THIN LIZZY  Johnny The Fox

Johnny The Fox

1976 Phonogram
Made In U S A

See also 2011 re-issues
with bonus material

180 gram BACK ON BLACK
1,000 copy limited vinyl re-issue

Rocky (see below)
Don't Believe A Word
Fools Gold
Johnny the Fox meets Jimmy the Weed (see below)
Old Flame Massacre
Sweet Marie
Boogie Woogie Dance

*** Special Note ***

Have you ever wondered who the characters
ROCKY or JOHNNY or JIMMY were inspired by?

Well, here are excerpts from a couple of recent email messages
that I've received, with possible explanations:

This note below quotes some well-known people from the Thin Lizzy story, but since I am receiving the information second hand I have omitted their names.

June 21st, 2013

Mr. Taylor,

Like you, I am a very devoted long-time Thin Lizzy fan. Clearly, they were the best band ever, and I am surprised that more people don't recognize that fact.

I was wondering if you were aware of something that just very recently came to my attention. There is a blues guitarist named Rocky Athas, whom I have never heard of before, who has apparently been giving interviews for years now claiming that he is the inspiration behind the song "Rocky" from the "Johnny The Fox" album. He gets the title of the song wrong, continually referring to it as "Cocky Rocky", and has been telling a story about Thin Lizzy coming to see him play in 1976 at club called Mother Blues in Dallas. I find the whole story doubtful, since this guy also claims that members of Queen were there, too. That implies to me that the nightclub visit occurred during the Queen/Thin Lizzy North American tour, but that tour wasn't until 1977, and was several months after "Johnny The Fox" came out. This Rocky Athas guy now plays guitar for John Mayall's band (yes, Mayall is still around, believe it or not). He's also recorded with Black Oak Arkansas, and he's put out CDs with his own band. So, he's somewhat well-known, apparently, in the Dallas, Texas area and perhaps beyond since he tours with his bands.

Every Thin Lizzy fan knows that "Rocky" in the song is Brian Robertson. There's no doubt about it. The fact that this guy is going around attempting to change history pisses me off, frankly. He's sort of hijacking pther people's lives to glorify himself. Personally, though, I was going to forget about it, and ignore the situation, but I started to see just how much this lie has been spread around by this guy. It's all over the internet. If you do a Google search for "Rocky Athas Thin Lizzy" you'll see what I mean. So, I took the liberty recently of contacting several people who are closely associated with Lizzy to get their thoughts about this guy. A couple of their reactions puzzled me.

First, I contacted (famous Thin Lizzy-interested person). He told me he "never even heard of this guy!" The exclamation point is his. He further said that, of course, Robbo is "Rocky" since Phil Lynott personally told him so when he was present in the studio during the "Johnny The Fox" sessions. He told me Robbo was being Robbo during the sessions, and that the song is an obvious tribute to Robbo's well-known cocky, brash, rock and roll star attitude. He seemed at least a bit incredulous about this Rocky Athas guy lying all over the place about his being "Rocky".

I then contacted (famous Thin Lizzy-interested person). He responded with a short email and told the "Mother Blues" story again, and said (famous Thin Lizzy-interested person) is correct, and that, obviously, "Rocky" is Robbo. He said the song has absolutely nothing to do with Rocky Athas at all.

Lastly, before I emailed you, I emailed (famous Thin Lizzy-interested person). I felt fairly comfortable contacting him about this since he was so close to Lizzy and especially to Phil Lynott. I was totally surprised that he really didn't care at all about this guy's lying about the song. I did mention in my email that I realized that this situation isn't terribly important, really, but with the internet these days, lies like this get repeated enough and they become the new truth. He told me that he always thought "Rocky" was Robbo, and he basically said "who cares". He said there's "no point in bursting this guy's bubble", referring to Athas, and it's probably his only "claim to fame", so basically just let him keep spreading this story. He said that Robbo would probably laugh about it if he knew (which I find hard to believe). I was sort of amazed at the attitude.

By the way, I have contacted Robbo, and I'm still waiting to hear back from him. If he says he doesn't care, I'll let it go.

At any rate, clearly, the song has nothing at all to do with a roadhouse semi-unknown blues guitarist. However, a lot of people already believe his story. It's even on his bio page on John Mayall's website. There are comments telling this story on the Youtube page for the song. It's on Rocky Athas' Facebook page. It's everywhere. As a Lizzy fan, I don't want their legacy hijacked by a someone simply for his own glorification and self-interest. Phil wrote that song for his friend and bandmate, Brian Robertson.

I apologize for the very long email, but I wanted to explain things fully. I don't want to feel as if I am overreacting to this guy's lies, and I'm amazed that a true Lizzy fan wouldn't care about this. This is how history gets changed. It starts with the little things. If this were 30 years ago, maybe I wouldn't care at all, but, as I said, with the internet people can now talk trash and have an instant audience of millions of other people.



November 30th 2011


Inside the Quality Street Gang
My Life in the Manchester Underworld

by Jimmy Donnelly

JIMMY DONNELLY IS an underworld legend. Known to all as
Jimmy the Weed, he has mixed with the most notorious
gangsters in Britain and the Costa del Crime in a criminal career
spanning five decades. He has been arrested on suspicion of
serious crimes including murder, drug supply, violence and fraud,
has faced numerous court trials and walked free from them all.

Most infamously, Jimmy was a key figure in the Quality Street
Gang, a mysterious group of ex-fighters, car dealers, scrap
merchants and businessmen. They socialised with the city's elite,
from footballers to rock stars and inspired the hit song,
'The Boys Are Back In Town.' They were also targeted by Greater
Manchester Police who suspected them of involvement in major
crime. In the mid-eighties they became embroiled in the
sensational Stalker Affair, which led to a national political scandal
and ultimately the resignation of the city's deputy chief constable.

In this explosive autobiography, Jimmy tells how he rose from
humble beginnings to own pubs, clubs, car pitches and massage
parlours, how he became the biggest illicit ticket agent in the
North, and his great friendship with numerous figures from the
worlds of crime, showbiz and sport, including the formidable
exboxer Jim Swords, the man the QSG grouped around.
He has seen and done it all: and tells it in unvarnished detail.

About the author:

JIMMY DONNELLY was born in Manchester in 1940 and worked
as a youth on Smithfield Market, where he made many of the
friends later dubbed the Quality Street Gang. He went on to own
numerous pubs, clubs and businesses and to be immortalised in
Thin Lizzy's 1976 rock anthem, 'Johnny the Fox Meets Jimmy the
Weed'. Now retired from crime, he lives quietly in the Ancoats
area of the city.

For more information visit Milo Books

UPDATE: February 2nd 2012

There has been a rumour circulating that the "third party" referred to in the following article about the newly discovered Phil Lynott tapes was none other than JIMMY DONNELLY (see separate acticle below about Jimmy and his new book).

I have been able to determine that this particular rumour is unfounded. Today I received the following email from the Publicist at Milo Books (publisher of Jimmy Donnelly's book "Inside The Quality Street Gang")

Hello James,

No, unfortunately Jimmy isn't the man behind the resurfaced Thin Lizzy recordings (much as we'd like him to be!)

But the book is going great guns thanks.

All the best,


'Lost' Thin Lizzy tapes resurface
26 years after Phil Lynott's death

The Belfast Telegraph
By Ken Sweeney
Monday, 2 January 2012

A treasure trove of tapes stashed away by Thin Lizzy frontman Phil Lynott will be released as a boxed set later this year.

Twenty six years after the Dublin rocker's death at the age of 36, more of his lost music will be heard by the public for the first time in June.

Shortly before he passed away in 1986, Mr Lynott gave 150 tapes to a third party for safekeeping. The cache of up to 700 songs has finally been released to record company Universal Music.

"This is an absolutely stunning find," Steve Hammonds, project manager behind the new Thin Lizzy box set, told the Irish Independent.

Click to read more.

Monday, March 15, 2004 7:30 PM


the email from Anthony sounds most plausible and i'd like to back it up with a quote from the sleeve of the 'johnny the fox' remastered uk cd written by stuart bailie of the 'new musical express' ...

"The resourceful character of Johnny The Fox is reckoned to be Phil himself, but the rival figure on the album has a more interesting history. Jimmy the Weed is a thinly disguised reference to Manchester hood called Jimmy the Weazel. He was associated with the Quality Street Gang, a posse who were fearfully regarded at the time.

'They were nice guys,' a friend of Phil's remembers, 'But they didn't do nice things.' Jimmy the Weazel was last spotted 'enjoying' himself in the Costa Del Sol."

hope that can help clear a few things up.


Sunday, February 08, 2004 3:59 PM


At the moment I am reading a book about the Manchester (England) gangs. It is a book about two certain districts: Cheetham Hill on the North side of the city and Moss Side on the South side of the city. I picked the book up due to the fact that I support Manchester City Football Club (not to be confused with the poor relations man united, small letters intended). City until recently played all the home matches in Moss Side and I thought it would be an interesting read.

The book was published in 2003 and has some interesting info. It speaks about the Whalley Range Hotel run by Phillip's mother and states that the track Johnny the Fox meets Jimmy the Weed was named after Jimmy "the weed" Donnelly who was a member of the infamous Quality Street Gang and a regular visitor to the hotel !!


James replies:

Interesting possible explanation, although I believe the actual name of the Hotel was the Clifton Grange Hotel, in Manchester.

Mon, 9 Jun 2003 13:46:05 -0700 (PDT)

Dear Sirs,

Over the years, it has been alleged to me that in the song Johnny the Fox meets Jimmy the Weed, that KSAN dj Richard Gossett was Johnny the Fox

and being one of the Hoodoo Rhythm Devils most well known fans that I (David M. Schantz) was Jimmy the Weed.

Thanks for your time.

David M. Schantz, a.k.a. "Slim Chance"

Can anyone shed any light on this?
If you can I'd love to hear from you. Thanks.

While I have made every effort to ensure the accuracy of this
information, I provide it "as is" for your information only.

If you know of any errors or omissions please contact me via e-mail.

Return to Thin Lizzy Discography

Return to my HomePage