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DR FEELGOOD
BANDHISTORY

 

HOW EVERYTHING HAS STARTED (1967-1971)

Frisco Bay Jug Band - Pre-Dr Feelgood

THE FRISCO BAY JUG BAND
Jeff Shaw - Mick Townshend - Rico Burt - Lee - Sparko - Chris

Lee and his friend Chris Fenwick were influenced by the American blues- and folkmusic and formed the 'Southside Jug Band' in 1967. This band later became 'The Fix' which was followed by 'The Pigboy Charlie Band', showing more of Lee's passion for Rock'n'Roll and Rhythm'n'Blues. Sparko played the guitar in that time but when Wilko from an India-trip returned to Southend in 1971 he switched to the bass to give way for Wilko's Mick Green -influenced guitar style. A clever decision. Also Chris realized he was better in managing the band than in playing an instrument - the future showed how much he was right! Wilko was into the 60ties British Rock'n'Roll with its band Johnny Kidd and the Pirates. Him and Lee made the audiences going crazy with their unique performances. Dr Feelgood was born. The name was taken from a Pirates song. The band made a short tour through Holland and then supported the former Tornado ('Telstar') from the 60's - Heinz. Drummer Big Figure came into the band and Will Birch (Drummer of Southend band Kursaal Flyers) suggested they should try to play in London. First gig in the capital was the Tally Ho in Camden in 1973.


THE WILKO YEARS (1972-1977)

Dr Feelgood - Autograph card ca. 1972

Lee Brilleaux - Wilko Johnson - John 'Big Figure' Martin - John B. 'Sparko' Sparks
(Three 'John's' in the band - good reason for giving themselves nicknames.
Or was it really just to confuse the tax man?)

For being very convincing on stage Dr Feelgood got a record deal with United Artists. The first single was released - 'Roxette', written by Wilko. It was followed by the first album 'Down By The Jetty' - produced in mono(!) by Vic Maile. The picture of the cover had been taken on Canvey Island close to a pub called 'The Lobster Smack'. Very successful was 'The Naughty Rhythms Tour' with Kokomo and Chilli Willi and The Red Hot Peppers. All of the boys survived touring in two busses through the UK. Surely it was a crazy enjoyable time! The 2nd album 'Malpractice' reached No.17 in the charts and the single 'Back in the Night' was released. Constant gigging kept the bands time short, no chance to go into a studio for producing new songs, the 3rd album 'Stupidity' was recorded live. Capturing the raw live energy of Dr Feelgood on vinyl came out as a very wise decision. Rocket-alike 'Stupidity' shot into the charts: No.1album! Special document of this time is a live video of a gig on homeground in Southend Kursaal. Well, the band happily enjoyed the success they deserved, but success also carried more stress in its bag. More gigs to play, more towns to go, more countries to travel, less sleep, less time to chill out, missing the ones at home - the bill followed and shocked the fans as well as the media: During the recordings of the 4th album 'Sneakin' Suspicion' differend opinions about Lew Lewis' song 'Lucky Seven' made Wilko and Dr Feelgood split. The UNlucky - many more as only seven - fans were upset and worried. Wilko - the unique guitar-maniac of the Feelgoods was gone - would someone else be able to replace him? While searching for a new guitarist Henry McCulloch and guest Tim Hinkley joined in to honour tour commitments.

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THE MAYO ERA (1979-1981)
... the next John stepped in ...

Dr Feelgood - Gypie Mayo era

Sparko - Lee - John 'Gypie' Mayo - The Big Figure

The job to replace Wilko was given to an unknown guitarist of a jazz funk band in Harlow: Gypie Mayo. In the time of one week he had to learn all the groups material to be ready then to take off to go on UK-tour. And he made it! He never imitated Wilko, and his own style, talent and ability to play many different kinds of music enlarged the musical possibilities of the band. Similar to Wilko Gypie gave Dr Feelgood his personal stamp. Also his instrumentals 'Greaseball', 'Keeka Smeeka' and 'Hi-Rise' f.e. enriched the variety of the Feelgood songs. Lee and Gypie wrote a lot of good songs together but the Feelgoods biggest hit 'Milk and Alcohol' was written by Gypie and Nick Lowe (Rockpile) who later produced some of their records. Gypie was -and still is- one of the best and most sensitive and talented guitarists I have ever met. Unfortunately some years later the hard life on the road made him problems. In 1981 he left Dr Feelgood to go back home to his family in Southend.

 Feelgood House in Canvey

40 Long Road in Canvey. Well known as the "Feelgood House". This place was under a cloud
of all decent people. Some album cover shots had been taken inside of this house. F.e. the backside
picture of "Let it roll". By the way, the bar you can see on the cover was built by Sparko!

The time with Gypie was the most successful period in the Feelgoods history. The 5th and first album with Gypie on guitar 'Be Seeing You' was produced by Nick Lowe. It includes songs like 'She's a wind up', 'Looking back', 'As long as the price is right'. 1979 Richard Gottehrer produced the 6th album 'Private Practice'. Single-outtakes were 'Down at the doctors' (written by the songwriting-genius but unfortunately most underrated songwriter Mickey Jupp from Southend) and 'Milk and Alcohol'. Nick Lowe wrote its lyrics on a fag packet! 1979 also saw the release of the brilliant live album 'As It Happens' which was followed immediately by a studio production of Mike Vernon: 'Let It Roll'. The 9th album - again produced by Nick Lowe - 'A Case Of The Shakes', was billed as 'Perfect for Parties'. Listen to it and find out why... The last album for United Artists 'On The Job' also is the last recording of this Feelgood line-up and great live document of the unknown guitarist who came as 'another John' and went away as the one and only 'Gypie'.

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THREE DOCTORS PLUS ONE BISHOP (1981-1982)
... and again, another John in the band ...

Dr Feelgood - Johnny Guitar era

Sparko - The Big Figure - Lee - Johnny Guitar

To get to know the Feelgoods searched for a new guitarist made lots of guitarists all over the land to grab their guitars and buy a railway ticket to the Feelgood headquarter Canvey Island. Barry Martin, who earlier had helped out in times of need for a guitarist, would have loved to join into Dr Feelgood, but at that time the ball had started rolling for his band The Hamsters (External link to The Hamsters Official Website ) and so he could not leave his bandmates. Lee had to look out for someone else. About 50 guys have been auditioned, including Gordon Russell who that day was sent back home but a short time later became the follower of John Crippen aka Johnny Guitar who now made the race. Johnny was member of 'The Count Bishops' who recorded for the Chiswick label. The first Dr Feelgood single with him 'Waiting for a Saturday night' was issued by Chiswick as well as the next album 'Fast Women, Slow Horses' which again was produced by Vic Maile. Maybe fast women were the reason for Big Figure and Sparko to leave the band, who knows... With seeing them leaving Lee lost a rhythm section which always was perfect for the raw, powerful and unique Feelgood-R'n'B. With them the base, the foundation was gone. 1982 Lee made the decision to end up Dr Feelgood after he honoured touring commitments in Europe with Buzz Barwell and Pat McMullen as rhythm section.

Addition Feb. 2004: Buzz Barwell has moved to Denmark shortly after leaving Dr Feelgood, where he got married and played in other bands since. On January 31st, 2004 he died and was buried at his birthday, February 5th in Denmark.
PHOTOS from Buzz: Dr Feelgood Promo Photo 1982 - Buzz on stage - UK 1982 (Photo courtesy John Butterfield)
(Thanks a lot to Christopher Frances from Sweden for supplying the scans.)

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THE DOCTOR IS IN - WITH NEW ASSISTENTS (1982-1989)

Dr Feelgood - Gordon Russell era

Gordon Russell - Phil Mitchell - Kevin Morris - Lee Brilleaux

Just three month passed by when Lee and his friend and manager Chris relaunched Dr Feelgood because there still was much interest in the band. Gordon Russell, the young guitarist they once sent back home at the auditions, now was offered the chance to join Dr Feelgood. Southend boys Kevin Morris, who many years ago played drums in the 'Pigboy Charlie Band', the embryonic Dr Feelgood, and Phil Mitchell (bass), an old schoolmate, formed the new rhythm section. Dr Feelgood were ready to make out prescribtions again! The 12th and first album with Lee's brandnew line-up 'Doctors Orders' was produced by Mike Vernon and released by Demon Records. The very bluesy mini-album 'Mad Man Blues' was released in 1985 and includes the songs 'Tore down', 'Rock me baby' and 'Dust my broom'. Many years earlier Lee lent 400 quid to Jake Riviera and Dave Robinson to make it possible for them to start the Stiff Record label. It was a good investment because now they took the Feelgoods and promoted them in a very unusual way: The cover of the next album 'Brilleaux' shows Lee with a harmonica in his mouth (which was a bit smaller sized as an usual one, by the way). Posters of this picture were sticked in every underground station in London. The 'Brilleaux' album was produced by Kursaal Flyers drummer Will Birch, a friend of the Feelgoods since the very beginning. He created a new sound with the single 'Don't wait up' and 'Come over here' which was just one of many songs Gordon had written for the band. Pip Williams produced album No.15 'Classic' which was the first release of the Feelgoods own record label Grand Records. Dave Edmunds produced the single 'See you later Alligator' which became a hit in Scandinavia and saw its special presentation in a funny video clip showing the band on stage in a small smoky club with a beautiful blonde lady sitting in the audience. Dave also was involved in the re-make of 'Milk and Alcohol (New Recipe)'. Everything worked well. The band was on their flight back home from touring New Zealand when tragedy struck: Gordon's baby had died. He was devastated and after a French tour he settled over to France to start a new life. The band tried in vain to change his mind. The first chapter in the 'Feelgood Book' with a very tragic end.

Visit my TWO TIMERS Website for Gordon Russell news.

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FROM PRIMO TO DOWN AT THE DOCTORS (1989-1994)

Dr Feelgood - Steve Walwyn era

Phil Mitchell - Kevin Morris - Steve Walwyn - Lee Brilleaux

The new chapter of the Feelgoods brought back the blues with a raw edge plus loads of feeling to the band with Steve Walwyn, who comes from the Midlands. He played with Chevy, Steve Marriott, Roger Chapman and few other bands. One of his very first gigs with Dr Feelgood became recorded as the 'Live In London'-album (Town and Country Club/Kentish Town). All in all it was the fourth live album and the 16th of the full list. Also made was a 2nd live video 'Live Legends' which shows how quickly and well Steve fitted into the band. Him and Lee were totally nervous that night. There was a huge wall of tv sets very close to the stage and Steve told me, it was horrible seeing an 'oversized himself' such close 'standing' beside! Similar to Wilko and Gypie Steve has got an own unique style and much power which straight worked perfectly together with Lee's indiscribable personality. Always it was a big pleasure during a solo to see Lee pushing Steve higher and higher and Steve gave it back in return. Will Birch produced the 'Primo'-album which contents the 'Down by the Jetty Blues', a song which illustrates the sea and Canvey Island. The Mickey Jupp song 'Standing at the crossroads' must have reminded Lee on all the decisions he had to make during the Feelgood history. While recording 'Primo' Phil left the band after being in Dr Feelgood for eight years. Dave Bronze joined in, who is a top session musician, good songwriter and producer. During the recordings of the 18th album 'The Feelgood Factor' Lee revealed to the band members that he was seriously ill with lymphoma. He had kept the fact as long as possible. Finishing the recordings of the album with a perfect result was a personal triumph for Lee. He went to hospital for receiving chemo-therapy and the band stopped touring. Lee was too ill to work and stayed at home with his family. Together with his friend Chris he opened the Dr Feelgood Music Bar in Canvey Island. There Lee made his final two appearances with Steve, Dave, Kevin and Ian Gibbons (The Kinks), as guest on keyboards, in January 1994. Precious document: album No. 19 (the 5th live album) 'Down At The Doctors' with the cover photo taken in front of the bar, Lee posing in the same style and clothes (it really was the same coat!) as on the cover shot of the album 'Sneakin' Suspicion' which was made with the first line up in 1977.

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DOWN AT THE DOCTORS
Dr Feelgood Music Bar - January 23rd, 24th, 25th 1994

The day before the first show I was at the rehearsals. Lee sat on a barchair on stage, he was looking pale and horribly thin - but, as always, gave 100%. His harmonica told of the blues in his heart, he sung with his soul filled of the pain about knowing what will come. I had to go outside, unable to hide my tears.
Why him? Why this wonderful person? Why this gentleman and one of the best frontmen ever? So many years Lee had made countless people happy and feel good with the songs he sung. It simply wasn't fair! He never gave up, he passed all the crossroads and survived. This time life wasn't willing to offer him neither a crossroad to pass nor another mountain to climb.
In the following two nights in the Dr Feelgood Music Bar Lee was brilliant and strong as never before. My soul started bleeding when he sang 'I live the life I love, I love the life I live' - What must have been going on in his mind when he sang these words, being in the situation he was in... What a (real) man! A great performer at any time. What a personality!
After the second nights show I went into the small dressing room where Lee was sitting in chat with a friend. I took the chance to thank him for everything, then asked if he allows me to give him a kiss. 'With pleasure', he said, and - believe me or not - his eyes told me he'd known exactly what was going on in my mind when we said good bye to each other. It was the last time we've met and both of us had known. Well, he did not tell me he has to die, so I did not really know, it was more a sad feeling in my heart, I could not explain and tried not to think about it. Very strange this was.
Few days later I had to go back home to Germany with the suspicion we never would meet again in this life. I am absolutely grateful for every second I stayed in the same room with Lee, no matter if he was on stage or private.

Lee has got a place in my heart as long as I live and wherever I am or may go.
Always I will keep his memory alive and his records spinning.
I met the Feelgoods the first time at June 22, 1991 in Germany.
Since that day my way of thinking and feeling, all my life has changed.

It was the best what ever happened to me:
Meeting Lee Brilleaux and most of the ones who shared stages with him in Dr Feelgood.

Gabi Schwanke, Germany


   THE HELPING HAND (1991)

Craig Rhind

Craig Rhind

When Dave Bronze made a break to honour commitments in the reformed Procul Harum Craig replaced him at few live dates in 1991making a very good job on the bassguitar till Dave returned. Craig got his own band 'The Razors' and plays with Steve Walwyn in 'The GB's' since few years. Of course, Steve plays guitar in the GB's (whenever time allows) but also is doing the lead vocals.

THE LAST LINE-UP WITH LEE (1990-Spring 1994)

Dr Feelgood - Promo ca. 1990

Kevin Morris - Lee Brilleaux - Steve Walwyn - Dave Bronze

 Steve on guitar, Kevin and Dave, the solid rhythm section, this was the last Dr Feelgood line up with Lee Brilleaux. When Lee died in April 1994 the band stopped all activities. Steve joined The Big Town Playboys (External link to my Big Town Playboys Website), an energetic and fantastic Rock'n'Roll band from the Midlands, fronted by Mike Sanchez, an absolutely brilliant boogie pianist and singer. Kevin earned a living touring with 'Love Affair' (who can forget the 60's chart buster 'Everlasting Love'?) and stepped into 'cymbals and drums selling business'. Dave, already mentioned earlier, joined Eric Clapton's band and is usy in the music-scene in several ways. He writes great songs, also has produced the last albums of Dr Feelgood.

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LEE BRILLEAUX died in the late evening of April 7th, 1994
just one month before his 42nd birthday.

With him the British Rhythm'n'Blues scene had lost one of their
greatest performers and a very special front- and Gentleman.

Everyone who had known him will miss him.
 


ON THE ROAD AGAIN (1995-July 1999)

Dr Feelgood - Promo 1995

Kevin Morris - Phil Mitchell - Pete Gage - Steve Walwyn

 (Tip: Listen to the 20th album "On The Road Again" - do not stop till it reaches its (funny) end!)

Many requests of fans and promoters plus the fact the remaining bandmembers wanted to follow Lee's wish to keep Dr Feelgood going. Kevin and Steve were in the band for more years as other bands exist and their lifes were shaken in two ways: Having lost a very good friend and main man of the band plus the fact of stopping to play the Feelgood songs, something they always enjoyed, as anyone will know who heard and saw them at a Dr Feelgood gig. Phil Mitchell, Feelgood bassist in the early 80's was willing to step on stage again - the difficult search for a singer who was good and curageous enough to become the follower of Lee started. Recommended by Steve the first one at the auditions was Sam Powell, singer and mean harp player of the Hangover Blues Band (External link to Hangover Blues Band Official Website) and a big fan of Dr Feelgood. Also rumours whispered names as such of Dennis Greaves' (singer and guitarist) and Mike Sanchez' (Steve's mate from the Big Town Playboys). In the end Kevin's, Steve's and Phil's choose was a semi pro multitalent from Bath: With Pete Gage at front Dr Feelgood recorded 'On The Road Again' and were ready to go there.

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READY TO FACE THE NEXT CENTURY (August 1999- ?)

Dr Feelgood - Promo August 1999

Kevin Morris - Phil Mitchell - Robert Kane - Steve Walwyn

A new face in the family is Robert Kane, who directly came from the Animals II to now front Dr Feelgood. The band had met him several times at gigs and always admired him as a singer. At those times who would have thought he will become a member of Dr Feelgood some day - but here he is. Great news for the fans is the fact, the band straight will go into the studio to record a new album (Chess Masters). An interesting project for any Blues and Rhythm'n'Blues fan which will be released by EMI Records.
This one is personal: How good finally to see a promo shot which shows the band quite happy and smiling! Have had enough of the serious ones where the Feelgoods more were looking like solicitors or such alike boring people and definately gave a wrong imagination of the boys. Whoever knows them will agree when I say, they are very kind and humourous guys and it's easy to share a good time with them.

More details about the line-up change and new frontman Robert are to find here.
 


Have a look at the QUESTIONAIRE I passed on to all Feelgoods in May 1997.
 

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