To rock fans worldwide he is Slash the living legend, with more than 100 million album sales, not to mention a hard-drinking, drug-abusing life with Guns N' Roses. Ask for him in Stoke-on-Trent, however, and you might find he's better known as Saul, the boy who lived with his gran until he left for Los Angeles. As the mainstay of the band Guns N' Roses, he enjoyed fame and fortune as one of the world's best-known guitarists. Now, for the first time, the prodigal son is coming home.
Next Sunday, Slash will play a sold-out set in the town where he went to his first school. When news broke of the gig at the Victoria Hall in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, tickets sold out in less than two hours. For a man more used to packing out stadiums, the 1,500-capacity venue will feel more than a little cosy, and standing in the front row will be some of the people who remember the days when Slash called Stoke home.
Saul Hudson was born in Hampstead on 23 July 1965. His mother Ola was a costume designer who worked with pop royalty, including David Bowie; his father, Tony Hudson, was an artist. The couple travelled back and forth from Los Angeles where Ola made her living, so it was decided that young Saul should live with his grandparents, Sybil and Charles Hudson, in Consett Road, Blurton.
"He came to Blurton to live with his gran because he needed an education," recalls Ian Hudson, Slash's uncle, who is one of 12 of the rock star's "Stoke clan" who will be guests of honour at his homecoming gig.
Saul attended Sutherland Primary School. Even at a young age, he had the temperament and the hairstyle of a rock god in the making, not to mention an interest in reptiles that would become one of his trademarks.
"He was a very energetic young lad and more than a few times called into the headmistress's office at school," Ian, who used to babysit Saul, said yesterday. "He wore denim trousers and a corduroy jacket and had this thick head of hair, so girls were keen on him and the lads right jealous. But he was a gentle, loving, nice boy."
"I am so looking forward to the gig," said Ann Espley, a cousin of Slash's father who used to take Saul on bus rides into town. "I have VIP tickets so will get to meet him backstage after. I last saw him when he very little. He was a very cute child, with beautiful hair, but quite boisterous."
Slash moved to LA at the age of six to live with his mother, but has fond memories of his Stoke days. In his autobiography he writes of being centre of his grandparents' attention. "I didn't see my English relatives again until Guns N' Roses became well known," he wrote. "When we played Wembley stadium in 1992, the Hudson clan came out in force: backstage before the show I witnessed one of my uncles, my cousin and my grandfather down every drop of liquor in our dressing room."
Additional reporting by Natalie Laurence