Thursday, 22 January 2009

Mickey Gee - RIP


THE GODFATHER OF THE ROCKABILLY TAFIA

Today the world lost one of the great rock ‘n’ roll guitarists when Mickey Gee passed away after suffering from emphysema. It’s a sad day for music in general and Wales and rockabilly in particular. His passing will probably go criminally unnoticed by the outside world but for us lucky enough to have appreciated him, the loss is immense. Born in Cardiff in the 40’s, Mickey Gee was like a generation of teenagers who fell in love with the guitarists from across the pond like Carl Perkins.

The 60’s saw him backing Tom Jones as part of the Squires, as well as one of Lulu’s Luvvers and he even had a spell with Joe Cocker. Don’t blame him for that though – you gotta pay the bills! He was influential in the sounds of Love Sculpture and Rockpile and sang and picked for the tragically short-lived Welsh band Memphis Bend. Everyone will have heard his playing on the early Shakin’ Stevens hits and who hasn’t grooved to his hypnotic playing on Dave Edmunds’ I Hear You Knockin’. Highlights of his career had to be the wonderful Carl Perkins tv special where Mickey traded licks with the likes of Clapton and George Harrison and Dave Edmunds’ New Years Eve MTV Party as 1986 turned into 1987 with Edmunds and Gee trading licks with Brian Setzer and Carl Perkins. I can’t remember what I was doing that night but I bet you everyone at that gig remembers. Always so unassuming, he just stood to the side and played in his easy, flowing style – steeped in the tradition of the rock ‘n’ roll he loved. This guy was a genius, the Welsh flags should be flying at half mast tonight. Rest In Peace Mickey, those that believed, truly believed. If you were Dave Edmunds’ favourite guitarist, that was good enough for me.

MEMPHIS BEND – GOOD ROCKIN' TONITE
UAS 30036 1977

Musicians: Micky Gee - Guitars,Vocals. Lincoln Carr – Bass. Tom Riley – Drums, Vocals. Additional musicians: B.J.Cole - Pedal Steel Guitar. Mick Weaver – Piano.
John Jenkins – Piano. John David – Bass.

Produced by the band and John David at the legendary Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, South Wales, Good Rockin’ Tonite is one of the finest tributes that a British band has paid to the American originators. A mix of straight ahead rockabilly and some Hank Williams’ covers, the band play with great respect for the originals but with their own splash of flair. Mickey Gee is astounding throughout, with flying fingers making new classics out of old favourites Red Hot and If You Can't Rock Me. Sun pervs can drool at the covers of Mystery Train and one the albums best numbers, a high-stepping wade through the Big River that Cash would've loved. If you think Jerry Lee's Folsom Prison Blues was funky (and it was!) you'll be changing your boxers during this one. There's a real pep-in-the-step to Hank's Setting The Woods On Fire where Mickey and BJ Cole sound like everything Nashville wishes it was. I love BR549 but they can only dream of being this good. I think everyone would agree that the glorious version of Tennessee is better than Carl Perkins’ original, just listen to that guitar – it’s splashed in more Tennessee than the lyrics.

Shaun Mather
22 January 2009.

3 comments:

Keith said...

I first saw Mickey play in a band formed by Tommy Riley called Arthur Mellow. This was the late 60's. They played at Cardiff Students Union to a sparse crowd. I was knocked out. Mickey and Tommy introduced me to a whole musical landscape of rockabilly and country. After Arthur Mellow they formed Memphis Bend and I was lucky enough to see them many many times at the New Moon club and head out on the road with them as roadie, fan, doorman - whatever was needed. My salary was to hear them play and learn from Mickey the high art of the understated solo and Tommy the fundamentals of a rhythm section sharp and in the groove. I owe them a massive debt for a musical education.
I am deeply saddened by Mickeys passing. He was a great guitarist and a gentlemen. Thinking of Mickey brings back many memories of the New Moon Club and the nights we all spent watching in awe as he hit the high notes and rocked the joint. My condolences to his family. Train kept a rollin. Keith. NYC.

Siônnyn said...

Memphis Bend were brilliant! I was learning the guitar then, and what I learned from Mickey was that it was not the notes you put in that were important, but the ones you leave out!

Robin said...

Hi there, my dad's a huge Dave Edmunds and Mickey Gee fan, and has been trying to get hold of 'Good Rockin' Tonite' for years - but can't seem to find it for love nor money... any idea where I'd be able to buy it as MP3's for him? not the same, I know, but better than not having it in any format! Many thanks, Robin