Photo credit Soda Lee via Guitar Gods WA
The terribly sad passing of Perth guitar legend John Meyer has been such a shock for so many of us. We had an inkling that something was up but chose to respect his privacy and leave it to him to disclose his situation.
It has taken a little time to process, but I would like to share some thoughts of my own, having known and played with John many times. I have also asked some of the people I know he loved and respected to pay tribute.
Jaime Page 10.9.20
In recent weeks John had been more active on Facebook. I took that to be a positive sign, offering up the idea of shared gigs, just like the old days. And then, a few weeks later came the bolt from the blue, the terrible news that John had departed us.
My first experience of the John Meyer phenomenon was on a Saturday morning music show called Hey Jude way back in the late Seventies. The band was Everest, the song ‘Going Home’. Everest was a world-class heavy rock band with a supreme vocalist in Jon Ryder and the guitar hero par excellence in John Meyer.
The embodiment of rock hero coolness, John coaxed beautiful tones from his black Gibson Les Paul. Sweet notes that were understated, perfect in every way, just like every other note he ever played. I never heard him make a mistake, ever.
It did not take long for me to join the fanatical group of disciples that would descend on the local pubs like the City Hotel, The Raffles and the White Sands, looking on in awe as this amazing group of people tore it up with ruthless, deafening efficiency, total class and taste. There was only one option; go home and practice like mad! Yes, JM was also incredibly inspiring!
John Meyer was Perth’s guitarists’ guitarist!
White Fender Strats and Black Gibson Les Pauls (as played by the master) were the axes of desire, and we all played in clone Everest trios.
When Eastern States or international bands toured Perth you would hear the mutterings from the bar, “Not as good as Meyer hey?”
I can assure you it was daunting for those replacing John and there was a graveyard of shredded guitar picks scattered beneath the City Hotel (stage left) as we all tried to keep up, in my case with Trilogy.
I do think he started to feel hemmed in by the hard rock stylings of Everest and he branched out, experimenting with blues, jazz-fusion and musicians that pulled him in new directions with great bands like Airforce and Down Under.
To my ears though, John found his feet stylistically with Saracen. That band saw the elements converge into something almost mystical in content. The combination of Meyer, Ryder and Tony Cooper was magical. Track down the original demo, it is quite an amazing effort recorded on a Tascam Portastudio if memory serves correctly.
Armed with the mighty Brian Dentus PA and the coolest crew ever, Saracen created a hard-rocking and at times debauched (in the case of Ralphie) scene based around the City Hotel, ably followed by the more metallic Trilogy in the years to follow.
John’s next move would be to join Australian rock powerhouse Rose Tattoo, culminating in the Southern Stars album. It would be fair to say that Meyer was not really into the rock star thing and eventually returned to WA, spending time on the road with Chain and a succession of John Meyer Bands.
In later years we would on many occasions throw together sets for such events as the Kosmic Guitar Challenge nights at Gobbles and some blistering efforts at Perth rock community celebrations, Guitar Gods shows and charity events.
From my side, I had helped John find his many students’ guitars, sorted him out with a few well-played Formentin guitars and did him a dirty deal on a Marshall JVM after lending him mine at a Guitar Gods show.
I also had the dubious distinction of being a go-to person when he wanted out of a band! (See Angus McDeth/Late For Dinner!). We drafted John into an ill-fated version of Croz & The Legendary Allstars and had some great times but the volume of that band destroyed him.
In fairness, he was more at home in the studio in later years and you would do well to track down those albums.
John was always kind, considerate, humble and self-effacing. He simply loved to play. Sure, there was a touch of guitar slinger ego, especially when we all jammed and tried to outdo each other. It was a joy and we would never take it too seriously.
When we were doing the Slim Jim shows last weekend I swear I kept hearing John asking quietly if he could use my amp, and where was the drink rider…?
Anyway, at the end of the day, John Meyer remains the most loved and respected guitarist in WA rock history and deservedly so. He will be sadly missed and I am sure that the entire Australian musical community joins us in celebrating his legend and wishing all the very best to his family.
The following are tributes from some of the great people that John worked with.
As a teenager growing up in Adelaide I had heard the stories of this amazing Perth based guitar player that commanded the stage with a stoic charisma that drew everyone’s attention to him while performing with bands like Fatty Lumpkin and Saracen.
The first time I laid eyes and ears on John Meyer was when I saw the video for a new Rose Tattoo song called “I Wish”, a song that while keeping with the legendary power of the band’s sound also infused it with sophistication and a new sense of political awareness. I was impressed that this band I had always admired and respected were taking chances with their writing, most of which were Anderson/ Meyer compositions. Fast forward 6 months and I’m auditioning for this man at a rehearsal studio in Sydney. He was welcoming, encouraging, perhaps sensing my nervousness and after I joined the Tatts this continued.
Always striving forward, always encouraging me to write, to practice, to listen to new music a totally selfless man. He was arguably Australia’s biggest Mountain fan and we were both fanatical devotees of the 1982 Hughes/ Thrall album, especially the writing and shared a love of Formula One motor racing. Nothing better than an F1 race to watch with John after the Sunday night gig in Wherever town.
When John decided to move back to Perth, it was without fanfare, a new challenge sought, a quick “goodbye and good luck” and he continued wooing music fans with his dazzling, passionate playing. We kept in touch with an email exchange every year or so over the last 35 years, the last being this past July. He never mentioned he was ill again, I didn’t get a chance to write him back. I hope he knew what he meant to me and how much my early years working with him have influenced everything I have done professionally since. Rest in peace John Meyer, you are missed by many.
“I have been fortunate to record and produce many albums with John, since the 80’s – the latest being his recent release ‘Project 6’ (a collaboration with Craig Pinkney). One thing that always stood out to me was his individuality – he had great technique and chops – but somehow you always KNEW when it was John playing. Gonna miss the big fella – and his music”.
“John played a huge part in my musical development and my love for slide guitar! He could find that perfect balance of sweet blues, hard rock and incredibly melodic playing. He always offered me love, support and direction whenever we toured with Chain and throughout the early John Meyer Band days. I’m very proud to say I was able to share some great times with him both on and off the stage”.
“I had the pleasure of performing with John only on a couple of occasions, but the man oozed talent, and one can only smile like a kid in a candy store when you get to play with people like that. And he was a gentle soul to go with it, he will be missed by many”.
James Morley, ex-Angels.
“John Meyer’s music – and in later years, his friendship – has been a part of my music career from day one. If hearing Deep Purple was the thing that got me into guitar, seeing John play was the thing that inspired me to work at improving my craft and being the best musician I could be.
His tone, technique and feel were a benchmark that I still recognise and aspire to, and his grace and kindness as a human being left an indelible mark on my soul. The moments we spent together on stage were always memorable, as were the backstage chats before and after gigs. One of the last conversations we had was about how wonderful it was being a grandfather. He was at once a rock luminary and loving family man, and one I will always remember with great respect and admiration”.
Graham Greene – Guitarist.
“The thing that keeps coming up is, not long after I started mixing Saracen I approached John to ask him if he could turn down a bit onstage. He replied no. That’s My sound man. You just have to deal with it. Smiled and patted me on back..he was such a big influence on me I say enough about it”.
Bob De Wolff. FOH Trilogy/Saracen.
“I got to ride shotgun in JM’s red Charger. He drove for about 18 hours straight and wouldn’t consider letting me or anyone else drive. He loved driving and used the windscreen washers more than anyone else I have ever known. I had to audition for Saracen. I was young and green and been playing cabarets, school socials, weddings and pubs with safe, crowd-pleasing favourites. I was totally in awe of Meyer and JR.
They were in a completely different league to me, as was Tony Cooper, left-handed super drummer extraordinaire. How I passed the audition is probably because I had a nice looking kit! John Meyer’s guitar sound was just magic in that audition in Brian Dentus’ garage.
To this day, John had a commanding presence anytime he had a guitar in his hands. I am most deeply saddened to hear the news but mostly for his loved ones”.
Peter Thompson – Drummer with Saracen and Trilogy.
John was such a gentle genuine humble man..he was a major part of the best years of my life growing up in the music industry….gone from our sight but never from our hearts…..rest in peace John and condolences to Sue and family.
Ralph Berman – Saracen/Trilogy crew.
John and I weren’t the closest of mates, but his playing and writing had a huge impact on my playing and thinking, he will be missed so much. “I’d heard John Meyer play a few times before we got together in Down Under, but nothing quite prepared me for the ferocity and the passion of his playing as I experienced it standing next to him on stage.
His playing and his original songs made that band the most rewarding musical experience of my life, and made me become a better bass player. John wasn’t a “rock star”, although he really looked the part when he played. He wasn’t some prima donna axe wielder, all demanding and attention-grabbing. I’m glad to have known him, because he was a good, decent guy who was simply the best guitar player I’ve ever worked with, at once melodic, fiery, powerful and compelling. RIP John.”
Paul Reynolds – Bassist – Down Under.
When I was 15 and in a dilemma whether to keep playing state soccer or forge ahead with my music passion I met John Meyer who gave me 6 guitar lessons out of the goodness in his heart. The lessons inspired me to be like him and were pivotal in me having a music career, I will always be indebted to his belief in me as I never looked back.
Gary Dunn – The Profile and Whyalla guitar legend.