The star of one of the biggest rock bands of the 1980s is on the hunt for a rare guitar he sold to a Shetlander when he was strapped for cash in the days before he became famous.
Graham Oliver, one half of the loudest guitar duo in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, sold his black left-handed Fender Stratocaster to a “Shetlander named Bill” in 1976.
Oliver, who popped eardrums everywhere with his distinctive power playing as part of Saxon, and has penned a string of hits, said that he had advertised the 1962/63 hand-built guitar in Melody Maker only weeks before he formed Saxon, which was originally named Son of a Bitch, along with bassist Steve Dawson, singer Biff Byford, drummer John Walker and guitarist Paul Quinn.
Saxon have sold millions of records globally and proved a profound influence on a whole string of rock bands such as Metallica, Pantera and Mötley Crüe.
Oliver had bought the black Strat from a friend after raiding the electricity box and the baby-food money, back in the days when he earned £15 a week working in a factory. But an accident with a door saw him lose his index finger up to the first knuckle and he reckoned his guitar-playing days were over.
No sooner was Melody Maker published than “Bill” got off the boat and drove all the way to Mexborough in South Yorkshire, arriving at mid-day on Friday, and bought the guitar for a bargain £200.
As it happened Oliver’s guitar days were only about to take-off – with a lot of effort he was encouraged to learn to play again by fellow Saxon founder Quinn.
Oliver’s friend Scott Doonican suggested putting out feelers on Facebook and this morning wrote on The Shetland Times Facebook page: “This is such a long shot as ‘Bill’ was about 28 to 30 years old in 1976 so will most likely be in his 60s or 70s now… but how many black leftie Strats can there be in Shetland, right!?”
Oliver says that he sold the guitar, which is a rarity, before his career took off and it is certainly worth a lot more now. But he says he does not want to buy it back, he just wants to meet the man who bought his guitar all those years ago and maybe have a jam on it.
And he has suggested coming up to Shetland to play an acoustic gig with Doonican, who plays in the comedy band Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican. The pair first met when Doonican invited Oliver listen to his band’s acoustic version of Saxon classic Strong Arm of the Law.
Oliver and Dawson are writing a book about their days on the road titled Saxon Drugs and Rock and Roll and hope to have it published before Christmas. It was while going through old photos for the book that he was reminded of his beloved black Strat.
Dawson, Oliver says, was the inspiration for Harry Shearer’s character Derek Smalls in This Is Spinal Tap. And Shearer, an American musician and comedian who has also found fame voicing many characters in The Simpsons, is writing a foreword.
Oliver, a very down to earth rock star, has a host of anecdotes about his days in Saxon and later, after the band split, in Oliver/Dawson Saxon. He still plays a white Fender SG with Jimi Hendrix on it that he bought in 1974 and spent two years paying off at £3/week.
• Are you “Bill” who bought the left-handed Fender Stratocaster? Contact Peter Johnson – firstname.lastname@example.org 01595 746718.