THE Costa del Sol music scene was shocked by the sudden death of Mel Williams this month.
From thousands of people in Marbella and further beyond, Mel was the music scene on the Coast.
From running clubs, to playing solo or with bands, to MCing charity functions, Mel’s career spanned over 40 years on the Coast alone.
I first met Mel when I came to Marbella in the mid 80s. Puerto Banus was very much a different place back then, with dozens of live music and piano bars. The musicians who played wanted somewhere to relax and let off steam, and so Mel’s Beach was born.
Soon, the rich, the famous and the infamous were partying on a Sunday afternoon like there was no tomorrow with some truly hedonistic jam sessions and building huge pyramids of beer cans.
Musicians passing through made sure they stopped off – including on one occasion Stevie Wonder’s backing band. The Great Man himself had played the Football Stadium the night before and was resting, but the band turned up in three black limos, played an amazing three-song set, before disappearing back into the limos.
My memory from Mel’s Beach was that unforgettable afternoon when soul legend Edwin Starr turned up unannounced to do a set, followed straight afterwards by Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott and his new band, who blew the roof off the place.
Mel also had his own club in Banus ‘Mel’s’ that became the late night venue of choice for locals, tourists and the odd passing celeb. Jo Cocker would be in there when he was in town, as would Rod Stewart, Jasper Carrott, and Kid Creole – who famously took one look at my fashionable waistcoat and ordered a cocktail from me, thinking I was a waiter.
Mel was always playing, always performing, and the rock behind him was his wife Sally. Behind every great man is an even greater woman, and this was doubly true with Sally. Quite simply, Mel wouldn’t have been able to perform without Sally, whose organisational skills were second to none
It might not have been a career that brought fame and fortune – his autobiography was called ‘Nearly Famous’ – but there were innumerable highlights, including appearing on stage at the Royal Albert Hall with Van Morrison, Mark Knopfler and Roger Daltrey for his friend Lonnie Donegan’s Tribute Concert. Over the years he raised thousands for charity. If you were organizing a charity event, Mel was always the first to say yes.
At his funeral, hundreds crammed in to see Mel arrived flanked by an honour guard of his beloved Harley Davidson biker brothers. Sally, incredibly strong, gave a deeply moving eulogy of love, tears and laughter, and the wake afterwards turned into a rock n roll party, with Mel’s memorabilia on display. It was the sort of party that he would have been mad that he had missed!
RIP Mel. Yours was a life well lived, and you were so, so much more than ‘Nearly Famous’.