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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
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

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all