Imelda set for TV series

Mike Sanchez and Imelda May
Mike Sanchez and Imelda on stage
Imelda May says it's a "travesty" that performers like Mike Sanchez, Paul Ansell and Big Boy Bloater aren't better known - and she'll try to give them exposure on her new TV show in Ireland.

Following a successful pilot of The Imelda May Show on Ireland's RTÉ network in March, the rockabilly star is likely to get a full series.   Modelled on Later With Jools Holland, the aim will be to promote unsigned Irish bands.   (It was on Later that Imelda got her first big break.)   But she says she will insist on including some of Britain's unsung music heroes like Mike Sanchez and Paul Ansell, with whom she worked regularly when she first came to the UK.

Speaking on BBC Radio Northampton, Imelda said Mike Sanchez, in particular, deserves more recognition.   "It's a travesty to be honest.   I learnt a lot from Mike Sanchez and toured for many yearrs.   He has such a huge voice and huge charisma on stage.   I know Mike very well.   He's a great guy.   I would love for him to do better.   Paul Ansell is another.   He was very supportive and gave me gigs, like Big Boy Bloater and all these people.

"I've got my own TV show in Ireland like Later With Jools Holland.   It looks likely I'm going to get a series.   Mostly it's to showase Irish bands, but I'm fighting to get an unknown act on every week and I want to get some of my good friends over.   I want them on and hopefully that'll spread to together parts of the world get them more work because they deserve it."

Sociable baby

The Imelda May Show In an interview with the RTÉ Guide, May added: "I had absolutely no longing or ambitions to be a TV presenter but when I heard about this music show I was very interested.   There are so much great bands in Ireland that need a platform to get out there.   And of course, Jools Holland gave me my break on his TV show."

Imelda's next album, Tribal, is out in June, a month before her 40th birthday.   "It's my favourite album so far," she says.   "I'm rocking out on it.   I was hoping it would be out earlier but these things don't always work out the way you plan."

The singer and her husband Darrel Higham will bring their daughter Violet on tour with them once again when they hit the road later this year.   "She loves being on tour," said Imelda.   "She's a very sociable baby and loves music.   My husband Darrel thinks she loves Bill Haley, but I think she likes The Ramones more."

The Imelda May Show on RTÉ...

Mike Sanchez: the biography

Mike Sanchez A biography of Mike Sanchez has been published.

Mike Sanchez - Big Town Playboy by Michael Madden tells the story of the piano-pumping front man who gave up his showbiz lifestyle in the UK to look after his elderly mother in Spain.

Mike said: "The publication of this, my life story, feels like a huge honour and a most exciting thrill indeed!   I am particularly pleased that my good friend Robert Plant has provided a brief but powerful foreword for the book.   I will return to the UK for the whole of May and sporadically throughout the rest of the year to publicise this release."

Even though his friends and fans include some of the biggest names in showbusiness, Mike Sanchez is relatively unknown outside the roots music scene.   And that's something his biographer hopes the book could help change.

The project began in 2011 when Michael Madden's wife, Sally, approached Sanchez at a pub gig in Sheffield and asked him if he would like someone to write his life story.

In this Planet Jive interview, Michael Madden reveals how he went about researching and writing the improbable tale of the Spanish rock'n'roll star who grew up in the musical backwater of rural Worcestershire...

What makes Mike Sanchez a compelling subject for a biography, and why should people buy the book?

Quite simply Mike is one of the most flamboyant and charismatic, not to mention talented, performers of rock'n'roll and and rhythm'n'blues.   Testimonials from Bill Wyman, Jeff Beck, Andy Fairweather-Low and many more, plus a handwritten foreword by Robert Plant prove just what a talent he is.   He has never had a full time job outside music, and the book charts his life from the Spanish roots of his grandparents and parents, his childhood in London and Bewdley, and his musical career taking in The Rockets, Big Town Playboys, Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings, his own band and his solo career.   More recently there is the sadness of the deaths of his parents and the joy of his wedding to Sarah and the birth of their son Louie.   I was given access to a vast archive of material, and the whole piece is illustrated with a series of unique photographs.

When you and your wife approached Mike at the pub gig in 2011, was it a spur of the moment thing, or something you had been considering for a while?   How long had you been aware of him as a performer?

My mum gave me a Kings Of Rockbilly tape in the mid 90s.   One performer stood out, and that was Sleepy LaBeef. I can't remember exactly when she gave it to me, but I vividly recall playng Sleepy’s Nothin’ But The Truth for the first time which I ordered after hearing the tape.   It instantly went to number one in my collection, above T.Rex, The Stranglers, and Chuck Berry.

Sleepy played in Reading in 2009, one of very few UK shows he performed around that time, so we went along to see him.   Supporting that night was Mike Sanchez... and wow!   I'd never heard of him before that, but decided to go to see him perform a full show which he did a short time later in Shaw, near Oldham.   We went again to Shaw, where he was with his four piece, and then saw him solo at Greystones in Sheffield in 2011.   We enjoyed the show, and I just wondered to myself and my wife whether he would like his bio writing.   At the time I didn't know much about his musical heritage, other than the headlines on his website.   After he finished signing CDs for his fans after the show, she asked him, and he was delighted.   He sent me an email when he got back home later that night - about four in the morning!

Mike Sanchez
Mike jams with one of his fans
Was researching and writing the book and getting quotes from his contemporaries easier or harder than you had expected?

Everyone was very keen to get involved.   His fans and fellow musicians all had a story to tell, and even the superstars such as Jeff Beck and Bill Wyman took time out to speak to me in person or on the phone.   I was driving home from my office one night and had a missed call from a number I didnt recognise.   When I played the voicemail it said: "Hi Mike, it's Bill Wyman here.   Just calling to speak to you about the book".

The following day I spent almost an hour talking to Bill about Mike's time in the studio and touring with the Rhythm Kings.   The most surprising was Mike's encyclopaedic knowledge of everything.   He kept meticulous diaries (well almost) and he added notes which were a great help.   As with something that covers this amount of time there were bound to be discrepancies, but Mike's friends, people like Will Wakefield, Ian Jennings and Mark Davies were incredibly helpful in trying to piece together timelines from the early 80s.

Why did Mike's parents move from London to Bewdley, of all places?

Mike's parents were both Spanish and Mike was a Spanish boy growing up in London with racial tension all around.   Till Death Us Do Part and Love Thy Neighbour were popular TV shows at the time, and Mike and his family became the victims of bullies.   They moved to Bewdley as Mike's older half brother had set up home there.

As a child of the 70s, where did Mike acquire his love of rock'n'roll?

Mike Sanchez
Mike with teenage pals - photo from Mark Davies
Mike's brother Juanjo was considerably older, and was a collector of 50s records.   Mike listened to these endlessly on an old Dansette record player, and he loved the simple messages and the older sounds of these great records.   He listened to quirky songs such as Monster Mash too, but it was the rock'n'roll that gave him an escape from teh bullying.   As he grew older he started to want to look like Elvis, and he found new friends at his new school such as Ian Jennings and Mark Davies, who were also big rock'n'roll fans.   There was also Richard Rogers, who taught Mike and Ian at Bewdley High School.   By night he was performer Ricky Cool, and when Mike found out about this, he became an instant hero.

Mike is known as a flamboyant performer and larger than life personality.   Is he the same off-stage?

Mike will stay around and sign CDs until the last fan has gone.   Off stage he is quiet and contemplative, absorbed in his family life and his music.   I wonder how many people realise just what a perfectionist he is.   He also stays clear of management companies, having had some bad experiences in the past.   So what you see is it.   Mike does everything (ably assisted by his wonderful assistant Jo Hill).

How difficult a decision was it for Mike to move to Spain to look after his mother?

For Mike is was the most natural thing in the world to look after his sick mother.   His parents meant the world to him, they supported him, they were always there for him, and there are two passages in the book that he wrote when each of them passed away that show just how much he loved and respected them.   He even split up with Sarah as he did not want to impose the burden of moving to Spain and a long distance relationship on her.   Then her love for Mike proved just as strong as she moved out there to be with him.

Have marriage and fatherhood changed him?

I'm not sure they have.   He loves his wife and son just as loved his parents.   His family values are extremely strong and this is such a natural thing to do.   He is as charismatic as ever on stage, but most nights in the UK he drives back to his second home in Shipston (Sarah's old flat) to be with his wife and child (unless she is out performing with him).

Mike has played alongside many of the greats in music, but megastardom has somehow, and perhaps unfairly, eluded him.   To what extent do his talents deserve wider recognition?

Jools Holland is a big fan and yet he has never asked Mike to appear on his recent TV shows.   There are many of Mike's friends who believe that this is because Jools doesn't want to be outshone.   Mike is probably the best musician that you have never heard of.   His talent definitely deserves recognition.

First singer on stage at the O2 for the Led Zeppelin reunion.   Fronting Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings for four years.   Opening Mick Fleetwood's LA Blues Club.   Recording with Jeff Beck, Van Morrison, Imelda May...   The list goes on.   Sometimes he is still naive.   He needs to get a regular flow of CDs and he needs to make these widely available on Amazon and get them pushed onto radio stations.

He would never use his friendship with all of these stellar names for self promotion but the fact that Jeff asked him to open on the UK leg of his world tour (a job reserved for ZZ Top in the US) tells you all that you need to know.   I think that now he has his wife to help he could plan the next two years to stardom and still make a much bigger name for himself.   If the book helps him get some of the credit he deserves, I will be thrilled for him.

Mike Sanchez Mike's on-stage energy is sometimes reflected in a degree of perspiration.   Is it an issue for him, or does he just get on and deal with it?

Mike doesn't drink alcohol before he goes on stage but he drinks copious amounts of water.   His sweating is legendary and a part of the act!   His fans expect it.   His mum used to make his stage clothes and they would be made so that they could go into the washing machine straight after a show.

There is a story in the book involving sweating and Shirley Bassey that both Mike and Bill Wyman relayed to me.   I will let you read that for yourself!

The official book launch will be at Mike's gig at London's 100 Club on May 29th.   The biography, priced at £21.99, will be available from Amazon, Waterstones and WH Smith.

At his home in Spain, Mike Sanchez shares his collection of guitars and personal photos...

Mike Sanchez fronts the Big Town Playboys on the Jools Holland show in 1990...

Mike Sanchez with Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings...

Mike Sanchez live at the 2013 Vintage Roots Festival in Italy...   (Runs 53 minutes)

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