Wayne Wonder will always be remembered for his Summer 2003 anthem, ‘No Letting Go’. The romantic bashment classic entered the UK pop charts at no.5, and then peaked at no.3 as it spent weeks in the top five. To many, he was a newcomer, but as is often the case with Reggae artists hitting the jackpot, he was anything but……

Born Von Wayne Charles, in Kingston Jamaica, Wayne became ‘wonderful’ when he showed some exceptional skills on the football pitch. Auditioned by seminal drummer, Sly Dunbar of the Sly & Robbie duo, his first recording was with the equally legendary King Tubbys, a man better known as the godfather of Dub. When Tubbys was tragically killed in a robbery, Wayne freelanced on the Kingston circuit with a number of producers on the island.

His contemporaries in the late eighties were Thriller U and Sanchez, both renowned for recording covers of current pop and R’n’B hits. Wayne was forced to do the same by the public and record producers alike just to compete. As such, his distinctively sweet voice would grace versions of Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’, Tracey Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’, Sinead O’connor’s ‘Nothing Compares’ and the Bangles’ ‘Eternal Flame’ amongst a long list of local hits.

By 1993, Wayne was the resident vocalist of the Penthouse Studios run by Donovan Germain, with Wayne’s childhood friend, Dave Kelly. It was here that Wayne would really hone his craft as he would also introduce others like Cutty Ranks, Tony Rebel and most famously, Buju Banton to the camp.

Dave Kelly left to set up the Mad House label with a little help from his manager, Janet Davidson and one, Maxi Priest. The creative freedom at Mad House meant that both would really come into their own.

The dancehall hits ‘Keep Them Coming’, ‘Searching’, ‘Bashment Girl’, ‘Joy Ride’, and ‘Everyone;s Calling’ Your Name’ followed as did another knew direction in Wayne’s career. He’d developed another alter ego, the deejay, Surpriz.

In 2000, Wayne and Dave parted company due to creative differences as Kelly was veering closer and closer to the Hip Hop market, but Wayne wanted to stay within the dancehall idiom. Wayne started freelancing again and found himself on some new rhythm tracks. One such rhythm, Diwali, was built by Steven ‘Lenky’ Marsden, at the time, the leader of Buju Banton’s Shiloh band. Wayne’s contribution to the album was so different that it stood out amongst some tough competition from the likes of Bounty Killer, Beenie Man and T.O.K..

The song was of course ‘No Letting Go’ which garnered him a deal with VP/Atlantic for the album, ‘No Holding Back’. Wayne would now be in-demand as his remixes attracted the likes of LL Cool J, and Mobb Deep. Alongside this were collaborations with Wyclef Jean, The Rishi Rich Project, and Capone ‘N’ Noreaga to name a few.

“I always knew dancehall could work because it’s coming from the heart.” He reveals in his soft voice, “Even when people used to tell me ‘you need to do a couple of songs like Beres Hammond’, I’d say no, that’s Beres, Wayne Wonder wanna make his mark. This is my mark, and I’ve proved to them that dancehall can work.” – Wayne Wonder - 2003