Born on Canvey Island in 1947, WILKO JOHNSON studied English at Newcastle University before doing a bit of travelling. He had aspirations to be a teacher before rock ‘n’ roll came calling. Wilko was lured into music by his first Fender Telecaster, bought from a music store in Southend, Essex and soon became the strutting, grimacing, six-string rhythmic powerhouse behind Lee Brilleaux in Dr Feelgood. Throughout the mid-70s, Wilko duck-walked his way across countless stages and venues in the UK with Dr Feelgood in the vanguard of the pub rock movement, performing the gutsy down-to-earth rock ‘n’ rolll that was a welcome antidote to prog-rock. His influence was felt in bands up and down the country, and later in the emergent punk revolution (Joe Strummer of The Clash bought a Tele after seeing Wilko play). Dr Feelgood had four successful albums in Wilko’s time, followed a busy creative period playing in an early incarnation of the Wilko Johnson Band, the Solid Senders, before he joined Ian Dury’s band The Blockheads, in 1980.
All through the 1980s, ’90s and into the new millennium he continued to gig in the UK, Europe and Japan. But it was when Julien Temple’s award winning Oil City Confidential documentary came out in 2009, with Wilko emerging as the film’s star, that the world once again sat up and paid attention to his extraordinary talent.
His career took another twist in 2010, when he was offered an acting part in the hit series Game of Thrones, playing the role of mute executioner Ser Ilyn Payne. He appeared in four episodes shown in 2011 and 2012.
2014 saw the release of the hit album Going Back Home, Wilko Johnson’s collaboration with Roger Daltrey, which went to Number 3 in the UK album charts. The pair decided to work on the album together not just because they were both huge fans of Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, but because, as Wilko was still believed to be dying from cancer, it was believed that they’d ‘better get on with it.’
In 2015, Wilko and Julien Temple teamed up again for the documentary The Ecstasy Of Wilko Johnson, a film, which explored Wilko’s diagnosis of terminal cancer, and the unexpected reprieve that followed. The film would become quite the hit, captivating audiences whether they saw it on the big screen or on BBC 4, and earning a ‘Kermode Award’ in 2016.
Wilko’s new memoir, Don’t You Leave Me Here was published in Spring 2016 via Little, Brown.
ABOUT NORMAN WATT-ROY
One of the most in demand bass players of his generation and was virtually the in house go to guy for the legendary Stiff Records playing on tracks by Nick Lowe Rachel Sweet and Jona Lewie as well being a founding member of Ian Dury and The Blockheads and his sessions for the likes of The Clash and Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Madness, Nick Cave, Roger Daltrey and Viv Albertine.
ABOUT DYLAN HOWE
Dylan has played with a great array of artists from Ian Dury and the Blockheads, to his dad Steve Howe, as well as playing with Nick Cave, Damon Albarn, Ray Davies, Paul McCartney, David Gilmour, Beth Gibbons, Gabrielle, and Hugh Cornwell. In 2014 Dylan released his highly acclaimed album: Subterranean – New Designs On Bowie’s Berlin. A radical new take on the instrumental cuts from David Bowie’s 1977 albums Low and Heroes. Which received the official endorsement from David Bowie himself. stating, “That’s a top-notch album you’ve got there. Really.”