One of the linchpins of the British rock & roll revival of the 1970s and '80s, Shakin Stevens ranks among the most persistent performers ever to emerge, ultimately, as a superstar. Stevens has no less than 30 U.K. Top 40 hits to his name, almost all of them racked up during a five-year span of chart invincibility. Yet his recording career pre-dated his first hit by over a decade, struggling through a period that might have forced any less committed artist to simply abandon all hope.
He grew up in Ely, Cardiff, and as a teenager in the mid-1960s he formed his first amateur rock and roll band with school friends and became its vocalist and Frontman. Originally named the Olympics, then the Cossacks, the short-lived band finally renamed as the Denims and performed gigs in the local Cardiff and South Wales area. Michael Barratt, who would later adopt the stage name "Shakin' Stevens", was the youngest of 11 children born to Jack and May Barratt. His father was a First World War veteran who by 1948 was working in the building trade, having previously worked as a coal miner.
"Shaky" was born on March 4, 1948 in Ely, Wales. The youngest of 11 children and a keen amateur singer, he was already married and working as a milkman when he formed Shakin Stevens & the Sunsets, his first professional band, in 1968. The bandmembers themselves had been playing together in one form or another since the late '50s (when they formed as the Backbeats), and knew Stevens as one of their most devoted fans; he would often join them on-stage to perform a guest vocal or two. With a ferocious live following around South Wales, the band signed to Parlophone in 1970 and recorded its debut album, the optimistically titled A Legend, with producer Dave Edmunds. Reports that they also opened for the Rolling Stones in December 1969 appear to be exaggerated, but the band gigged regularly around Germany and Holland, and scored several European hit singles.