Sweet bassist Steve Priest dead at 72

Steve Priest
(Image credit: Michael Putland / Getty Images)

Sweet founder member and bass player Steve Priest has died at the age of 72. The news was confirmed by fellow Sweet member Andy Scott.

In a statement on the band's Facebook page, Scott wrote, "Then there was one! I am in pieces right now. Steve Priest has passed away. His wife Maureen and I have kept in contact and though his health was failing I never envisaged this moment. Never. My thoughts are with his family.

"He was the best bass player I ever played with. The noise we made as a band was so powerful. From that moment in the summer of 1970 when set off on our Musical Odyssey the world opened up and the rollercoaster ride started! He eventually followed his heart and moved to the USA. First New York then LA.

"Rest in Peace brother. All my love."

Priest was born in Hayes, England, and – like many musicians of his era – was influenced by The Shadows before becoming enamoured by the Rolling Stones and The Who. 

In January 1968, Steve formed a four-piece band with vocalist Brian Connolly and drummer Mick Tucker – former members of Wainwright’s Gentlemen – and
guitarist Frank Torpey. When their original moniker of Sweetshop was taken by another band, they shortened their name to The Sweet. 

Torpey was briefly succeeded by Mick Stewart before the line-up solidified with the arrival of former Elastic Band guitarist Andy Scott. Behind the scenes, Sweet had also signed to RCA and been introduced to songwriters Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman. Mere months later, Funny Funny had peaked just outside the Top Ten, becoming the first of Sweet’s 15 hit singles.

The band embarked on a successful career with single hits including Wig-Wam Bam, Block Buster!, The Ballroom Blitz, Fox on the Run, Action and Love Is Like Oxygen.

At the start, these were exclusively penned by Chinn and Chapman, who insisted that singer Brian Connolly should be backed by session musicians. Wigwam Bam was the first single that Sweet were actually allowed to play on, though they had been responsible for their own B-sides since the start. 

Naturally, these restrictions caused immense unhappiness. To further compound the situation, Sweet had agreed to let Chinn and Chapman manage them.

“What a stupid thing for us to allow them to do,” said Priest. “We were being controlled by a couple of novices. Mike Chapman could write what sounded like hit songs, but Nicky was brought up in a private boys’ school and didn’t know his arse from his elbow.”

After Connolly left The Sweet in early 1979, Priest became lead vocalist, until the band disbanded in 1982. 

In 1988 an attempt was made to reunite the members of the original band, but the project never came to fruition, and Brian Connelly died in 1997. Mick Tucker passed away in 2002. 

A cause of death has not been announced. 

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 37 years in music industry, online for 24. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.