A Welsh singer, guitar player, and songwriter, Pete was a dedicated musician who spent as much time as possible honing his craft for his group Badfinger. The group’s predecessor was founded in his hometown Swansea while Pete was still in his teens, and they played a lot of the same venues as Steve Winwood and The Who. A small-time manager named Bill Collins saw the group’s potential and took them under his wing, letting the members live and practice out of his London home. Collins encouraged The Iveys to work on song writing and Pete took the advice to heart.
While the rest of London went psychedelic, The Iveys remained old fashioned in both dress and songwriting. Although the group’s talent attracted attention from several record companies, Collins stayed put, waiting for a better opportunity. A former Beatles roadie, who worked for Apple records, took a strong liking to the group, and Paul McCartney signed them on in 1968. The single “Maybe Tomorrow,” which trailed on the Billboard 100, selecting a follow-up proved difficult. In 1969, Paul McCartney gave them “Come and Get It” and an opportunity to record that track and a pair of their own for the movie The Magic Christian, starring Pete Sellers, Ringo Starr, Raquel Welch, and a John Cleese cameo. Before the release, the group changed their name to Badfinger and went for a slightly harder rock edge.
In November 1970, Badfinger released their second LP (No Dice) and the single “No Matter What” reached number eight on the Billboard charts (“Without You” from the same album became a hit for Harry Nilsson (1971) and Mariah Carey (1993). Signing on with business manager Stan Polley in 1970 proved to be a bad decision. He came highly recommended, but his mob ties and clever financial acrobatics only became obvious to the band members down the road.
Badfinger played acoustic guitars on George Harrison’s monumental triple record All Things Must Pass (1971), sang backup vocals on a Ringo Starr single, and Pete Ham performed “Here Comes the Sun” on acoustic guitar with George Harrison on his Concert for Bangla Desh. Ass, Badfinger’s last record for Apple, failed to reach the Billboard Top 100. The follow-up, the eponymous Badfinger, was met with little enthusiasm, but 1974’s Wish You Were Here was lauded by Rolling Stone magazine and other outlets. In a lawsuit with Warner Brothers, Polley was asked about money supposedly stashed away in an escrow account, but he didn’t respond to the requests since the money had vanished. In retaliation, WB removed Badfinger’s records from its catalog. Pete Ham soon found himself in a rut. He had written Top 10 singles and worked hard for Badfinger, but had no money and little fame to show for it.
April 24, 1975, Pete Ham hanged himself in his studio and his suicide note blamed Stan Polley for his death. Pete Ham’s daughter was born the following month.