Oliver Whawell -guitarist, saxophonist, pianist, composer, and founder member of The Strawberry Thieves – was born in Ashford, Kent. He started playing the piano at the age of 5 (thanks to his mother), winning a scholarship to Sutton Valence School and whilst there taught himself the saxophone (thanks to his father’s record collection and a great love for the saxophone playing of Andy Mackay of Roxy Music).
Also interested in Jazz (especially pioneering Soprano Saxophonist Sidney Bechet) Oliver went on to read Jazz Studies at Leeds College of Music and it was there that the fateful meeting with Donovan occurred. With Donovan’s clever lyrics Oliver had little difficulty setting them to music and the embryonic Strawberry Thieves were soon performing whenever they could, with Donovan singing and Oliver on piano.
With a B.A.Hons under his belt, Oliver left university musically burnt out and he took a break from the music scene to teach English in Brno (Czech Republic) for two years. He carried on playing the saxophone with various Jazz Bands in Brno, taught himself guitar and with his musical ambition rejuvenated, returned to Leeds and renewed his partnership with Donovan.