Born John Phillip Cawthra, Mayo came to prominence in the late Seventies, when he replaced Wilko Johnson in Dr. Feelgood. Later, he served a stint with the Yardbirds from 1996 to 2004. Johnson, who was planning a farewell tour earlier this year, announced Mayo’s death today on his Facebook page.
Mayo was first inspired to pick up his instrument after hearing “Apache” by the Shadows, according to The Bath Chronicle, a newspaper local to where he lived. He eventually joined the blues group White Mule in 1969. Eight years later, he joined Dr. Feelgood, with whom he played for the next four years. It was in that group that he got his nickname. After contracting several minor ailments, according to The Telegraph, the group’s frontman Lee Brilleaux told him – in way that reflects a far less politically correct time – “You’ve always got the gyp.” Mayo played on six of the band’s album, and his tenure in the group included a Top 10 single in the U.K. in 1979 with the glammy garage-rocker “Milk and Alcohol.”
“He had been ill for some time but when I last spoke to him retained his great sense of humor,” Dr. Feelgood drummer Kevin Morris told The Bath Chronicle. “Truly a sad day for us all.”
He joined the Yardbirds in the mid Nineties, taking the position once occupied variously by Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. Mayo played on the group’s most recent album, Birdland, which came out in 2003. About the Birdland song “Crying Out for Love,” classic-era Yardbirds rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja commented, “When I heard the mixdown with Gypie in my studio, we said to each other, ‘It’s giving me chills, making my spine tingle.’ It’s the guitar playing. This man is original – he doesn’t go the obvious route.”
Upon leaving the Yardbirds, Mayo taught guitar in Bath. According to The Telegraph, he is survived by a son he had with his ex-wife Lesley.