Perth guitarist John Meyer, who played with Rose Tattoo, Chain and Saracen, has died

Perth musician John Meyer, a gun guitarist for legendary Australian blues and hard rock bands Rose Tattoo, Chain and Saracen, has died after a lengthy battle with mesothelioma and other cancers.

The WA Music Hall of Fame inductee was 67.

Described by fellow WA rocker Dom Mariani as a “lovely guy and an incredible guitar player”, Meyer was the go-to guitarist for big name bands needing a versatile and proficient player at short notice.

The first son of Dutch immigrants, Meyer grew up in the small farming town of Three Springs listening to his father Jan’s jazz collection.

Known to friends as Fred, Jan played guitar, saxophone and clarinet. He played bass guitar in Perth pop outfit The Spektors, which are best known for their drummer, part-time lead singer and future AC/DC frontman Bon Scott.

While Jan bought young John a drum kit, it wasn’t until he tried to play guitar that his musical prowess became apparent. He saved up for a second-hand Fender Stratocaster guitar while Jan built his first amplifier.

Inspired by John Lennon, Hank Marvin of the Shadows and Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers fame, Meyer started playing gigs around Perth at age 16.

He also took classical guitar lessons from Lionel Cranfield, longtime owner of Claremont instrument shop Zenith Music.

Meyer soon began to make a name for his impressive skills in performances with bands such as power trio Saracen and Fatty Lumpkin, the jazz-influenced hard rock act which supported the Rolling Stones at the WACA Ground in 1973.

After moving to Sydney to 1981, Meyer toured extensively with Australian artists Sharon O’Neill and Swanee (the stage name of Jimmy Barnes’ brother John Swan) before replacing sacked guitarist Robin Riley in Rose Tattoo.

During his three-year tenure with the Tatts, Meyer co-wrote several songs with frontman Angry Anderson, including most of 1984 album Southern Stars.

He then joined Aussie blues band Chain, taking over from ill guitarist Phil Manning on and off for the next four years. Chain featured Perth-based singer, guitarist and harmonica player Matt Taylor.

Again Meyer contributed songs and later appeared on Taylor’s solo albums.

Popular Perth pub band Fatty Lumpkin in action at the White Sands Hotel in 1974. Credit: Ian Ferguson

He also recorded his own debut all-instrumental album in 1992, which won the WAM Award for outstanding album of the year as well the production honours.

The following year, Meyer was inducted into the WAM Hall of Fame alongside Mariani, Anna Gare and Shirley Smith.

In 1999, he released another jazz/fusion album, The Shaman, while turning his focus to session work and composing music for advertising and documentaries. He also taught guitar to young musicians.

He returned to blues in 2004, when he launched John Meyer’s Blues Express at the Bridgetown Blues Festival with Peter Oats on bass and Ric Eastman on drums.

The trio returned to Bridgetown in 2008, the same year they played the Australian Blues Festival in Gouldburn, NSW.

This week on Facebook, Mariani said Meyer was “local, world class and a great and generous, humble human being. Thanks for the inspiration, lessons and wonderful memories”.

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