The frontman for British hitmakers the Small Faces and Humble Pie, singer/guitarist Steve Marriott was born January 30, 1947 in London; a successful child actor, he played the role of the Artful Dodger in the musical Oliver! as a teen, but by the mid-'60s, he was working in a local music shop. There he met bassist Ronnie Lane, agreeing to jam with his band the Pioneers; Marriott soon joined the group full-time and, after adopting a sound influenced by American R&B and a look inspired by Mod fashions, they rechristened themselves the Small Faces. Though best-known in the U.S. for their hit "Itchycoo Park," at home, the Small Faces enjoyed much greater success, reeling off a series of smashes including "All or Nothing," "My Mind's Eye," and "Lazy Sunday" as well as the 1968 classic LP Ogden's Nut Gone Flake. The chart popularity of "Lazy Sunday" rankled Marriott, however -- he'd recorded the song as a joke and it was released despite his objections -- and when the more thoughtful "The Universal" failed to crack the Top 20, his dissatisfaction only increased.
Marriott's tenure with the Small Faces ended after he stalked offstage during a New Year's Day 1969 performance; he soon recruited ex-Herd guitarist Peter Frampton to form the hard rock combo Humble Pie, and after months of woodshedding at Marriott's Essex cottage, the group issued its debut single, "Natural Born Boogie," cracking the U.K. Top Five. The LP As Safe as Yesterday Is followed, but again American success eluded Marriott until the release of the 1971 Humble Pie live album Performance: Rockin' the Fillmore, which went gold. Although Frampton left the band soon after, 1972's Smokin' was a smash, reaching the U.S. Top Ten; subsequent efforts failed to achieve the same heights, however, and Humble Pie disbanded in 1975. After the release of the solo Marriott, in 1976, he joined in a Small Faces reunion, then four years later re-formed Humble Pie with original drummer Jerry Shirley; after two LPs, the group again dissolved. Marriott spent the better part of the decade in seclusion, but was planning to reunite with Frampton when he lost his life in a house fire on April 20, 1991. ~ Jason Ankeny