The strange story of Lone Star, the band that punk killed (or did it?)
These Welsh wizards were tipped for stardom by the likes of John Peel and Alan Freeman – but then Johnny Rotten and his safety-pinned cohorts came along…
"We were the right band at the wrong time,” claims Lone Star guitarist Tony Smith. “We lost popularity overnight when punk rock exploded on to the scene.
"I remember my girlfriend taking me to the Blitz Club in London’s Covent Garden, when it was all kicking off with Steve Strange and everything. We waltzed in, and there’s me with my long blond hair and white flared trousers. Rusty Egan was the DJ. He said: ‘Lone Star? Yeah, that’s the band that punk killed.’ Good God, how right he was. In 1977, Britain was no place to be if you were in a rock band.”
But was it really that simplistic? Did the gob-addled advent of punk truly curtail the career of one of the most promising British heavy rock bands of the 70s? Or was there more to it than that?
Of course, it didn’t help that Lone Star parted company with their lead singer, chief songwriter and – some might say – talisman shortly after the release of their debut album.
It didn’t help that that same singer had a nervous breakdown after his girlfriend was rendered paraplegic due to a car crash.
It didn’t help that, despite being managed by Abe Hoch, former right-hand man to Led Zeppelin’s Peter Grant, Lone Star never toured America.
It didn’t help that Tony Smith’s fellow guitarist, Paul Chapman, was in two groups at the same time: Lone Star and UFO.
It didn’t help that Lone Star signed “the worst record deal ever”.
And it didn’t help that some of the members of Lone Star were Scientologists…
Lone Star’s story begins in Cardiff, South Wales, in 1975. Vocalist Kenny Driscoll and guitarist Tony Smith had just returned from Canada where they’d been playing shows with their semi-pro band Iona. Both were keen to take their musical ambitions to the next level. Driscoll, in particular, had “a complete vision for a bold new adventure”.
The pair brought in bassist Pete Hurley and drummer Dixie Lee and began rehearsing in a village hall in Rudry, just north of Cardiff. “Paul Chapman started turning up – we didn’t really need another guitarist but he kind of wormed his way in,” says Driscoll. “Then I went back to Canada and found Rik Worsnop, the keyboard player.”
“I’d been playing with Kenny on and off since I was about thirteen,” counters Chapman. “We had a band way before Lone Star, called Zebra Leader, so named because it sounded a little bit like Led Zeppelin. I was eighteen, just pushing nineteen, when I bumped into Pete Hurley and we talked about getting a serious band together. I said: ‘There are really no decent singers in Cardiff except for Kenny…’ That’s how Lone Star started to take shape.”
Whatever the truth about the band’s genesis, what is for sure is that the six fledgling members scraped together £300 and recorded a five-song demo tape – known as the Acorn Sessions – in a studio in Woodstock, near Oxford.
Driscoll explains: “My influences were Free, Bad Company and Jethro Tull. I used to love a song by Blodwyn Pig called See My Way. It was so beautifully structured. I decided to see if I could make my own arrangement of it. So I chopped it, changed it and transformed it into something completely different. That gave me the idea to tackle The Beatles’ She Said, She Said. I thought I’d go here, there and everywhere with it.”