ROCK and rollers have always been creatures of the night.

The stereotype of them keeping busy during the small hours by partying with groupies certainly fits for most.

But Wilko Johnson, who was the cult lead guitarist in trailblazing Canvey band Dr Feelgood, is proving there are other reasons to stay up late.

Wilko is excited about astronomy and there are even those who would like to see him take over from Patrick Moore on long-running BBC show the Sky at Night.

The musician, who wrote most of Dr Feelgood’s songs at their peak in the mid-Seventies, said it was the ideal hobby to fit in with his unconventional sleeping pattern.

He said: “I’m the sort of person who tends to stay up all night anyway.

“You can gaze at the stars from dusk until dawn and there’s always something of interest.

“Anyone who doesn’t get a buzz from seeing the night sky has a hole in their soul.”

Wilko, who is from Canvey, but now lives in Westcliff, first became interested in astronomy through a fascination with the planet Saturn.

He said: “If someone asked you to create a beautiful object with just spherical shapes, you could not have thought of anything lovelier than Saturn.”

While it is possible to see the planet with the naked eye, you need a telescope to see its distinctive rings, which is part of the reason why Wilko has built an observatory on top of his house He explained: “That’s the reason I first started using a telescope.

“I got such a big kick the first time I saw Saturn’s rings, and it has gone from there.”

Wilko, 62, admitted he was not particularly interested in science at school.

He preferred more artistic subjects such as English, which he taught at school in his short career before becoming a rock star.

That is why stargazing fascinates him from more of a philosophical than mathematical perspective.

He said: “I think there’s a fine line with astronomy, between the scientific and profound philosophical questions it makes you think about.

“For example, I’m an atheist, so I don’t believe human consciousness survives death.

“My wife died six years ago and we were together for 40 years.

“We were teenage sweethearts, and I still haven’t got over losing her.

“Sometimes, when I’m looking up at the night sky, I think it goes on and on for millions and millions of light years. Yet, she is nowhere in all that vast space.”

The guitarist’s two sons have also now left home.

He said: “Basically, I live alone now, which is quite good for astronomy.

“Since I bought my first telescope, I keep moving on to bigger and bigger equipment.

“I can spend hours up there looking around. The only problem is with light pollution, which is terrible at night in Westcliff.

“I’m thinking of moving a bit further out in the country, to somewhere like Great Wakering, where it is a lot darker.”

There are moves for Wilko’s knowledge to be shared with the rest of the nation after fans got together a petition for him to replace Patrick Moore on the iconic BBC programme Sky at Night.

It came after Wilko was seen talking passionately about astronomy in the film about Dr Feelgood, Oil City Confidential.

Wilko is touched. He said: “I think the petition started as a bit of a joke at the BBC, after someone saw me in the film.

“Just because I blather on about it, people think I’m an expert, when the truth is I’m more an enthusiastic amateur. It does blow my mind though.”

Wilko said he has enjoyed being back in the limelight since the Dr Feelgood film, directed by Julian Temple, came out.

He said: “Now, I’m doing all these interviews, which takes me back to the old days.

“I have a feeling anything could happen, which is quite a nice feeling at my time of life.”