Steve Priest, founding bassist and singer for “Ballroom Blitz” glam rock band Sweet, died Thursday at the age of 72. Priest’s family confirmed his death on social media Thursday. No cause of death was revealed, but guitarist Andy Scott — the last surviving member of the band’s classic lineup — said “his health was failing” recently.
“It is with a heavy heart that we announce at 8:25am PT today, Steve Priest, founding member of The Sweet, passed away,” Priest’s family tweeted. “He is survived by his wife, Maureen, three daughters, Lisa, Danielle & Maggie and 3 grandchildren, Jordan, Jade & Hazel.”
“He was the best bass player I ever played with. The noise we made as a band was so powerful,” Scott added in a separate statement. “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.”
Sweet’s hit-making classic lineup formed in 1970, when Scott joined Priest, drummer Mick Tucker and singer Brian Connolly. One of the signature acts of the Seventies glam rock scene, Sweet released a string of hit singles over the course of the decade, which the band partly spent as the studio entity for the songwriting duo Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn, who wrote the band’s hits “Wig-Wam Bam,” “Little Willy,” “Co Co” and “Ballroom Blitz.” The latter track — one of Rolling Stone’s 20 Songs That Defined the Early Seventies — featured Priest’s high-pitched vocals singing the pre-chorus.
The members of Sweet would later co-write their 1975 hit single “Fox on the Run,” with Priest’s distinct voice singing backup; when Connolly left Sweet following the release of 1978’s Level Headed, Priest and Scott assumed lead vocals for the band. However, Sweet broke up in 1981, after which point Priest largely stepped away from music and moved to Los Angeles with his wife, Capitol Records publicity director Maureen O’ Connor.
While Scott continued to perform the band’s music under the moniker Andy Scott’s Sweet, Priest held the band’s copyright in North America, where he played shows as Steve Priest’s Sweet from 2006 until his death.
Megadeth bassist Dave Ellefson wrote on social media Thursday, “Very sad to hear of the passing of Steve Priest from @spsweetband. They gave me one of my earliest memories of great hard rock on the radio as a kid and Desolation Boulevard still holds up as one of rock’s greatest albums from that period. Steve’s wife was the publicist for @megadeth during much of our @capitolrecords years and meeting him was one of the highlights of my professional career. His writing, vocals and bass work are without parallel.”
Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider tweeted, “As you might imagine I am definitely a Sweet fan. Sad that so many of the original band are no gone. RIP Steve Priest.”