Michael de Jager – The Guitarman

Michael de Jager – The Guitarman
Birth name
Michael de Jager
Birthplace
Durban

Mike is originally from Durban, a city on the east coast of South Africa. He was 12 years old when he got his first guitar and after a few guitar lessons from friends and family; he formed his first band and at age 13, started doing gigs for a local churches & charity groups. His first ‘paying’ gig was with a band called “SWEET IMAGE” – the band did a high school dance gig in Pietermaritzburg and Mike took over lead guitar duties when the resident guitarist passed out at the gig after one too many glasses of Old Brown sherry!

During his high school years, Mike was out most weekends surfing all day and then playing gigs with his new band “RAVEN.” They would hire the local community hall, charged a couple of bucks at the door and entertain all the neighbourhood kids. When he left school at age 16, like all white South Africans in those days, he was sent off to do two years national service.

He formed “STRUTT” with a few mates in the years that followed (after finishing national service) and went pro with the band in 1979/80. All the bands doing the pro-circuit played only covers…it was the only way to earn a living as a musician in South Africa.The big hotel changes imported British cover bands to do three month residencies, which was the norm for pro bands all over the country.

Recording and playing original music was not an option for most SA musos, it was outrageously expensive and if you didn’t live in Johannesburg, the music capital of SA, you never stood a hope in hell of getting a record deal. Mike met a British guitarist Kevin Mason, from the band “BITE” in 1983. Kevin offered to record the band with the gear they had brought to SA from England. Strutt recorded three demo tracks, took them to David Gresham records in Johannesburg but were told very politely, thanks but no thanks.

The band finally split and Mike joined “JOANNE BUCK” – as in piano & guitar. The founder Chris Stott had selected obscure cover material and a few originals never heard in SA. The band rehearsed the songs which included songs like ‘Roxanne’ by the then unknown band The Police and others. Needless to say, after three months of playing to empty houses at the Wagon Wheels live music venue in Durban, they called it a day.

Mike got a day job as a draughtsman and joined “HEATHROW” who were an established cover band with a six night a week residency at the Blue Waters Hotel on Durban’s Golden Mile. The band’s contract ended after nine months and it was just at that time that MIDI technology had just been invented. Mike teamed up with keyboard player Lois Rodrigues, vocalist Bev Heath to form LMB. After months of programming the rep into machines, the band hit the road and never looked back.

They broke all attendance records at every venue they played at, with Bev’s incredible vocals, Mike’s amazing versatility and Lois keyboard & sax skills; they sounded “just like the record” – which is what the management wanted to hear. A year later, Mike teamed up with ex. Heathrow drummer Cecil ‘CJ’ Jooste to form “RIFF-RAFF”. Riff Raff where an all out rock duo, with CJ belting out his electronics kit and Mike letting loose on his Fender ‘STRAT.’ The rep was full of rock classics by Gary Moore, Golden Earing, Bon Jovi, Toto, Led Zepplin, Thin Lizzy and a few UB40 songs just in case they needed to do a quiet set.

They were so successful; the band designed and built their own live music pub – Cave Rock Cafe. The pub was jammed every night of the week with people from all over the country coming to see Riff Raff perform. They finally split and sold up in 1995 – Mike left SA and moved to the UK in 2001.

With nothing but his guitar and amp, he had to start from scratch making contacts, auditioning for bands and learning a new way of life in England. The first band he auditioned for was a blues band at which he failed because he was not up to scratch and had no transport. He bought a banger for £175 and joined a cover band called “Tumbling Dice.” The band did a few pub gigs in Wolverhampton, but after the bass player left, Mike soon followed and auditioned for a ‘working men’s club’ band called “EASY.” He got the gig and spent the next two years learning the ropes of the great British Music Industry.

After recording a solo cd at Madhat studios, he hooked up with ‘street wise’ bass player Pete Emms. Pete’s Vaseline Rat’s concept was a good one, Mike signed up for it and they recorded three demos during 2003. In 2004, and three drummers later, they toured with the NWBHM All Stars, Jess Cox, Al Atkins & Dennis Stratton. Mike recorded with Judas Priest founder Al Atkins adding guitar parts for his album “Demon Deceiver” which was released in December 2006. During this time he worked with Diamond Head guitarist Brian Tatler, Budgie guitarist Simon Lees, Dante fox drummer Mick Hales and Magnum producer Mark V. Stuart.

Mike joined Dante Fox in 2005 for a UK tour with Vixen & Girlschool, the band did a load more gigs and Mike learned a lot from Dante Fox guitarist Tim Manford. He left the band at the end of 2005 and joined the Al Atkins Band to do the “2006 – Blood Demons & Whisky” UK tour.

In June 2006 Mike founded the world’s first premier broadband guitarist TV channel called Guitarist TV, Pete Caldwell joined him for the launch by interviewing guitarist Joe Satriani at the Birmingham Symphony Hall in England.