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Ipswich rock star living the dream

PUBLISHED: 16:00 28 July 2009 | UPDATED: 14:36 09 March 2010

Nick Wilkinson, second from left, with The Pretenders

Nick Wilkinson, second from left, with The Pretenders

EVERY youngster who picks up a guitar pretends to be a rock star.

EVERY youngster who picks up a guitar pretends to be a rock star.

But one former Suffolk schoolboy is today living the dream - as a full-time member of The Pretenders.

Nick Wilkinson, from Ipswich, plays bass guitar for the legendary pop-rock band, fronted by Chrissie Hynde.

The 38-year-old has toured the world with the group - famed for the huge hits Don't Get Me Wrong, Brass in Pocket and I'll Stand By You - over the past four years, playing for crowds of up to 80,000 people.

He also played on the band's last album, Break Up The Concrete, which was released earlier this year.

Nick, a former Ipswich School pupil, was asked to audition for The Pretenders in 2005 by the group's then guitarist Adam Seymour after previous bass player Andy Hobson left.

He was spotted while playing in London with his Punk Rock Karaoke band, which gave would-be rock stars the chance to front a band with 200 punk classics to choose from.

Even though the karaoke group “got very busy” over five years, he could not turn down the chance to join The Pretenders.

“I was asked down to an audition and I thought 'well, why not?'

“I got the job, but I still miss the old band, though. A band is a band at the end of the day, no matter what calibre - it's still an odd job.”

Nick first took an interest in music at a young age, learning the play the violin at seven and first picking up a bass guitar at 14.

“I knew this was going to be fun, as my parents hated it!” he said.

He played his first gigs on the Ipswich music scene before moving away to Leeds, Sweden and then London.

For several years, he toured with a “punk-disco-techno” band, Dirty Beatniks, before setting up Punk Rock Karaoke.

For the past few years he has played some huge gigs across the world with The Pretenders. They have included a hometown show at Portman Road in 2007 when they supported Rod Stewart and a spot at the Hard Rock Calling festival at London's Hyde Park this summer.

Nick was also back in Suffolk recently for the band's triumphant set at the Latitude Festival at Henham Park.

“It was a bit of a weird one coming back to Suffolk to play. I'd never been to Latitude before, but I knew it was one of those festivals that a lot of my old mates would be at,” he said.

Nick, whose mother, Liz, still lives in Ipswich and whose father, Andy, now lives in East Bergholt, is now back at his home in New Zealand with his wife and daughter before heading out on tour in Canada and the US.

Are you a fan of The Pretenders? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

THE PRETENDERS

The band was formed out of the New Wave moment in Britain in 1978, fronted by Ohio-born Chrissie Hynde, who had moved to Britain five years earlier and had been a writer on the NME music newspaper.

Their breakthrough hit, Brass in Pocket, scored them a British number one in 1979 and was followed by their debut album the following year.

The group was hit by tragedies in the early 1980s, with guitarist James Honeyman-Scott and bass player Pete Farndon both dying from drug overdoses.

Hynde, now 58, took the decision to carry on, with a number of other musicians joining her in the line-up over the years alongside original drummer Martin Chambers.

The band's songs have been widely covered over the years, and Girls Aloud had a number one hit with their version of I'll Stand By You in 2004.

The Pretenders were inducted into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. To date, they have released 36 singles and nine albums.

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