The man, the legend that is Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead has sadly died, two days after learning he had cancer. He had just turned 70 years old.
He lived life to the full and in essence fused metal and punk rock with his distinct bass playing and Jack Daniels gravel vocals that was part and parcel of the Motörhead sound.
The world is now a far emptier and quieter place.
Lemmy – Motörhead bassist/vocalist & before that, he was bassist with Hawkwind singing on their biggest hit single Silver Machine.
Ian Kilmister, Lemmy was born in Burslem, Stoke on Xmas Eve 1945 and moved with his remarried mother to North Wales in 1956.
He lived in Benllech and spent his teenage years with his family there and it was at Ysgol Syr Thomas Jones (school) in Amlwch where he picked up the his nickname Lemmy, apparently because he’d scrounge money by saying ‘Lemmy a penny’ (lend me a penny), he was expelled for smoking (along with producer David Wrench‘s father!).
Talking about his time at the school, Lemmy said, ‘Funnily enough, being the only English kid among 700 Welsh ones didn’t make for the happiest time – but it was interesting from an anthropological point of view.’
In the early 1960s he lived on a farm behind Conwy and then in Greenfield Road, Colwyn Bay, with his mother and stepfather (Willis was the name he was known by when he lived locally). He was also alleged to have been part of the notorious Henchmen motorcycle club, and other sources claim he got his name for continually asking other members to ‘Lemmy a fiver’.
As a rhythm guitarist, he was in local bands in the sixties, including The Sundowners of Llandudno, playing mainly instrumentals apart from Ricky Nelson’s Travellin’ Man that Lemmy sang. They changed their name to The DeeJays doing the wedding and barn dance circuit.
Lemmy then joined, Colwyn Bay band The Sapphires (1964) but he didn’t last long as he couldn’t stand the guitarist (George Kennedy). He also frequented the Dixieland show bar on Colwyn Bay Pier and would occasionally jam on stage with bands like The Questions, it was a venue he would eventually return to in 1978 as front-man of Motörhead.
Martin Peel remembers, ‘After Sapphires, Lemmy joined me (guitar) in a new group with Dave Templeton (bass) and Barry Jones (drums). We rehearsed a few times but did no gigs as we had no suitable transport. It was at this time that Lemmy worked for a week-or-so at Hotpoint in Llandudno Junction. His stepfather got him the job.’
Legend has it that he was sacked from Hotpoint for having his hair too long. However, Lemmy’s tenure in our part of the world was coming to an end; the lure of a girl from Stockport holidaying in North Wales drew Lemmy to the Manchester area and joined the Rainmakers and the Motown Sect (pic below)
Martin takes up the story, ‘The Motown Sect recorded a ‘demo’ for Robert Stigwood on which I played rhythm guitar while Lemmy played drums – the drummer Kevin couldn’t be bothered travelling down to Llandudno where the recording took place. The Motown Sect was offered a deal because of this demo but couldn’t take it up as the parents of Stuart Steele (lead guitar) made him a ward-of-court as he was only sixteen and they wanted him to finish his apprenticeship.’
After the breakup of the Motown Sect Lemmy joined an already-established group in Blackpool the Rockin’ Vickers, releasing three singles. There was also a brief stint in London with prog rockers Opal Butterfly before he joined Hawkwind in 1972 from whom he was expelled within three years “for taking the wrong drugs”.
Motorhead’s original name was Bastard – the name change came about because no promoter would touch them. The rest, as they say is history…