John Mayhew: Drummer who played with the fledgling Genesis on 'Trespass'

As one of the biggest British groups ever, Genesis have sold in the region of 130 million albums worldwide. Both the original vocalist Peter Gabriel and the drummer-turned-lead-singer, Phil Collins, have enjoyed hugely successful solo careers, while the keyboard player Tony Banks and the guitarist Mike Rutherford, the two mainstays of the group, have also reaped the benefits of the work the band did in the late Sixties and throughout the Seventies. The drummer John Mayhew was only with them between August 1969 and July 1970, but he contributed to the recording of Trespass, the group's pastorally tinged second album, and their first for the Charisma label.

While Trespass didn't chart when it was first released in October 1970, it helped to establish Genesis as the most original band of the progressive rock era. The album's tour de force track, "The Knife", in particular, became a concert favourite, while gentler songs like "Looking for Someone", "Stagnation" and "Dusk" have endured well.

Although he had more experience of gigging when he joined, Mayhew wasn't on the same wavelength as his band-mates and made way for Collins in 1970. In recent years, as Genesis reissued their back catalogue and compiled box-sets featuring early material that Mayhew appeared on, their former drummer enjoyed something of a windfall by way of royalties cheques. He also had a brief, belated taste of the limelight, appearing at Genesis fan conventions, including one in London where he was reunited with Anthony Phillips, a founder member of the group, while in 2006 he sat in and played "The Knife" with the Genesis tribute band ReGenesis.

Mayhew was born in Ipswich in 1947. His father was in the army and his parents saw little of each other during the Second World War and later separated. He took up the drums at the age of sixteen and played in a succession of local groups in Suffolk before moving to London.

When he was interviewed in 2006, Mayhew corrected the canard that he was recruited by Genesis through an ad in Melody Maker. "I just left my telephone number with people all over London," he explained. "I came home – I was working as a carpenter in the West End building this boutique – and my girlfriend said: 'A guy called Mike Rutherford has called you. He's from a band called Genesis.' He called back at six o'clock. I had never heard of Genesis before, but I had the impression that it might be something good."

Mayhew went to meet the group in Surrey, where the audition proved a formality. He was actually the third drummer that Genesis used. Their school friend Chris Stewart played on their first two singles in 1967, while John Silver drummed on their From Genesis to Revelation debut, recorded in 1968 and released by Decca the next year.

Mayhew's tenure coincided with the group's transition from wannabe songwriters to professional, performing musicians. They spent several months rehearsing material at a cottage owned by the parents of the unofficial sixth member and road manager, Richard Macphail. They played universities and colleges, testing out the songs that would eventually be on Trespass, and supported Atomic Rooster, Deep Purple and Fairport Convention. At the beginning of 1970, they signed to Charisma, the label run by Tony Stratton-Smith, who proposed putting them on a weekly wage of £15 until Mayhew pointed out that they could manage perfectly well on £10. They recorded their first BBC radio session, as well as four tracks for an aborted TV documentary about the painter Michael Jackson which were recently unearthed, remastered and included on the Genesis 1970-1975 box-set released at the end of last year.

Phillips suffered from chronic stage fright and, when he decided to leave in the summer of 1970, the other three rang the changes and asked Mayhew to step aside as well. "I just technically wasn't good enough, that's the truth of the matter," admitted the drummer, who had fond memories of his eleven months with Genesis. "No band that I had ever been in was like Genesis, so I was always trying to figure out where they were coming from. It was a stylistic metamorphosis I had to go through.

"But no, I don't have any big regrets. It was very hard work, but it was one of the best years of my life. We just rehearsed and wrote songs and went for walks. We went over the songs again and again and again. We lived like monks in the cottage."

Following his departure from Genesis, he played in several bands, including stints playing in Germany and Poland. He fetched up in Norway and then moved to New Zealand and Australia where, in 1982, he made the decision to stop playing the drums and concentrate on making furniture.

Five years ago, Mayhew returned to the UK and settled in Glasgow. He had a history of alcoholism and died of a heart-related condition just as his older brother, Paul, launched a search to locate him last month.

"We were very sorry to hear about the death of John Mayhew, who had only recently appeared back in our lives after over thirty years," said Tony Banks. "His time with the group was short, but it was a very crucial period and his contribution was very important. How we must have appeared to him, I hate to think. We had all been to the same school, so we were a very closed unit, and we were very inexperienced. John was a bit older than us and had played live in the group Steamhammer, so he had some knowledge of what was expected on stage.

"He was a very solid drummer, but not really a writer: a lot of his parts came from the rest of us, particularly from Ant. This was really why we decided that if we were to continue after Ant left, we had to find a more creative drummer, a hard decision because by this time John had become a friend."

Pierre Perrone

John Mayhew, drummer, carpenter: born Ipswich 27 March 1947; twice married; died Glasgow 26 March 2009.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Account Manager - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing, ambitious, en...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future
Berlusconi's world of sleaze: The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM

Berlusconi's world of sleaze

The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM
Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Films and theme parks are just the beginning. Disney believes its control of the now decades-old franchise can bring in merchandise and marketing millions for years to come
Could the golden age of the gaming arcade ever be revived in the era of the Xbox?

Could gaming arcades be revived?

The days when coin-ops were the only way to play the latest video games are gone. But a small band of enthusiasts are keeping the button-pushing dream alive
Edinburgh Fringe 2015: The 'tampon tax' has inspired a new wave of female comedians to reclaim period jokes

Heard the one about menstruation?

Yes, if you have been at the Fringe, where period pieces are taking centre stage