It was 1970 and the progressive rock band Jethro Tull had just released their third LP Benefit. Glenn (Douglas Barnard) Cornick, bass player and one of the founding members of the group, has just completed a tour with the band “playing the Benefit songs and even some things that would later go onto Aqualung.”
He recalled: “The band was ever better than we were at that time. At the end of one of the tours at the end of 1970, I was fired. No reason has ever been given.”
Manager Terry Ellis suggested that Cornick form his own band. “So,” Cornick said. “I put together Wild Turkey.” By the following year the line-up of Glenn Cornick’s Wild Turkey was established.
Why “Glenn Cornick’s Wild Turkey”? Cornick says: “No reason for the name ‘Wild Turkey’. It was the best of several suggestions at the time.”
The original roster included: Graham Williams (lead guitar), Alan ‘Tweke’ Lewis (guitar), ex-Pete brown and Piblokto percussionist John “Pugwash” Weathers (drums) and ex-Eyes of Blue member Gary Pickford-Hopkins (vocals and guitar). Within months of their first rehearsals, however, Williams and Weathers had defected to Graham Bond’s band Magick. They were quickly replaced by ex-Man drummer Jeff Jones and guitarist Jon Blackmore.
They recorded their premiere platter, album Battle Hymn before the year’s end. By the time the Chrysalis label record hit the racks in 1971 (or ’72 depending where you lived), the band had shortened their name to just “Wild Turkey”. It (and the accompanying single, “Easter Psalm”, were well-received by critics and the group was soon touring with Black Sabbath due in part to the fact that Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi had briefly played with Cornick in Jethro Tull.
1972 was the year Blackmore would quit the band to write for the UK publication New Musical Express. It was also the year a bootleg, Live at the San Bernardino Swing Auditorium, surfaced. Blackmore was replaced by Mick Dyche and former roadie Steve Gurl joined as keyboardist.
The new incarnation recorded and released a sing, “Good Old Days”, the band’s second LP the eponymously-titled Turkey. When released in 1973 it failed to reach the success of the first recording. Oddly, there was still enough of a demand for their music that an unauthorized bootleg made it onto the streets. It was a live recording titled London, BBC in Concert ’73.
Lewis left to join Man in 1974 and the band struggled on with just one guitar player until future Whitesnake guitarist Bernie Marsden was enlisted. Jones was replaced by Kevin Currie as well. They had three new numbers included on a temporarily shelved four record sampler titled Don’t Dare to Forget but there would be no third album . . . or so it seemed.
Pickford-Hopkins then left to join Rick Wakeman that summer. The band disbanded. Cornick explains: “After 4 years of playing together with no real success, when Gary left, it seemed hopeless to start again. I think we were all ready for a change.”
Marsden and Gurl joined Babe Ruth. Cornick says: “After the breakup of Wild Turkey, I felt I needed to get out of Britain for a time. (Though I never planned it, I never returned). I called everyone I knew in music around the world and told them I was looking for a gig. The first offer was from West Berlin so I went there (to join Karthago).” By sometime in 1975 he had moved on to found the band Paris with former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Bob Welch and ex-Nazz drummer Thom Mooney.
After the breakup of Paris, Cornick moved to the US. It would not be until 1996 that Wild Turkey would reform long enough to do the disc Stealer of Years and play two live gigs. Cornick was reunited with singer Pickford-Hopkins and guitarist Lewis. They would use a new drummer named Brian Thomas.
They would also be included on a 1998 compilation titled Legends of Progressive Rock. The new millennium would witness a continuation in interest in the band. What some believe to be a remastered bootleg, Battle Hymn – Turkey, would be put out in 2000.
Their first official live release, Live in Edinburgh, hit stores in 2001. The next year a compilation album, Rarest Turkey, would come out and in 2004 they would release their (so-called) Final Performance (a la Kiss) disc which contained material from a performance in 1974. Finally, in 2006 they would release their fourth studio album, You and Me in the Jungle, featuring Cornick, Pickford-Hopkins, Dyche and Gurl as well as Williams, Weathers and ex-Jethro Tull drummer Clive Bunker.
2009 saw yet another release of the Battle Hymn – Turkey project. It was remastered and re-released yet again just earlier this year with two additional bonus tracks included. Cornick recently reflected on the early days before the breakup: “We were a pretty good band but we probably should have spent more time working on improving ourselves.”
He concluded: “I think we just had too much fun and never really approached it as a job. It was great fun but didn’t do much for our careers.” Currently working on new material, he hopes “there might be a fifth Wild Turkey album!” Looks like Cornick certainly is a musician who can (ahem) talk turkey.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.