British Pensioner Rocks Out on YouTube

At 2.5 million views and counting, 79-year-old Peter Oakley is one of the hottest acts on YouTube. The widower and former British army radar technician is also a fledgling musician with the senior citizens' rock band, The Zimmers.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

The Internet's most recognizable video stars tend to be barely above drinking age. Lonelygirl15 who shared the details of her fictional personal life and Aleksey Vayner, the Yale student who created a video resume that showed up his weightlifting.

Over the last year though some of YouTube's most popular videos are from the 79-year-old British man - two and a half million views and counting.

(Soundbite of YouTube's geriatric1927 video)

Mr. PETER OAKLEY a.k.a geriatric1927 (79-year-old YouTube user; Member, The Zimmers): I got addicted to YouTube and it's a fascinating place to go to see all the wonderful videos that young people have produced. So I thought I'd have a go at doing one myself.

WERTHEIMER: Peter Oakley goes by the screen name geriatric1927. He's a widower, a former radar technician in the British forces and a fledgling musician. He belongs to a senior citizens' rock band called The Zimmers.

Peter Oakley joins us by telephone from his home in Derbyshire in England. Welcome, Mr. Oakley.

Mr. OAKLEY: Hello. Thank you.

WERTHEIMER: I wonder what attracted you to YouTube?

Mr. OAKLEY: I've been interested in computers for quite a number of years. I was doing family slideshows and I'm interested in graphic design. I thought they got a bit boring and I thought there's way I could make them a little more interesting by introducing some video content, which at the time I knew absolutely nothing about. I found the YouTube site really by accident. I think the most interesting thing that's happened to me as a result of being on YouTube is this offshoot where I've been involved with the Zimmers group.

WERTHEIMER: The Zimmers, the band?

Mr. OAKLEY: Yes.

WERTHEIMER: Let me just say, by way of explanation, that Zimmer is something that we in the United States would call a walker. Is that right?

Mr. OAKLEY: That's right, yes.

WERTHEIMER: That's a very funny name for a band.

Mr. OAKLEY: Well, it is because we are in fact very old people. I'm not the eldest but I think the youngest is in their 70s and the eldest is a very dear lady who's 99. And so we are a group of 40 old people in this rock group, yes.

WERTHEIMER: The band recently released a single. It's a cover of The Who's "My Generation." You can hear it on iTunes, but we can play a bit of it here.

(Soundbite of song "My Generation")

Mr. ALFIE CARRETA (Lead singer, The Zimmers): (Singing) People tried to put us down.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Talking 'bout my generation.

Mr. CARRETA: (Singing) Just because we get around.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Talking 'bout my generation.

Mr. CARRETA: (Singing) Things they do look awful cold.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Talking 'bout my generation.

Mr. CARRETA: (Singing) I hope I die before I get old.

WERTHEIMER: How old is your lead singer?

Mr. OAKLEY: The lead singer is named Alfie and he is 90 years old.

WERTHEIMER: Tell me about the recording session. How did that go?

Mr. OAKLEY: Well, we were all gathered together and we did it at Abbey Road Studios, which is a very famous place in London where anybody who has ever been in the music world has performed.

WERTHEIMER: Notably the Beatles.

Mr. OAKLEY: And then they just asked for a volunteer to do the verse of the song and Alfie was pushed forward and that is what he has done and he has become a star.

WERTHEIMER: So do you play weddings? Do you play events?

Mr. OAKLEY: Well, no. It all involved with three television programs that were produced over here by a producer called Tim Samuels, and he's called the programs "Power to the People." The third of the program, we're looking at disadvantaged old people in old people's homes and he came up with this wonderful idea of us, old people, making our protest by making this record saying that we are here, we are old, we have a voice, we will not be shoved aside. And I think this is an interesting point. When we first met up, we didn't know each other, of course, and we were just old people. When we met up again a few weeks or months later, I swear everybody had reduced their age by 10 years.

WERTHEIMER: So rock and roll is keeping you young, huh?

Mr. OAKLEY: Absolutely, yes.

WERTHEIMER: I guess YouTube has a little bit to do with, for you?

Mr. OAKLEY: Yes, it has. I mean, I am - will be 80 soon. But I am a widower so I live alone and was - I don't think I've ever been bored. I certainly am not bored now. I have more things to do than I can handle.

WERTHEIMER: Peter Oakley who is otherwise known as geriatric1927 on YouTube. He's also in the senior rock band The Zimmers.

Mr. Oakley, thank you so much.

Mr. OAKLEY: You're very welcome. Thank you.

(Soundbite of music)

WERTHEIMER: And this is WEEKEND EDITION. Congratulations and love to the whole family, Daddy Scott returns next week. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

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