Last updated

Birth nameBarry Graham Purkis
Also known asBarry Graham
Born (1954-12-07) 7 December 1954 (age 68)
Genres Heavy metal
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter
Instrument(s) Drums
Years active1974–present
LabelsHeaven and Hell Records

Barry Graham Purkis, more commonly known as Thunderstick (born 7 December 1954), is an English drummer who wore various masks and used to perform on-stage closed in a cage. He was in the cult-band Samson, with whom his name is most associated. [1]


In 1979, he developed his persona modelled on horror icons such as The Rocky Horror Show , Dr. Phibes and the old Hammer horror films, alternatively wearing black and white make-up, an old man/schoolteacher mask, a black cotton mask and his trademarked rhinestone covered mirrorball mask. He played inside a cage, including during a brief Samson reunion in 2000. With Samson he enjoyed a certain degree of success, especially when their album Head On was released in 1980 and reached No. 34 in the UK Albums Chart. The following single "Riding With The Angels", from the album Shock Tactics , charted in the UK Singles Chart at No. 54.

In a rare occurrence his face was seen when he performed the main-role in the b-movie Biceps of Steel , featuring his band at the time Samson. In the film his then brother-in-law Ben K. Reeves performed as Thunderstick in his stead, only for the shots where Purkis and Thunderstick were set to appear at the same time.

In the June 2005 issue of Classic Rock Magazine , Thunderstick was listed as no. 36 in the "50 Greatest Drummers in Rock" feature.

Early days and Iron Maiden

In 1973–74, Purkis played with precursors-of-punk band Tiny and the Hot Toddies (THT), who played mainly around London's West End. THT split in 1974 when Purkis and THT's lead guitarist went to Italy to play semi-professionally with the English band The Primitives (also known as "Mal Ryder & The Primitives" - not to be confused with the eighties UK band) in 1974. They extensively toured in south Italy.

Purkis then became a drummer for the English band Iron Maiden in 1977–1978, some time before he would create his masked persona. During his early Samson tenure, Purkis was also asked to rejoin Iron Maiden in 1980 after the band had been touring with Samson but declined in favour of staying with Samson. This was mainly because his bizarre theatrical image had gained recognition, and he was then seen to be "the face of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal". His Samson predecessor Clive Burr eventually took the Maiden position. [2]

Self-named band and beyond

After he left Samson for artistic divergences, Thunderstick then went on to form his own eponymous band called Thunderstick consisting of two guitarists, bass and female vocalist. They recorded two hard rock albums, the EP Feel like Rock 'n' Roll? (1983) and a full feature LP Beauty and the Beasts (1984) via Magnum/Thunderbolt Records. [1] These have been restored and remastered for a 2011 CD release, an anthology called Echoes from the Analogue Asylum which also features previously-unreleased material.

The band disbanded in 1986, after having recorded their yet-to-be-released final album Don't Touch, I'll Scream. Both Thunderstick and vocalist Jodee Valentine went to the United States to try to secure a new deal. A new American line-up was considered, but was soon abandoned in favour of maintaining their identity within the NWOBHM scene. Both returned to the UK. A fifth incarnation emerged in 1988, secured by a high-profile management contract, but Thunderstick disbanded again after failing to sign a major deal with a label.

As Barry Purkis, in the late 1980s, he worked with Bernie Tormé and the Electric Gypsies, and other artists. [1]

He performed as Thunderstick again in a series of Paul Samson solo gigs in America along with bassist Eric Mauriello, in 1989. Former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley jammed with them during an encore at the New York Roxy. Thunderstick rejoined Samson twice, once in 1990 to write and record new material (later issued on 1999's Past Present & Future) and then again in 1999–2000, for reunion gigs either in Japan and on the Wacken Festival set in Germany. His songwriting input is present on Paul Samson's posthumous solo album P.S... 1953–2002 originally scheduled to be Samson's new album with the title of "Brand New Day".

Purkis still writes music, and is involved in production for other artists. On 25 April 2009, he played at the Keep It True Festival in Germany with a reunion of various new wave of British heavy metal artists, marking the return of his Thunderstick persona.

On 22 April 2016, former lead vocalist Jodee Valentine died aged 56. Following Valentine's death, Purkis decided to bring back his beloved Thunderstick. The band has reformed with a new line-up, and a new album, Something Wicked This Way Comes, was released in July 2017.

Thunderstick band line-ups

1981-82: Vinnie Munro (vocals), Neil Hay (guitar), Colin Heart (guitar), Ben K. Reeve (bass), Thunderstick (drums).

1982-83: Ana Marie Carmella Borg (vocals), Wango Wiggins (Neil Hay's new stage name, guitar), Cris Martin (guitar), Ben K. Reeve (bass), Thunderstick (drums).

1983-84: Jodee Valentine (vocals), Wango Wiggins (guitar), Cris Martin (guitar), Ben K. Reeve (bass), Thunderstick (drums), Ana Marie Carmella Borg (vocals for the 1983 EP were provided by Ana but the cover featured a photo of Jodee Valentine who had by then replaced her and was touring with the band).

1984-86: Jodee Valentine (vocals), Wango Wiggins (guitar), Bengt Sorenssen (guitar), Ben K. Reeve (bass), Thunderstick (drums).

1987-88: Jodee Valentine (vocals), Dave Kilford (guitar), Paul Lewis (guitar), John Slight (bass), Thunderstick (drums).

2017 studio line-up: Lucie V (vocals), Martin Shellard (guitar), Dave Kilford (guitar), Rex Thunderbolt (bass), Thunderstick (drums)

2018: Viixen (vocals), Baz Roze (guitar), Lee Quenby (guitar), Rex Thunderbolt (bass), Thunderstick (drums)

Present: Raven (vocals), Peter J. Pinto (lead guitar) Rex Thunderbolt (bass), Dave Butters (rhythm guitar), Thunderstick (drums)


Studio albums with Samson
Live albums with Samson
Studio albums as Thunderstick

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 Colin Larkin, ed. (1995). The Guinness Who's Who of Heavy Metal (Second ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 362/3. ISBN   0-85112-656-1.
  2. Huey, Steve. "Biography: Samson". AllMusic . Retrieved 13 June 2010.