best (bass) later teamed up with local teacher Chris Waters (drums) to form the blues band Jellybread. In addition to playing all of the keyboards in the band, Wingfield handled most of the signing, and they had enough confidence in the worth of their work to record an album for their own Liphook label, which became, in effect, their demo for the Blue Horizon label, which signed them in 1970. Despite good reviews, the group didn't enjoy enough success to justify a continued effort, and Wingfield left in 1971 -- by that time, he'd played sessions with ex-Yardbirds guitarist Top Topham, and one-time blues bandleader Graham Bond, and he ended up playing on B.B. King's In London album, as well as on recordings by Lightnin' Slim, Memphis Slim, and Nazareth.
He played with Keef Hartley's band for a short time, and was also a member of Colin Blunstone's band, as well as playing with Van Morrison. Initially with help from his association with Blue Horizon and its founder, Mike Vernon, Wingfield appeared on dozens of albums in the early and mid-'70s, including those by the Hollies, and also served as a member of the Blue Horizon-spawned group the Olympic Runners, which included DeLisle Harper (bass) and Glen LeFleur (drums), both of whom played on Wingfield's first solo album, Breakfast Special (1975), which included "Eighteen with a Bullet." That proved to be his only charting single, but the lack of any follow-up success hardly seemed to matter, in a career that had him playing dozens upon dozens of sessions and live shows every year, with everyone from Freddie King to Al Stewart to Maggie Bell. Among his more prominent appearances in the mid-'70s was on the concert album Hollies Live (aka Live Hits), which became a major underground hit -- at around the same time, he also worked on records by Edwin Starr, Lindisfarne, Richard & Linda Thompson, Bonnie Tyler, Billy Fury, and Lonnie Donegan. Meanwhile, as a songwriter, he contributed the title track to the Olivia Newton-John album Making a Good Thing Better (1977), and as a producer, he helmed the 1980 debut album by Dexy's Midnight Runners. He had previously worked with Phil Everly, and in the early '80s, he became a member of the Everly Brothers' backing band, starting with their reunion of that era and continuing on subsequent tours and recordings. In 1999, he played with Paul McCartney on Run Devil Run. In 2008, Wingfield's solo recordings for the Island label were assembled on an anthology by Cherry Red Records. As with any session musician who has been as busy as Wingfield, his multiple overlapping credits often seem to converge and collide with current work, amid reissues and new projects. ~ Bruce Eder & Ron Wynn