Learn to Play the Wilko J. Way!

Ever since last week, when my friend Craig sent me a couple of YouTube links to the music of 1970’s UK Pub Rock band, Dr Feelgood, I can’t get the distinctive sound of their guitarist, Wilko Johnson, out of my head. Craig had sent me a link to a TV appearance by the band, where they performed their straight ahead rocking song, “She Does It Right” and I was immediately left wondering why I hadn’t really paid that much attention to Wilko’s sound before. Certainly, he’s a visually interesting guitarist, pacing back and forth like he’s part of an elaborate (rock) cuckoo clock while singer Lee Brilleaux grunts his vocals like a pitched down Bon Scott.
Here’s the cover from their album, Stupidity. That’s Wilko J. making the crazy eyes on the left.

Johnson has a rather unique approach to the guitar, too. He basically bangs on his black and red Telecaster with all five fingers on his strumming hand, while holding down the bass notes on his chording hand with his thumb, freeing up the other four fingers to play little lead parts in amongst the chording.

Here’s a a YouTube clip from the UK TV series Rockschool where he shows just how it’s done, including a brief snippet of “She Does It Right”.

I was pleased to see online that he continues to tour with his own band, and while these days he’s chromed of dome (just like Mick Jones of the Clash!) he still bangs that black and red Telecaster and, I suspect, he still does it right!

Wilko Johnson: Baldly going where no guitarist has gone before.

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2 Responses to “Learn to Play the Wilko J. Way!”

  1. Beatnik Hillbilly Says:

    ah yes BUT Wilko’s talked in the past about HIS big influence – Mick Green of The Pirates (as in Johnny Kidd & The Pirates, who recorded the original version of “Shakin’ All Over”). Wiko’s closed fist style of playing is his own but it’s pretty obvious how much Green influenced him based on this clip of Green and the Pirates on Top Of The Pops in the ’70’s…

  2. I love it. The handing down of bits of style here and there, I mean I hear Wilko J in Andy Gill of the Gang of Four but now I see the Mick Green connection too. That’s what I love about the handing down chain, it’s like David Byrne’s song about copying something and either stopping half way or getting it wrong. Then you find your own sound.

    Thanks for reading and participating!

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