It has been more than 30 years since the Warratahs played their first gig at the Cricketers Arms in Wellington.

Frontman Barry Saunders says their first song of the night was T-Bone Burnett's Drivin' Wheel and that is why the band have chosen it as the title for their newly-released 24 track compilation.

"Even though I didn't write it, it's a defining song and always an audience favourite," he says.

Drivin' Wheel is also the name of the band's coming tour when they will play at Whanganui's Lucky Bar on September 28.

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Saunders-penned songs have become deeply embedded in the national psyche since the Warratahs released their first album The Only Game in Town in 1988.

The band's original line-up included legendary Taranaki musician Wayne Mason who played the piano and co-wrote one of the band's most popular songs Hands of My Heart with Saunders.

A four-piece for many years now, the current Warratahs line-up is Nik Brown (violin and mandolin), Mike Knapp (drums), Nick Theobold (bass and vocals) with Saunders on guitar, harmonica and vocals.

Saunders says country music was not so cool when the Warratahs began so it was gratifying to grow a large following that included people who had not been previous fans of the genre.

"I'm amazed that I meet so many people who saw us play at the Cricketers in the 80s because it never seemed like the audiences were that big."

As well as continuing to write, record and tour with the Warratahs during the past three decades, Saunders has released solo recordings and in recent years he has worked on a number of collaborations with the new breed of country artists.

"I have just finished recording with Delaney Davidson and it has been great performing live with him, Tami Neilson, The Eastern and Marlon Williams in recent times.

"Tami and The Eastern have performed covers of my songs and I loved what they did with them."

Saunders says a Whanganui audience can expect to hear songs from the Warratahs vast songbook, favourite covers and a brand new song Fast Train.

The Warratahs - Lucky Bar + Kitchen, 53 Wilson St, Friday, September 28, Tickets $33.75 from eventfinda.co.nz
Win a copy of the Drivin' Wheel CD and a double pass to the Whanganui performance by answering the following question . . .

Where did the Warratahs play their first gig?

Send your answer to liz.wylie@wanganuichronicle.co.nz or deliver to the Wanganui Chronicle at 100 Guyton St by Friday, September 14.