Wilko Johnson - A walking stick of musical dynamite.

Dr. Feelgood – In Session – 1973 – Past Daily Soundbooth (RIP: Wilko Johnson 1947-2022)

Wilko Johnson – A walking stick of musical dynamite.

Dr. Feelgood (w/Wilko Johnson) in session for Bob Harris – BBC Radio 1 – October 24, 1973 – BBC Radio 1 –

More sad news this week. Seems like a week doesn’t go by where at least one notable figure passes on. This week it’s Wilko Johnson, seminal guitarist and founding member of Dr. Feelgood, whose unique playing and over-the-top stage presence became one of the primary figures in the Punk movement of the mid-1970s. His death earlier today, the result of a long battle with Pancreatic Cancer finally took him over and left the Music World one essential figure poorer as the result.

In 1965 Johnson bought his first Fender Telecaster from a shop in Southend, Essex for £90 (equivalent to £1,854 as of 2021). He used to play a vintage 1962 Fender Telecaster with rosewood fingerboard which he bought in 1974, shortly after Dr. Feelgood signed their first record deal. Originally of sunburst-coloured body with white pickguard, Johnson later refinished it in black and added a red pickguard.

Johnson developed his own image, coupling jerky movements on stage (his so-called “duck walk”) with a choppy guitar style, occasionally raising his guitar to his shoulder like a gun, and a novel dress sense (he favoured a black suit and a pudding bowl haircut). He achieved his playing style by not using a pick but instead relying on fingerstyle. This enabled him to play rhythm guitar and riffs or solos at the same time creating a highly percussive guitar sound. It evolved from a failed attempt to copy Mick Green of Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, a guitarist whom Johnson greatly admired. His Bo Diddley-influenced style formed the essential driving force behind Dr. Feelgood during their initial years, including the band’s first four albums, Down by the Jetty, Malpractice, Stupidity and Sneakin’ Suspicion, all released between 1975 and 1977.

The live album, Stupidity, reached number one in the UK Albums Chart, but although Johnson played on Dr. Feelgood’s first 5 single releases, including “Roxette” and “Back in the Night”, the only single to chart during his membership of the band was “Sneakin’ Suspicion”. He left the band in April 1977, following disagreements over the tracks to be included in the Sneakin’ Suspicion album. Johnson maintains that he was kicked out of the band, while the remaining band members claimed that he had left voluntarily.

Tonight it’s some of the first sessions Dr. Feelgood did featuring Wilko Johnson on guitar – they were recorded for Bob Harris at BBC Radio 1 on October 24, 1973.

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