Mickey Gee

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Dubbed "the best guitarist ever to come out of Wales" by BBC Radio, Mickey Gee remains best remembered for his inspired collaboration with Dave Edmunds, lending his virtuoso fingerpicking approach to…
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Dubbed "the best guitarist ever to come out of Wales" by BBC Radio, Mickey Gee remains best remembered for his inspired collaboration with Dave Edmunds, lending his virtuoso fingerpicking approach to the smash "I Hear You Knocking." Born in Cardiff on December 31, 1943, Gee was working in a local brewery when he was asked to relocate to London and join beat group the Senators -- soon after his arrival, manager Gordon Mills rechristened the act Tom Jones & the Playboys in honor of its charismatic, powerhouse singer. After another name change, this time to the Squires, the band supported the Rolling Stones at the 100 Club and in August 1964 issued its Decca Records debut single "Chills and Fever," which attracted scant attention. Around the same time, Mills was commissioned to compose a song for singer Sandie Shaw -- the Squires demoed the resulting tune, titled "It's Not Unusual," and when Shaw's management turned it down, Mills convinced Decca that it was the perfect vehicle to introduce Jones as a solo act. Re-recorded without the Squires' involvement and released in January 1965, "It's Not Unusual" topped the U.K. pop charts two months later and launched Jones' decades-long career. Without their singer, the remaining Squires parted ways, and Gee returned to South Wales to play the local club circuit. He also mentored the up-and-coming Cardiff pop group Amen Corner.

Gee came back to London in 1968 to join Joe Cocker's Grease Band, collaborating with the blue-eyed soul shouter on an arrangement of the Beatles' "With a Little Help from My Friends." The song soon emerged as Cocker's signature, but Gee's tenure with the group proved brief, and Jimmy Page instead contributed guitar to Cocker's hit recording of the tune. Gee next teamed with Edmunds on the heels of the singer/guitarist's stint with the blues-rock trio Love Sculpture -- both men shared a deep admiration for the fingerpicked guitar style pioneered by American icons Merle Travis, Chet Atkins, and James Burton, and when Edmunds recorded his 1970 cover of the Smiley Lewis R&B classic "I Hear You Knocking," Gee was a natural to lend its memorable lead guitar intro. "I Hear You Knocking" topped the British charts that Christmas season and reached the U.S. Top Five as well. The song was recorded at Monmouth's fledgling Rockfield Studios, and in the years to follow Gee was a session fixture there, in 1971 contributing to I'm No J.D., the second album by neo-rockabilly act Shakin' Stevens. He and Stevens reunited frequently in the years to follow, reaching their creative and commercial zenith in the early '80s when Stevens enjoyed an unexpected run of chart success via smash hits like "This Ole House," "Green Door," and "Oh Julie."

In 1977 Gee teamed with fellow session veterans B.J. Cole and Mick Weaver to form the short-lived Memphis Bend, paying homage to their rockabilly and country heroes with the album Good Rockin' Tonite. Although he also assumed lead vocal duties on the session, Gee was by all accounts a humble and quiet man who eschewed the limelight as much as possible. In 1981 he resumed his partnership with Edmunds for the album Twangin', followed a year later by D.E. 7th. During the 1985 concert event Blue Suede Shoes: A Rockabilly Session, honoring the great Carl Perkins, Gee more than held his own in company including Edmunds, George Harrison, and Eric Clapton. That same year he joined Willie and the Poor Boys, the all-star pickup band led by Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman, and even contributed his own "Revenue Man (White Lightning)" to their self-titled debut LP. In the final years of his life Gee returned to his favorite haunts along the Cardiff pub circuit, regularly playing venues like the Royal Oak -- for the most part a solo performer, on occasion he played with bassist Martin Ace and erstwhile Man drummer Terry Williams. Gee died January 21, 2009, following a long battle with emphysema -- he was 65 years old.