7:30am Wednesday 16th April 2014
By Tim Hughes
THE Who sang they hoped they’d die before they get old, but these Oxford rockers think that’s crazy.
Blues-rock three-piece Steamroller were the first band to play a famed city venue and returned there at the weekend to celebrate its 40th birthday.
The group – who have a collective age of over 200 – played The Corn Dolly in April 1974 in Frewen Court, Oxford, now The Cellar, on Sunday.
They are Kidlington singer Robert Wakeley, 69; Cutteslowe bassist Roger Warner, 69 and Wheatley drummer Steve Winstone, 63.
Grandfather-of-three Mr Winstone said: “It went really well.
“It’s got new paint but it’s the same kind of place, it is what it is. It’s an iconic club.”
“There were people there who were around in that era, it gave them a purpose to go down and relive it.”
Until 1974 licensing restrictions meant only two people could be on stage at a time but then-manager Jim Murray got council approval for the three to play.
Retired floor-layer Mr Wakeley said: “That night was a huge success and this set the stage for the pub to become one of the major live music venues in Oxfordshire as it still is today.You could call it Oxford’s own version of the Cavern Club.”
The group formed in 1970 and Mr Wakeley and newsagent Mr Warner were stalwarts despite several changes in the drum stool.
But family pressures and the popularity of bands like Sex Pistols and The Clash led to their break-up in 1978.
Dad-of-two Mr Wakeley said: “Punk took us off the map. I couldn’t go any further and I didn’t want to go on the road so I gave it up.
“I gave my guitar to a roadie and didn’t play for 30 years.”
But they reformed in 2009 after a reunion at Marston’s Jack Russell pub.
Mr Wakeley said: “I was very surprised to meet my old mates. I actually thought Roger had died, I couldn’t believe it.
“But I picked up the guitar and we decided to reform Steamroller. It was fate.
I’m sure it was supposed to happen.”
They have played more than 150 gigs since, though Mr Wakeley said: “So far we have only played in pubs – and often don’t get paid.”
The band – influenced by Cream and ZZ Top – were joined by county musicians John Berry, Aaron Keylock and Rod Crisp on Sunday.
Mr Wakeley said: “We were called Steamroller because we were so loud and noisy, just like the big things that rattled along the roads when we were kids.
“We are still loud and play even better than we did back then.
“Back then there was drinking and fighting, usually between ourselves. But now Roger and I don’t drink, so we can concentrate on our playing.
“We are all getting on, I just hope we can carry on.
Cash from Sunday’s show went to the Somerset Emergency Flood Relief Appeal and has raised £314.50 so far.
HITS BACK THEN
1 Seasons In The Sun –
2 Billy, Don’t Be A Hero – Paper Lace
3 Remember Me This Way – Gary Glitter
4 Everyday – Slade, top
5 Angel Face – Glitter Band
1 The Singles 1969-1973 – Carpenters, right
2 Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Elton John
3 Millican and Nesbitt – Millican and Nesbitt
4 Buddah And The Chocolate Box – Cat Stevens
5 Band On The Run –
Paul McCartney And Wings
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