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.

News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
Voices
A Siberian Tiger
voices
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Senior SAP MM Consultant, £50,000 - £60,000, Birmingham

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Senior SAP MM C...

SAP BW BO

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP BW BO - 6 MONTHS - LONDON London (Gr...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried