The Hitman has said he modelled his bad guy image after him, he was praised for his work by Bruno, and even The Rock has borrowed his look for his own image down to his boots. As Edge said, “He was the Jackie Robinson of Wrestling.” Sweet Daddy Siki is generally considered one of the most influential pro wrestlers ever. He took flamboyance in the ring to a new level, the likes even Gorgeous George and both Nature Boys couldn’t match, and was the first true crossover entertainer.
In the ring, he was billed as hailing from Jamaica, but in fact Reginald Siki was born in Montgomery, Texas in 1940. He had two loves growing up – wrestling from the age of 14 when he saw it live the first time, and traditional roots music he heard from the small transistor radio everyone in his home listened to. He would later own his first guitar, home-made, which he learned to play while mimmicking his country idols, like Charlie Pride, Johnny Cash, and Buck Owens,
His sharecropper father left when he was young, and a few years later his mother passed away, so his Aunt intervened and brought him to live with her family in LA. He first tried his hand at boxing as a teen, but also practiced on his homemade guitar at home. After a stint in the Armed Forces, he returned home and decided to become a pro wrestler in ’55. The early part of his career was spent developing his flamboyant character in the American territories and breaking down barriers. He was in the first integrated world title match, losing to Buddy Rogers and he was threatened more than once by the Ku Klux Klan.
It was due in part to racism that he moved to Toronto in ’61, having wrestled there on several occasions previously, and where he met his wife, Ann. The fact she was white drew more heat on him Stateside, and he found himself barely making a living as a mid-carder. But in Canada, he was packing Maple Leaf Gardens and The Forum, and allowed to develop his in-ring persona while also dabbling in music.
He played some clubs around the Toronto area off and on for a couple of years, and in ’62 decided to cut a record of some tunes he’d written on friend Paul Farano’s label, New Jersey based Pearlsfar Records. Using Farano and wife Pearl Reeve’s band as back up, he wrote “Rock and Roll Shimmy Shimmy Partner,” and its b-side, “Mama, Gimme Your Permission.” The record was usually played at the matches where he was on the card, which also served as a good platform to sell merch.
Throughout the ’60s and ’70s he rose to the pinnacle of his in-ring career, winning several regional singles and tag team titles throughout Canada, the US, and Australia. He still performed on the music stage now and again with various groups of friends. Seeing an opportunity to make a buck, Art Snider approached him about making a full album for his Perriwinkle Records, and his self-titled debut was released in 1970. Mostly a collection of standards – highlights included covers of Charlie Pride’s “Kiss An Angel Good Morning” and “Is Anyone Going to San Antone” and Merle Haggard’s “Daddy Frank,” “Mama Tried,” and “Okie From Muskogee.” It also featured Ann’s “Railway Train.”
He signed with Arc Records in ’72 and he released his follow-up, SWEET DADDY SIKI SQUARES OFF WITH COUNTRY MUSIC. More of the same, it was covers of standards, and his cover of Hank Sr’s “Jambalaya” got some airplay in and around central Canada. The b-side, “Bottles Lights & Music,” was Ben Weatherby’s, who also served as the album’s producer/director.
But injuries were starting to take their hold over the next few years, and spending more time with family, Siki’s time in the ring was less than the rigorous schedule before. He cut a pair of tracks on Crane Records he and Ann had written – “The Love She’s Giving Belongs to Me” b/w “Railway Train” in ’73. With TV syndication now coming in the picture, he was also being exposed to a new group of wrestling fans coast to coast. Diverging from the usual country standards, in ’75 he released the cover of Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” b/w Buddy Guy’s “Bad Bad Whiskey on his own Siki Records.
His third full album came in ’79 on Cane Records. This time, MY FAVOURITES also featured several of his and Ann’s songs, as well, including the single “Him” b/w “My Day,” “Road Running Cowboy,” “Sailors,” and “Same Old Heartache Again.” As the ’80s progressed, his time in the ring diminished, and he began training other wrestlers, including Edge, Christian, and Trish Stratus. while still performing on stage with band in tow now and again. As the ’90s got underway, he transitioned to the role of karaoke DJ, still performing at The Duke in Toronto on Saturday afternoons.