BILLY SUTER reports that a wake has been arranged for 4pm on Wednesday, July 19, at Westville’s German Club, for the late STUART MEY. The versatile and very popular Durban musician passed away on July 9 after long fighting poor health issues. He was noted for his performances with Larry and the Lounge Lizards, producing and appearing in many Dockyard Theatre shows in Durban, and, more recently, as a key member of The Handsome Devils band. Snacks will be provided and a cash bar will be available at the memorial gathering, at which musicians and singers wanting to pay tribute in song will be able to do so from 5pm, and are requested to take along their instruments. The Handsome Devils band will also be there to celebrate Stu. If anyone has any fun anecdotes to share, the family would love that. More information is available by phoning 083 665 8263. Below is the last interview with Stu, when his Handsome Devils Band performed a show in June that he produced, directed and performed in – A History of Rock ’n’ Roll. Thanks for the memories big man… and rest in peace.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM YOUR NEW SHOW – WHAT NARRATIVE AND RANGE OF SONGS?
The narrative is by all the band members, as we casually reminisce, involving the audience where possible, throughout the show. We chat about the birth, growth and development of rock ’n’ roll and popular music.
We go from the early 1950s, when crooners like Nat King Cole and Pat Boone were eventually replaced by rock ’n’ roll merchants such as Carl Perkins (Blue Suede Shoes), Elvis Presley (Heartbreak Hotel), Bill Haley (Rock Around the Clock) and the skiffle craze in the UK (Lonnie Donnegan). We then close the ’50s with Buddy Holly.
The second act covers the British breakthrough in the US in the 1960s – The Beatles, Rolling Stones – and the swing back to American bands and the California sound, to the end of the 1960s.
The show culminates with the music of the 1970s – featuring some acts that started in the 1950s and 1960s, and became icons in the 1970s… Van Morrison (Brown-Eyed Girl), Eagles (Tequila Sunrise), Joe Cocker (The Letter).
I’ve chosen not to do the “done to death” songs that get covered too often, in virtually every show. but songs the audience will still know and enjoy. Plus I’ve selected songs that suit our band personnel, and instrumental line up.
IS THIS A TEAM YOU HAVE PLAYED WITH A LOT BEFORE?
The Handsome Devils comprises Gary Gibb, Gerald Knott, Bruce Boome, Ian Webster and me. The group actually morphed from the Dockyard Show Band which, in turn, was an extension of my earlier band, Larry & The Lounge Lizards. With the exception of bass player Gary, they have been together for more than 20 years. Veteran guitarist Bruce is once again musical director.
IS THIS THE START OF MANY MORE SHOWS LIKE THE OLD DOCKYARD THEATRE DAYS? WHAT PLANS?
The plan is to produce a show and, in the absence of a regular venue (with all its overheads), take it on the road to various venues. This show has already been booked for three fund-raiser performances at other KwaZulu-Natal venues
WHAT DO YOU MOST MISS ABOUT THE DOCKYARD THEATRE – BOTH THE HARBOUR-ENTRANCE ONE AND THE ONE THAT WAS AT MUSGRAVE CENTRE IN DURBAN?
I miss the permanence of a venue which allowed me to get a consistently good sound, set up really good lighting programmes and set design, and offer dressing-room facilities to allow for creative costume changes.
Taking a show on the road forces the show to be way more portable.
The original Dockyard at the Point was a more scenic setting, while that at Musgrave Centre was a nicer internal layout, but slightly smaller than that at the harbour entranceo. I opened the theatre at the Point Waterfront in 2003, moved to Musgrave in 2006, then closed Musgrave in 2009.
OF YOUR MANY DOCKYARD THEATRE SHOWS WHICH STAND OUR MOST FOR YOU?
Including a number of shows at the Playhouse Cellar, we staged more than 50 shows. The most popular were The Eagles, Abba, The Bee Gees, Masters of Rock, Santana, Acoustic Moods, Disco Fever and Latino Magic.
What made these special was the accuracy we got in the music compared to the originals, and the way the audience demand forced us to extend the runs.
AT WHAT AGE DID YOU START SINGING AND PERFORMING – AND WHAT INSTRUMENTS DO YOU PLAY?
I sang my very first song, The Young Ones, in 1962/3 at a church concert. I formed The Trumpet Federation at Durban High School in 1967 (I played trumpet, in a group based on Herb Alpert & Tijuana Brass).
I then moved on to vocals, guitar and bass with The Vacant Lot, also around about 1967.
WHEN, WHERE AND WHY DID YOU FORM LARRY & THE LOUNGE LIZARDS – AND HOW LONG AND WHERE DID THEY ENTERTAIN?
I formed Larry & the Lounge Lizards in 1989 in the late Ron Selby’s kitchen at the launch party of a Celtic Rumours album recorded in Ron’s Westville studio.
We were Durban’s equivalent to retro bands Vinnie & the Viscounts in Johannesburg, and Cape Town’s Late Final.
The band ran for 14 years. We played at Shunter’s Arms, Father’s Moustache, Sand Pebbles and every top hotel in the country, while working the corporate market.
WHAT FIVE WORDS BEST DESCRIBE YOU?
Creative, Artistic, pernickety, imaginative, impatient.
WHAT ARE FIVE THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF (HOWEVER TRIVIAL) THAT PEOPLE ARE UNLIKELY TO KNOW?
My health issues. My reluctance to be a “life and soul of the party”-type of person. My religious views. My sense of loyalty. My love of children.
YOUR MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT ON STAGE?
It was while doing a show at the Dockyard Theatre. I was sitting on a stool, in the wings, waiting to walk on stage, and when I made my entrance, the chair stuck to my trousers. The plastic seat had a crack in it, my trousers got pinched… and I dragged it on stage, trailing it behind me.
WHAT FIVE THINGS WOULD YOU LIST UNDER ‘VASTLY OVERRATED’?
Progressive jazz, modern men’s hairstyles, karaoke, DJs calling themselves musicians, MacDonalds and fashion trends.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST SURPRISING THING SOMEONE HAS SAID OF YOU?
I was once told that have a very scary face!
IF YOU COULD CHANGE SOME THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF WHAT WOULD THEY BE?
My myriad health issues. I’d also love to be able to walk again. I also wish I still had all my hair. And I would like to be a harder/tougher business man.
TWO HIGHLIGHTS OF YOUR CAREER?
Having Nelson Mandela in the audience one night at the Wild Coast Sun. He was at one of the 11 New Year’s Eve parties we played at the Wild Coast Sun with Larry & The Lounge Lizards. Another highlight was winning the Best Vocalist award in a 1973 Battle of The Bands Competition, with my band Pegasus.
WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED – AND WHO GAVE IT?
“Before you do music as a full time career, get a qualification behind you, something to fall back on.” My father, Charlie Mey, told me that.
WHAT THINGS DO YOU MOST MISS FROM CHILDHOOD?
My father’s stories from his childhood and Navy days during the war. Also, my guitar lessons and my days at DHS. Also, our huge family gatherings at Christmas, Easter and other special occasions
THE MOST FRIGHTENING THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO YOU?
Getting accidentally locked in a soundproof, heavy, camphor wood kist at the age of five. It felt like forever, but was probably only about 10 minute.
FIVE OF YOUR ALL-TIME FAVOURITE SONGS?
Listen to the Music by The Doobie Brothers, Take It Easy by Eagles, The Long and Winding Road by The Beatles, A Whiter Shade of Pale by Procol Harum and Me and Mrs Jones by Michael Buble.
WHAT ALTERNATIVE CAREER PATHS MIGHT YOU HAVE CONSIDERED – AND WHY?
I would have considered being a chef. Cooking, to me, is an art form… and when people show appreciation for your food, it’s like being on stage.
WHAT MAKES YOU LAUGH? AND CRY? AND GET ANGRY?
I laugh at my 20-month-old granddaughter’s antics. I cry at all forms of cruelty to children, old people and animals. I get angry at able-bodied people parking in parking spaces for the disabled.