Wilko Johnson: Dr Feelgood guitarist and punk legend dies age 75

Wilko Johnson  (PA )
Wilko Johnson (PA )

Punk pioneer Wilko Johnson, the legendary original guitarist for Dr Feelgood, died at home on Monday, his management has said. He was 75.

Having been diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer, in 2013, he was given nine to ten months to live but elected not to receive chemotherapy. He released the album Not Going Home with The Who singer Roger Daltery in 2014 as a billed last hurrah.

However, he had an operation to remove a 3kg tumour and later in 2014 announced he was cancer-free.

Johnson is best known for his work with Essex punk rockers Dr Feelgood, who he formed in 1972 with singer Lee Brilleaux, bassist John B Sparks, and drummer John Martin.

Wilko Johnson performing with Roger Daltrey (PA)
Wilko Johnson performing with Roger Daltrey (PA)

The band quickly gained recognition, particularly Johnson for his finger picking style and for holding his guitar like a gun during onstage antics. The band’s album Stupidity was a UK number 1 in 1976 and two others reached the top 20 but Johnson left at the end of the decade due to inner conflict within the group.

Paul Weller said of him: “Wilko may not be as famous as some other guitarists, but he's right up there. And there are a lot of people who'll say the same. I can hear Wilko in lots of places. It's some legacy.”

Born John Wilkinson in Canvey Island, Essex, in 1947, Johnson also formed the Wilko Johnson Band and also played alongside Ian Dury and the Blockheads for their album Laughter in 1980.

As of 2022, he has 14 studio albums to his name, including one with Solid Senders, while his achivements also includes 2012 autobiography Looking Back at Me, a guest appearance in Game of Thrones and the Dr Feelgood documentary Oil City Confidential.

Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand tweeted: “His unique, wired playing and stage presence thrilled and inspired many guitarists, myself included.

“When I interviewed him a few years ago, he was bright, thoughtful and an astonishing story teller. His presence will be felt for many more years.”

Dr Feelgood continue performing to this day, but without any original members.