The drummer is usually the most important band member when it comes to the rhythm, tempo, and groove of a song, but most of the time he plays almost unnoticed. From a non- musician's point of view, the lead singer or guitarist seems to deserve the most attention, leaving the rhythm section playing in the back, under dim lights, supporting the more "important" players. Wishbone Ash had a completely different idea, largely due to the role played by their original drummer, Steve Upton.
Steve was born in Wrexham, Denbyshire on May 24, 1946. At age 16, he began playing the drums as the result of a joke. Two guitarists he knew were looking for a drummer, and he facetiously offered himself. When they took him up on it, he began practicing on tin cans before progressing to a set of mail-order drums. This first band, called "The Scimitars", was popular in Torquay. When they broke up, Steve and several of the others formed a blues band. This eventually broke up while on a German tour, and Steve returned to England and a "normal" life.
One night Steve was sitting in a cafe in Exeter, when Glen and Martin Turner came in after a gig. They had heard him play with the blues band, and asked if he wanted to replace their drummer, who had just quit. After a couple of rehearsals Steve agreed, and shortly thereafter he and Martin formed Wishbone Ash.
Steve's slight jazz influence added an interesting texture to many of Wishbone's early songs, especially those on the first three albums. The young, energetic Steve at his best is represented on "Vis Dis", "Handy", "The Pilgrim", and "Phoenix". Here he played very creatively, combining intricate grooves and incredible solos.
As time passed, and more albums were made, Steve started to pull away from this jazz- influenced technique, and focused mainly on "in the pocket" grooves. He stayed with this style right through his departure from the band in 1990.
These days, a lot of drummers are somewhat interchangeable, playing straight ahead grooves, without much flair or originality. The seventies threw up a much more creative and interesting bunch of players, each with their own very special style and sound. Look at Keith Moon, John Bonham, and Mitch Mitchell, for example - show me three drummers today with as much variety. Steve Upton fitted right into this picture, and his style was part of what gave Wishbone music its special sound.
After 21 years with Wishbone Ash, Steve decided to leave the music business. He is now managing a chateau in the south of France, although there are rumors that he occasionally sits in with musicians in the local cafes.