Obituary: Gypie Mayo

Guitarist with Dr Feelgood who co-wrote their Top 10 single ‘Milk and Alcohol’

When the electrifying guitarist Wilko Johnson left Dr Feelgood in 1977, the pub rockers who lit the punk rock fuse looked to be in serious trouble. From their inception in 1974, Johnson had been a mesmerising foil to the manic lead vocalist Lee Brilleaux, and the group’s primary songwriter. Yet his eventual replacement John “Gypie” Mayo rose to the seemingly impossible task of replacing the guitarist whose staccato playing and stage presence had influenced the Stranglers, the Sex Pistols and the Jam.

A gifted and creative player, Mayo proved an excellent addition to the line-up with Brilleaux and the other two original members, bassist John B Sparks – “Sparko” – and drummer John Martin, “The Big Figure”. He could help Dr Feelgood perform the seminal rhythm and blues material from their first three studio albums that their fanbase expected but also proved a sterling contributor on the songwriting front as they made headway into the singles charts.

His five-year tenure coincided with something of a purple patch for the band as they scored their first Top 40 hit in autumn 1977 with the adrenaline-fuelled “She’s A Wind Up”, written by all four members, and reached the Top 10 in early 1979 with the short, sharp, morning-after tale of “Milk And Alcohol”, co-written by Nick Lowe. With his feather cut hairstyle and his penchant for alternating between a Gibson 335 and a Fender Stratocaster, Mayo cut a striking figure and was eventually accepted by the group’s hardcore fans.

However, he left in 1981, blaming the punishing touring schedule and a need “to move on musically.” In the mid-1990s he joined another legendary band, the Yardbirds, and again delivered on the expectations of thousands of guitar aficionados eager to hear the repertoire associated with the band’s erstwhile guitar heroes, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page.

Assembled by two founder members, drummer Jim McCarty and rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja, the reformed Yardbirds became mainstays of the international touring circuit. In 2003 they released Birdland, an album combining original material and revivals of several of their hits, on which Mayo more than held his own alongside stellar guests such as Beck, Brian May, Slash, Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. He left in 2005 and moved to Bath, where he taught guitar and played the occasional restaurant gig.

Born John Philip Cawthra in London in 1951, he was one of many teenagers enthralled by the Shadows and the Beatles. At 13 he bought a cheap Russian-made acoustic guitar, and began playing along to Beatles and Rolling Stones records. Though he was basically self-taught, he also drew on the classical music he had listened to with his father and fell under the spell of Peter Green. “I saw him play in 1967, just before he quit John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, and my life was never quite the same after that,” he said of the guitarist who made his reputation with Fleetwood Mac in the late 1960s. “I had never fully realised just how expressive and exciting guitar playing could be. I also saw Jeff Beck, Mick Taylor and David O’List [of The Nice]. I’m sure they all influenced me to some degree.”

Not academically-minded, he was expelled from school and worked in a printing shop for three years. In 1969 he took up the stage name John Mayo and joined a blues band, White Mule. Over the next few years he played wildly contrasting styles of music, ranging from psychedelia and funk via traditional Irish, a versatile grounding that would stand him in good stead when he was recruited into Dr Feelgood.

Accounts differ as to whether Johnson was pushed or quit after arguing with Brilleaux over the inclusion of the Lew Lewis composition “Lucky Seven” on Sneakin’ Suspicion, the Feelgoods’ third studio album recorded at Rockfield Studios in Wales. By the time it had reached the Top 10 in June 1977, they had done a few concerts with the Irish guitarist Henry McCullough, of Wings fame, but were looking for a permanent replacement. Mayo jumped at the chance.

“I’d had enough of obscurity and they were high-profile at the time,” he said. “My main memory of that period is amazement that I had teamed up with such an unique and unusual bunch of guys. All the bands I’d been in were very earnest about playing music. The Feelgoods, on the other hand, seemed to regard playing as pure fun. They didn’t take themselves too seriously, which is why people loved them.”

Given the surfeit of Johns in the band and his tendency to complain about minor ailments, Brilleaux observed that the new recruit always seemed to have “the gyp” and the “Gypie” nickname stuck. Mayo made his bow on the album Be Seeing You, named after The Prisoner cult TV series catchphrase which the hard-working band had made their own. Produced by Lowe, it contained not only “She’s A Wind Up” but also a barnstorming version of the Otis Clay soul standard “Baby Jane” which inexplicably missed the charts.

The band’s headline tour of the UK in autumn 1977 showed they had lost none of their urgency and had arguably increased their pulling power with the punk crowd. Fresh from producing Blondie’s first two albums, Richard Gottehrer helmed Private Practice, their next album, which included the Mickey Jupp song “Down At The Doctors” as well as “Milk And Alcohol” and a wonderful cover of ‘Night Time’, the ’60s garage rock classic Gottehrer had co-written when in the Strangeloves. The guitarist also excelled on the concert recording As It Happens, released in June 1979, their last album to make the charts, and the next two studio albums, Let It Roll and A Case Of The Shakes, the latter reuniting them with Nick Lowe.

Mayo was replaced by Johnny “Guitar” Crippen of the Count Bishops. Following the departure of both Sparko and The Big Figure, Brilleaux fronted various Dr Feelgood line-ups until his death in April 1994. The group has since continued under the auspices of manager Chris Fenwick.

Between his tenures with Dr. Feelgood and the Yardbirds, Mayo played with the Inmates, Geno Washington and Pete Gage. In January 2007 he participated in a session with the Barcodes for the Paul Jones blues show on Radio 2. He told the Dr Feelgood website he’d like to be “remembered as an inventive, tasteful and exciting guitar player.” He certainly will be.

John Philip Cawthra, (“Gypie” Mayo), guitarist and songwriter: born London 24 July 1951; married Lesley (one son); died Bath 23 October 2013.

News
people
News
people
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
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

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence