Stealers Wheel are a Scottish folk rock/rock band formed in Paisley, Renfrewshire in 1972 by former school friends Joe Egan and Gerry Rafferty.
The band broke up in 1975 and re-formed without Egan or Rafferty in 2008.
Rafferty and Egan first met when they were teenagers in Paisley and they became the core of Stealers Wheel. In the early 1970s, the band was considered to be the British version of American folk/rock supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. They were initially joined by Roger Brown, Rab Noakes and Ian Campbell in 1972. However, that line-up only lasted a few months and by the time the band was signed to A&M Records later that same year, Brown, Noakes and Campbell had been replaced by Paul Pilnick, Tony Williams and Rod Coombes. This line-up recorded their self-titled debut album, Stealers Wheel and was produced by the influential American songwriters and producers Leiber & Stoller. The album was a critical and commercial success, reaching #50 in the US Billboard 200 album chart, with their million selling hit single "Stuck in the Middle with You", coming from the album.
By the time the first album was released Rafferty had left the band to be replaced by Luther Grosvenor, who remained with the band for much of 1973 on tour. DeLisle Harper also replaced Tony Williams on tour. "Stuck in the Middle With You" reached #6 in the US Billboard Hot 100 and #8 in the UK Singles Chart in 1973, and sold over one million copies worldwide, and with the album also selling well, Rafferty was persuaded to return. However, Grosvenor, Coombes and Pilnick all left the band. With so many changes in the band's line-up they officially became a duo, with backing musicians as needed on tour and in the studio. Later in 1973 the single "Everyone's Agreed That Everything Will Turn Out Fine" had modest chart success (the single version is different from the album version and all subsequent CDs) and, in 1974, the single "Star" reached the Top 30 of both the UK and US charts. Reviewing the single "Star", David Middleton at PopRockNation wrote:
A second album Ferguslie Park was released in 1974, with the duo backed up by nine backing musicians. The album, named after an area of Paisley, just reached the US Billboard 200 and was a commercial failure. With increasing tension between Rafferty and Egan they could not agree on which studio musicians to use on the third album, and with Leiber & Stoller also having business problems, Stealers Wheel disappeared for eighteen months. By the time the album Right Or Wrong was released in 1975, Stealers Wheel had ceased to exist. The last album, because of disagreements and managerial problems, was produced by Mentor Williams. All three albums had sleeve designs by artist John Byrne.
After 1975 the group was hardly known, and the two last single releases faded away in the charts. Both Rafferty and Egan recorded songs which included lyrics referring to the acrimonious history of Stealers Wheel and a Best of Stealers Wheel album was released in 1990. In 1992 director Quentin Tarantino used the track "Stuck in the Middle with You" in the soundtrack of his debut film Reservoir Dogs, bringing new attention to the band. In September 2001 a dance version of "Stuck in the Middle with You" was a UK Top 10 hit for Louise, with a music video that drew heavily on the original song's appearance in the soundtrack of Reservoir Dogs.
All three albums have been unavailable for a number of years, although in 2004 and 2005 the British independent record label Lemon Recordings, of Cherry Red, re-released them with remastered sound and new liner-notes.
After being contacted by iTunes and K-tel records in California, Tony Williams re-formed Stealers Wheel in Blackpool in 2008 with two other original band members, Rod Coombes and Paul Pilnick, together with locally based musician and songwriter Tony Mitchell. On 10 November 2008 they started filming a music video for a re-release of "Stuck in the Middle" on the Fylde coast. They also began writing songs for an album due to have been released in 2009, although they have no plans to go on tour. Luther Grosvenor has expressed his interest in joining the band should they tour.
Gerry Rafferty died on 4 January 2011 after suffering liver failure.
- Current members
- Paul Pilnick: lead guitar (1972; 2008–present)
- Rod Coombes: drums (1972; 2008–present)
- Tony Williams: bass guitar (1972; 2008–present)
- Tony Mitchell: guitar (2008–present)
- Gerry Rafferty: vocals, lead guitar (1972–1975)
- Joe Egan: lead vocals, keyboard (1972–1975)
- Ian Campbell: bass guitar (1972)
- Roger Brown: vocals (1972)
- Rab Noakes: guitar, vocals (1972)
- Luther Grosvenor (Ariel Bender): vocals, guitar (1972-1973)
- DeLisle Harper: bass guitar (1973)
- Andrew Steele: drums (1973–1975)
- Joe Jammer: guitar (1973–1975)
- Gerry Taylor: bass guitar (1973–1975)
- Bernie Holland: guitar (1975)
- Dave Wintour: bass guitar (1975)
- Stealers Wheel (1972) US #50
- Ferguslie Park (1973) US #181
- Right or Wrong (1975)
- The Best of Stealers Wheel (1990)
- Parales, Jon; Patricia Romanowski; Holly George-Warren (3 December 2001). The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll (3rd edition ed.). Simon & Schuster Ltd. ISBN 0-7432-0120-5.
- Strong, Martin (4 October 2006). The Essential Rock Discography (1st edition ed.). Edinburgh: Canongate Books. ISBN 1-84195-985-5.
- Stealers Wheel at AllMusic
- Stealers Wheel discography at Discogs
- Stealers Wheel at the Internet Movie Database
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Image from Discogs