Mickey Gee: Prolific guitarist who worked with Tom Jones and Joe Cocker

Something of an unsung hero, Mickey Gee was called "the best guitarist to come out of Wales" by several of the singers and musicians he worked with over the last four decades.

Gee started out by backing Tom Jones – then still using the Tommy Scott pseudonym and fronting the Senators – in the early Sixties, and went on to collaborate with Dave Edmunds, most notably playing the distinctive lead-guitar licks on his fellow Welshman's inspired reworking of Smiley Lewis's "I Hear You Knocking", which topped the British charts in 1970. Gee also recorded with Shakin' Stevens, another Welsh artist steeped in the rock'n'roll tradition, and provided the concise and crisp solos on the vocalist's breakthrough hit, "Marie, Marie", and the No. 1 singles "This Ole House", "Green Door" and "Oh Julie" in the early Eighties.

In a long career, Gee also played with Joe Cocker, Andy Fairweather Low, Carl Perkins, Geraint Watkins, the British rockabilly revivalist band The Jets, and Willie and the Poor Boys, the good-time supergroup put together by Bill Wyman. A rather unassuming type, Gee preferred to let his Fender Telecaster do the talking for him. He occasionally played solo shows in his native Wales, sometimes with the bassist Martin Ace and the drummer Terry Williams, of Man fame, for company.

Born in 1943, Gee was only 21 when he replaced the original lead guitarist, Mike Roberts, in the Senators, the Cardiff beat group led by the bassist Vernon Hopkins. Gee had no qualms about quitting his job in a Cardiff brewery to move to London at the behest of the band's manager, Gordon Mills, who rechristened the band Tom Jones and the Playboys – and then the Squires – and focused on promoting the lead singer with the big voice.

For a while, despite a support slot with the Rolling Stones at the 100 Club, they all lived in a two-room flat in London's Ladbroke Grove, and struggled on £1 a day each. "It wasn't very hip to be Welsh in those days," Gee recalled. In August 1964, they issued their debut single – the over-produced "Chills and Fever" – on Decca Records, but it sank without trace. However, Mills had been commissioned to write a song for Sandie Shaw and came up with "It's Not Unusual", which the Squires demoed. After Shaw rejected the song, Mills managed to convince the management at Decca that this was the track to launch Tom Jones as a solo artist.

Eventually re-recorded without the Squires, "It's Not Unusual" duly topped the British charts in March 1965. Jones replaced P.J. Proby on a UK tour with Cilla Black, and from that point on very much treated the Squires like his backing band. Gee left, having recommended Dave Wendells as his replacement, and went back to Cardiff where he mentored Amen Corner, featuring Fairweather Low on vocals. By early 1968, he had joined Joe Cocker and helped to develop the arrangement of the Beatles' "With a Little Help from My Friends", which became the vocalist's signature song, although it was Jimmy Page who played on the hit recording.

The following year, Gee began a long and fruitful association with Edmunds. Both were great admirers of the finger-picking style pioneered by the American guitarists Merle Travis and Chet Atkins as well as Elvis Presley's sidemen James Burton and Scotty Moore. The pair spurred each other on to reproduce as many of their heroes' classic guitar licks and fills as they could.

Gee proved an able lieutenant to Edmunds, assisting him as he switched from the flamboyant power trio Love Sculpture to producing records under his own name. When Edmunds decided to re-record "I Hear You Knocking" in the style of Wilbert Harrison's "Let's Stick Together", Gee was on hand to play lead on the worldwide hit. On subsequent solo releases, Edmunds favoured the multi-tracking approach and played most of the instruments himself, but couldn't resist trading licks with Gee on "Pick Axe Rag", the B-side of the 1973 Top 5 single "Born to Be with You", a Phil Spector-like cover of the Chordettes' 1956 hit.

Edmunds and Gee also contributed a suitably festive "Jingle Bells/Run Rudolph Run" to Christmas at the Patti, the double 10in LP recorded in Swansea in December 1972 by the Flying Aces, Duck Deluxe, Help Yourself and Man, and released the following year. They collaborated again after Edmunds' tenure with Rockpile in the late Seventies: Gee featured prominently on albums like Twangin... (1981) and D.E. 7th (1982).

Gee first worked with Stevens when he helped to complete I'm No J.D., the second album released by Shakin' Stevens and the Sunsets in 1971, and was part of the team behind the singer's huge success in the late Seventies and early Eighties. With B.J. Cole and Mick Weaver, Gee also formed the short-lived Memphis Bend, successfully blending rockabilly and country, and recorded the Good Rocking Tonite album issued on Rockfield Records in 1977, on which he also sang lead.

An exciting, incisive, inventive player, Gee used a thumb-pick, but no effects or pedals, and could recreate parts he'd heard on early rock 'n' roll records perfectly. There are stories of Atkins or Perkins being amazed at his talent for reproducing some of their solos note by note in front of them, Perkins in particular stating: "When I recorded that, I double-tracked it and you've just played it live without missing a note!"

Taking part in Blue Suede Shoes: a Rockabilly Session, a concert honouring Carl Perkins in 1985, proved to be one of Gee's finest moments: he held his own in the stellar company of Edmunds, George Harrison and Eric Clapton. A guitarist's guitarist, Gee also gigged and recorded with Willie and the Poor Boys, contributing his own composition "Revenue Man (White Lightning)" to their eponymous 1985 debut album.

"He was a great guitarist," said Stevens of Gee. "He played on all of my early records and toured with me. The guitar solos he recorded were very important; they weren't just filling. His solos were and are very memorable. He was very shy, a man of not too many words, but a great talent. He played on many hit records and I'm glad he was on mine. His fantastic solos are a very recognisable part of the tracks."

Michael Gee, guitarist, singer, songwriter: born Cardiff, 31 December 1943; died Cardiff, 21 January 2009.


Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
The last great picture - Winner 'Black and White' and overall 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year'
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella

Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - SThree Group - Bristol

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: SThree Group has been...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - SThree Group - Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: SThree Group has been...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Computer Futures

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - SThree - £18k Starting Salary

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: SThree Group has been...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London