News September 3, 2020

Former Rose Tattoo & Chain guitarist John Meyer passes

Former Rose Tattoo & Chain guitarist John Meyer passes
Facebook / John Meyer

Legendary Perth guitarist, songwriter and producer, John Meyer, passed away in his hometown this week.

The award-winning Meyer, who was inducted into the WA Hall of Fame in 2003, made his name with , Swanee and Chain.

“For much of my career I was always lucky that I ended up playing with bands which I’d grown up admiring from afar,” he once said.

Meyer grew up in the WA farming town of Three Springs, 80km southwest of Geraldton, the eldest son of Dutch immigrants who arrived in the 1950s.

Father Jan was a jazz buff and multi-instrumentalist who played in a number of bands.

One, The Spectors, had as its drummer a youthful Ronald Belford Scott, later to rise to fame with AC/DC.

Meyer also began as a drummer, after his father gave him a kit for his 13th birthday.

But growing up with blues guitarists as Peter Green and Jimmy Page, he made the switch and, at 15, started to play Perth nightclubs.

Within two years a national music magazine had tagged him as a player to watch.

Meyer went on to play with Perth bands Fatty Lumpkin, Everest and Saracen, contributing to their songwriting outlay.

In 1981 he moved to Sydney and quickly got a regular stint playing with John Swan’s band Swanee and with singer-songwriter Sharon O’Neill.

One day he got a call from Angry Anderson from the US, where Rose Tattoo were touring with ZZ Top and Aerosmith. “Got a passport?” he was asked.

At the time there were problems within the ranks and Meyer went on to write songs with Anderson on two albums, Southern Stars and Beats Of A Single Drum, including their hit ‘Calling’.

“It was the best time of my life,” he would say, although his wanting to return to the blues (“also it was a bit strange because I was the only one without a tattoo”) saw him leave Rose Tattoo.

He got another career-defining phone call, this time from Matt Taylor of Chain, asking him to fill in as their guitarist Phil Manning was ill.

In the end, Manning decided not to return, and Meyer stayed for 4 years and made the albums Australian Rhythm and Blues and Blue Metal, producing the latter and co-writing with Taylor.

He appeared on Taylor’s solo album, Walls To McGoo, co-writing the standout ‘Adelaide River’. 

Towards the end of his life, he set up a home studio where he wrote jingles and soundtracks for documentaries, taught music at high school and made a series of solo albums.

One won a WAM award for outstanding album, as well as several other WAM Awards for guitarist of the year and for special achievement.

Related articles