Stealers Wheel

Although remembered today primarily for one or two songs, Stealers Wheel in its own time bid fair to become Britain's answer to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Only the chronic instability of their lineup stood in their way after a promising start. Gerry Rafferty (b. Paisley, Scotland, Apr. 16, 1946) and Joe Egan (b. 1946) had first met at school in Paisley when they were teenagers. Rafferty had seen three years of success as a member of the Humblebums before they split up, and he'd started a solo recording career that was still-born with the commercial failure of his album Can I Have My Money Back? (Transatlantic, 1971). He'd employed Egan as a vocalist on the album, along with Roger Brown. Rafferty and Egan became the core of Stealers Wheel, playing guitar and keyboards, although their real talent lay in their voices, which meshed about as well as any duo this side of Graham Nash and David Crosby -- Brown joined, and Rab Noakes (guitar, vocals) and Ian Campbell (bass) came aboard in 1972. That lineup, however, lasted only a few months. By the time Stealers Wheel was signed to A&M later that year, Brown, Noakes, and Campbell were gone, replaced by guitarist Paul Pilnick, bassist Tony Williams, and drummer Rod Coombes (ex-Juicy Lucy and future Strawbs alumnus). This band, slapped together at the last moment for the recording of their debut album in 1972, proved a winning combination working behind Rafferty's and Egan's voices. The self-titled Stealers Wheel album, produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, was a critical and commercial success, yielding the hit "Stuck in the Middle with You" (it hit Top Ten in America and the U.K.). Even this success had its acrimonious side. Rafferty had quit the band by the time Stealers Wheel was released, replaced by Spooky Tooth's Luther Grosvenor, who stayed with the group on tour for much of 1973. DeLisle Harper also came in for the touring version of the band, replacing Tony Williams. With a viable performing unit backing it, the Stealers Wheel album began selling and made number 50 in America, while "Stuck in the Middle with You" became a million selling single.

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