John Kenneth Wetton (12 June 1949 – 31 January 2017) was an English progressive rock singer, bassist, and songwriter. He was born in Willington, Derbyshire, and grew up in Bournemouth. He rose to fame with bands Mogul Thrash, Family, King Crimson, Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music, Uriah Heep, UK and Wishbone Ash. After his period with King Crimson, Wetton formed UK, and later he was the frontman and principal songwriter of the supergroup Asia, which proved to be his biggest commercial success. Their self-titled debut album sold eight million copies worldwide and was Billboard magazine's No. 1 album of 1982. He later formed the duo Icon with Geoff Downes (ex-Yes, ex-Buggles), and since the 1990s had a successful solo career releasing a large number of studio and live albums. He had a long career as an in-demand session bass player, and collaborated with many members of progressive rock bands such as Yes (including Steve Howe, Bill Bruford, Geoff Downes, Alan White, Billy Sherwood and Peter Banks), Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry, and Genesis (Steve Hackett).
Wetton grew up in Bournemouth and was in a number of early bands with Richard Palmer-James, on bass and vocals, including, The Corvettes, The Palmer-James Group (formed with Alec James), Tetrad, and Ginger Man. A key early band was Mogul Thrash; after live work with Renaissance, he joined Family and also did various sessions.
Wetton's first big break came when he joined Wimborne, Dorset, musician Robert Fripp in his new line-up of King Crimson in 1972, allowing Wetton to come to the fore as a lead singer and composer. Palmer-James also worked with the band as a lyricist. Wetton remained with the band until Fripp unexpectedly disbanded it in 1974. Wetton continued to work on various projects, including a tour with Roxy Music and two albums with Uriah Heep. In 1977, after failed attempts to reunite King Crimson and create a new band with Rick Wakeman, Wetton and Bruford formed U.K.. Wetton brought into UK keyboard/violin wizard Eddie Jobson, while Bruford brought in guitarist Allan Holdsworth. Upon Bruford and Holdsworth's departure, American percussionist Terry Bozzio joined, making U.K. a threesome a la Emerson, Lake and Palmer. This version of U.K. released the studio album Danger Money and toured in support of Jethro Tull.
Wetton released his first solo album, Caught in the Crossfire, in 1980 after the break-up of U.K. Later that same year, he had a brief stint in Wishbone Ash, contributing bass and vocals to Number The Brave. In 1981, at the urging of Geffen Records' John Kalodner, Wetton started working and writing with Steve Howe, who had most recently been in Yes. They went on to form Asia. with whom Wetton worked until 1983. In that year, Wetton was fired from Asia at the insistence of Geffen Records, ostensibly because of less-than-expected sales of the Alpha album. Wetton was brought back to Asia in 1985, with Mandy Meyer replacing Steve Howe, to complete Astra.
In the late 1980s, Wetton's collaboration with former Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera was released as Wetton/Manzanera, with drums provided by Yes's Alan White. Also around this time, Wetton began working again with Geoff Downes and Carl Palmer in an attempt to restart Asia without Steve Howe. Some of the material by this incarnation of Asia made its way onto 1990's Then & Now CD.
The 1990s saw Wetton mostly out of Asia and focusing on a solo career. In 1999, another attempt to reform Asia resulted in Wetton participating in the short-lived progressive rock group Qango with Carl Palmer, John Young, and Dave Kilminster. The group performed several shows in the U.K. and recorded one live album, Live in the Hood, before disbanding when Wetton and Palmer returned to their solo projects.
In the early 2000s, he reunited with Asia keyboardist Geoff Downes for iCon. In 2006, an official reunion of the original Asia line-up (Wetton, Downes, Howe, and Palmer) finally occurred. The studio album titled Phoenix, the original band's first since 1983's Alpha, was released in April 2008 and peaked at No. 73 on the North American Top 200 albums charts. The original line-up released two more studio albums, Omega and XXX before Howe departed in January 2013. With new guitarist Sam Coulson, Asia released Gravitas in March 2014.
In 2013 he guested on the album Grandine il vento with Renaissance, with whom he had played live 42 years before.
Wetton also did extensive work as a session musician with acts such as Brian Eno, Bryan Ferry and Phil Manzanera.
Wetton died on 31 January 2017, from colon cancer.
Mogul Thrash (1971) Gordon Haskell (1972) Family (1971-1972) Larry Norman (1972) King Crimson (1972-1974) Uriah Heep (1975-1976) U.K. (1977-1980, 2011-2015) Jack-Knife (1979) Wishbone Ash (1980) John Wetton (1980–2017) Asia (1981–1983, 1984–1986, 1989–1991, 2006-2017) Qango (1999-2000) Icon (Wetton/Downes) (2002, 2005-2009)
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