BY BILLY SUTER
DURBAN’S Stuart Mey, a former Northlands art and history teacher, who later turned musician and show producer, was given a fitting farewell last night when an estimated 300 friends, relatives, colleagues and fans gathered at Westville’s German Club.
The crowd, over drinks and snacks at tables in front of a covered bandstand, was there to pay respects, share memories and listen to musical tributes to the bearded local legend.
Mey, confined to a wheelchair in recent years, died on July 9 after having long suffered health problems. He was 64.
Noted as a singer, guitarist and sometime trumpeter, he was most recently known for being a key member of The Handsome Devils, a Durban band that performed at the German Club and elsewhere.
Prior to that he was noted for performing and producing showband tributes to various artists – popular shows staged at Durban’s Dockyard Theatre, which he owned. The supper theatre first proved to be a crowd-puller at the Point Waterfront’s harbour entrance before it moved to Musgrave Centre, Durban, and subsequently closed.
Stuart was also a former member of the popular Larry and the Lounge Lizards and, before that, the bands Vacant Lot and Pegasus.
Raised in Durban North, he formed The Trumpet Federation at Durban High School in 1967 (he played trumpet in a group based on Herb Alpert & Tijuana Brass way back then), and later moved on to vocals, guitar and bass with The Vacant Lot, also around 1967.
He formed Larry and 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. He told me this in an interview for this site a few weeks before his passing (check out the full interview under MUSIC).
“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.,” he remarked during our interview.
Stuart told me that the first song he sang in public was The Young Ones, in 1962/3 at a church concert, with his father backing him on guitar.
It was fitting therefore, that longtime colleagues Bruce Boome, Ian Webtser, and Gerald Knott – all fellow members of The Handsome Devils – launched last night’s tribute with a rendition of that Cliff Richard and The Shadows hit, with Paul Cassells (a former Dockyard Theatre regular) on lead vocals.
A number of local musicians were invited thereafter to entertain and share memories of Stuart, among them a nine-year-old drummer and, before him, a 13-year-old guitarist who joined The Handsome Devils for renditions of Snowy White’s Parisian Walkways and Santana’s Europa.
Stuart’s daughters, Melissa and Nicky, took to the stage to give a fitting and loving tribute to their father, sharing anecdotes which included him often showing tell-tale signs of fatigue after shows… if he rubbed his right arm vigorously it meant he was likely to drift off, they recalled.
Stuart’s widow, Zoe, to whom he was married for 39 years, referred to him as “my darling boy”, and said she was grateful for the turnout, taking comfort in Stuart “being in a much better place”.
All those attending agreed he was a giant of a man, both as a family member, friend and colleague …and as a key component of the local music scene.
Thank you for the music, Stuart… and rest in peace!