Biography All Music Guide
All Music Guide:
A natural singer, vocalist/actor/drummer Wade was influenced by Jesse Belvin, Johnny Mathis (who bounced out of the gate a few years before Wade), and Nat King Cole. Wade grew up in Pittsburgh PA, and briefly worked as a lab assistant for the famed Dr. Jonas Salk who invented the vaccine for polio. He moved to New York in 1960 and tasted success instantly. He signed with CoEd Records and sang at the city's most prestigious club, the Copacabana, within six months of setting foot in the Big Apple. Wade scored a modicum of recording success in 1960 with "Ruby" and "I Can't Help It." He fared in 1961 with three Top Ten singles: "Take Good Care of Her," "The Writing on the Wall" and "As if I Didn't Know." Comparisons to Johnny Mathis hurt more than helped Wade, however; the two were vocally similar, and like Mathis, Wade was eye candy for the ladies.
After two albums in 1960 and 1961 he left CoEd to replace Johnny Mathis (who else?) at Epic Records. The move all but killed his recording career. He only charted once at Epic with "Crying in the Chapel," which reached number 88 -- hardly a blockbuster. His three Epic albums from 1962 and 1963 didn't move any mountains either. Subsequent efforts hit with the impact of a gnat and by 1969 Wade dropped recording for acting. He found work doing voice-overs, including Sweet Lou Dunbar and Gismo Man on The Harlem Globetrotters Show, and started acting with roles in Wanderlove (1970) and Shaft (1971), followed by roles as Benjy in Comeback Charleston Blues (1972), Gordon's War (1973) playing Hustler, and Crazy Joe in Phantom of the Paradise and Claudine, both released in 1974. In 1976 he became the first African-American to host a national television talk show -- Musical Chairs. Rejuvenated again, Wade resurrected his recording career somewhat on Kirshner Records in 1978; this time he went for a funkier sound; the Mathis imitation was history. On Kirshner he recorded "Alexander's Soul Time Band," and others. In 1978 he played in an all-black cast of Guys and Dolls in Las Vegas for six months. He returned to acting in 1982 via Kiss Me Goodbye where he played Roscoe, and has worked quietly behind the scenes ever since.