Wilko is a musician, actor and stargazer
WHEN he's not rocking on stage or playing the part of an executioner in a TV drama, Wilko Johnson can be found stargazing at his Essex home.
The legendary former Dr Feelgood guitarist, above, who has influenced such greats as Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, is coming to the Stafford Gatehouse Theatre on Friday, April 27.
The show is taking place as part of the musician's UK tour, which coincides with the release of his autobiography, Looking Back At Me, written in association with Zoë Howe.
"I have a telescope on top of my roof at home," reveals Wilko, who lives in Southend-on-Sea, close to Canvey Island, where he grew up.
"I like to go up there and have a look at what is going on in the cosmos."
Born John Wilkinson, Wilko is a founder member of Dr Feelgood, a rock band formed in 1971 with a distinctive British R&B sound.
Known for their high-energy live performances, their first two studio albums, Down By The Jetty and Malpractice, proved immensely popular.
And their 1976 breakthrough live album, Stupidity, reached No.1 in the official UK album chart.
"I was working as a teacher in a comprehensive school when the band started," recalls the 64-year-old, "but I'd always been into music.
"I'd learned to play the guitar in the mid-60s, when everybody else was doing the same thing.
"I was keen on The Rolling Stones and stuff like that.
"And as soon as I started earning about £5 a week with the band, I decided to quit teaching and do rock 'n' roll."
By the time Dr Feelgood released their fourth album, Sneakin' Suspicion, in 1977, Wilko had left and was pursuing a solo career.
Then, in 1980, he joined Ian Dury and the Blockheads, co-writing several songs with Ian, who Wilko remembers as a "real one-off".
"It was great being on stage with him," he says, of the band's charismatic frontman, who died of cancer in 2000, aged 57.
"But I've lost so many people through cancer – my mum Catherine, Ian Dury and my wife Irene, who died seven years ago.
"Irene and I had been together since we were teenagers and I think about her all the time."
Wilko's current band features ex-Blockheads Norman Watt-Roy on bass and Dylan Howe on drums.
Meanwhile, in 2009, Wilko featured in Julien Temple's Oil City Confidential, a documentary film about Dr Feelgood.
And he has also been appearing in the HBO drama Game Of Thrones, broadcast on Sky Atlantic.
"Acting is something I'd never done before," he says, "but my appearance in Game Of Thrones is an excellent job for an actor because the character I play has had his tongue cut out, so I don't have to learn lines.
"I'm the king's executioner and I walk around giving people dirty looks."
Wilko Johnson will be at Stafford Gatehouse Theatre tomorrow at 7.30pm, with special guests Virgil and the Accelerators. For tickets, priced £17.50, call the box office on 01785 254653.