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John Mayhw 1947-2009

John Mayhew († March 26, 2009)

News of John Mayhew's death reached many fans and the genesis-news staff shortly after the Steve Hackett Event when our minds were still full of the great moments of that weekend. That is the way life goes: Some are cheered for in the limelight, feel affirmation and draw fresh energy from the interest people take in their work. Others experience the big applause only rarely and are almost completely forgotten like former Genesis drummer John Mayhew. Though his role in the long history of Genesis is rather small we still should give him the place he deserves.

John Mayhew was born on March 27, 1947. Little is known about his childhood and youth other than that he grew up in Ipswich, Suffolk, northeast of London and had a brother ten years his older. His childhood was coming to an end when John's parents split up. He stayed with his father while his brother Paul went with their mother. From that time on the brothers lost contact with each other. 

Around 1963 John began to play the drums. He had never held drumsticks in his hands before when he was offered the post of drummer in a small band. From then on he played in several bands based in the Ipswich area. When Genesis were looking for a new drummer after the release of their debut album they came across John's phone number, and so he became the successor to John Silver in the band line-up in summer 1969. He played with them for a year both live and in the studio. He was part of the band when the ambitious school band turned into a real rock band at the Macphails' cottage in the winter of 1969/70. It was with John on drums that Genesis recorded the famous "Genesis plays Jackson" tape in 1969, the BBC Nightride session on February 22, 1970 and their second album, Trespass. Though John was not actually involved in the writing of the songs he definitely gave the sound his personal touch. Despite all that he felt that Genesis were not completely happy with his abilities and was therefore not surprised when his colleagues asked him to leave Genesis in summer 1970. Anthony Phillips left the band at the same time, though of his own accord. It was the first big cut in the history of the band. John cleared the drum stool and went on his own way. 

In the years after that he continued to drum for various bands, apparently also in Norway, until he emigrated to New Zealand and Australia in 1982. He wanted to continue drumming next to his daytime job as a carpenter, but after a 1982 gig in Sidney he decided to put away his drum kit and develop other interests. He moved into stage building and decorations for theatres and movies, but he also built replica of antique furniture and extended his knowledge in these areas. He lost all relations to Genesis, in fact he was considered missing for many years.

At a workshop about Scottish furniture designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh a Genesis fan noticed that one of the participants was a man whose name he recognized - John Mayhew. From that time on John's past in what had become one of the UK's most successful bands caught up with him. In May 2006 he was the guest of honour at a Genesis convention on London where he met Anthony Phillips again for the first time in many years. The cover band ReGenesis invited him to play the drums on The Knife, and John Mayhew realized that he the fans never thought of him as "the drummer who held up Genesis" but that he was considered part of the family - just like his more famous colleagues and successors in the band. He was probably very surprised by this experience that brought him the recognition he richly deserved after 35 years. After John had attended the second DUSKday of the Italian Genesis fanclub on September 23 and 24, 2006, it was our pleasure to welcome him as the guest of honour at the Evolution Of Genesis event (on October 21, 2006). He gave an on-stage interview and happily signed many memorabilia. Everybody who attended the event will certainly never forget John's friendly way. 

With his royalties for the Trespass album from the last 36 years the Genesis management paid him en bloc in 2006 he planned to go back to Australia and enjoy a retirement more comfortable than it would have been without the sum. It seems that he stayed in Glasgow, Scotland, where he had moved in 2006 to.

In March 2009 his brother Paul, to whom he had lost all contact, began to look for John to reunited the family after all these years. Paul knew hardly anything about his brother, where he lived and what happened to him. His search was supported by an article in the Evening Star newspaper. Tragically they found out that John had passed away two days after they had begun their search. He succumbed to a heart attack on March 26, 2009. John had been married twice.

Our deep sympathies go to John's relatives and friends and to all Genesis fans who mourn a musician who may not always have enjoyed the luck and happiness he deserved but who will live on in our fond memories.

Good bye, John!

by Helmut Janisch

translated by Martin Klinkhardt



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