In the fall of 1980, new Stanford grad student Steve Wolff, a punk/ New Wave-loving Londoner, had a big problem. Mega investor George Soros shorted the UK pound before his UK stipend arrived, leaving him with little money. Before panic set in, he turned to his guitar, surprised that no other Stanford bands played the punk/ new wave music popular in London. He found, at parties and via a bulletin board ad, other interested musicians. Dan Zalles was one of the original few and in spite of being from the opposite ends of the rock music spectrum (Grateful Dead jam bands), the 2 of them became band-mates, friends, fellow writers and later housemates, blending their different styles into a unique (for 1980 Stanford) sound. The band rapidly learned accessible mostly Brit-inspired covers from the likes of U2, The Clash, plus some metal, playing frat and dorm parties to generate much needed cash and have fun outside of the normal Stanford Grad student experience.
So… the name. Steve was used to the metric system and had no idea what BWG was when it came up in an Engineering class. When he was told it was an archaic measure of wire diameter and mentioned it to the band; they loved it and BWG became official. In its 4 years, BWG went through a number of incarnations before becoming a cohesive, originals-focused act with bassist Adrian Roscher (who came to Stanford from NYC, where he had been the bassist in punk-rock trio Powertools, a Columbia University-based band that once opened for the infamous Plasmatics, was the regular opening act for Johnny Thunders at Max's Kansas City, and played CBGB and the other legendary NYC punk rock venues in the late 70's and early 80's) and drummer Sholom Ackelsberg, who heralds from the same New Jersey high school as E-Street band drummer Max Weinberg. Sholom played with various other Stanford bands including Black's Beach and Wildrose, prior to joining BWG. Former Who drummer Keith Moon was reported to have said of Sholom, "I thought I was a sloppy drummer; but that odd bloke has me beat."
With Dan, Steve and Adrian each writing songs and providing vocals and Sholom laying down the steady beat, the band had a diverse set of originals and over time expanded its reach beyond Stanford, playing their originals at clubs, on radio stations and even on nascent San Francisco Cable TV. Fan interest drove them to record some originals at the Music Annex recording studio in Menlo Park. Graduation and relocation for successful careers led to BWG’s demise, but didn’t end their love of playing music. They all continue to perform in their respective locales in parallel with successful careers – all leveraged from the fun and skills they nurtured while playing for British Wire Gauge. Thank you, George Soros!