Artist News

Wilko Johnson diagnosed with terminal cancer

By | Published on Thursday 10 January 2013

Wilko Johnson

Former Dr Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson has been diagnosed with terminal cancer of the pancreas, his manager Robert Hoy announced yesterday. He has opted not to receive chemotherapy.

Hoy wrote in a post on Johnson’s Facebook page: “He is currently in good spirits, is not yet suffering any physical effects and can expect to enjoy at least another few months of reasonable health and activity. He has just set off on a trip to Japan; on his return we plan to complete a new CD, make a short tour of France, then give a series of farewell gigs in the UK. There is also a live DVD in the pipeline, filmed on the last UK tour”.

Johnson formed Dr Feelgood in 1971 with singer Lee Brilleaux, bassist John ‘The Big Figure’ Martin and drummer John ‘Sparko’ Sparks. Centred on Johnson’s distinctive guitar sound, they were best known as a live band, and it was their 1976 live album ‘Stupidity’ that was their most successful recording, reaching number one in the UK.

Shortly afterwards in March 1977, Johnson left the band, to be replaced by John ‘Gypie’ Mayo. Although their next album, ‘Sneakin Suspicion’, went to number ten, the band’s popularity waned after this. Mayo left the group in 1981, followed in 1982 by Martin and Sparks. Brilleaux continued as the band’s only original member with a varying line-up until his death in 1994. The band continues today with no members of the original line-up.

In 2009, Johnson appeared in ‘Oil City Confidental’, a Julien Temple-directed documentary about his live growing up on Canvey Island and with Dr Feelgood. After producers of HBO series ‘Games Of Thrones’ saw him in the film, he was invited to appear in the series, playing the role of mute executioner Ilyn Payne in five episodes over its first and second series.