We at At The Barrier were saddened to learn of the death of Mick Tyas, multi-instrumentalist and long-time bassist in Durham’s The Whisky Priests.
Mick joined the band in 1989 and featured on their first six albums, starting with that year’s acclaimed Nee Gud Luck. Mick was a highly popular member of the band and a vibrant on-stage presence. Indeed, the band’s reputation and success was built to a large extent by their no-holds-barred live act; they stole the show at the 1990 Cambridge Folk Festival and went on to gather a loyal and fervent following right across Europe, particularly in Germany, where they headlined the 1992 Rockspektakel Festival in Hamburg.
Happily, the band’s live dynamic was captured on vinyl with 1993’s Bloody Well Live album, recorded at the Hamburg Markthalle on New Year’s Eve 1992 – the album presented the band at their boisterous live best.
Mick and The Whisky Priests parted ways in 1996, following the release of the Bleeding Sketches album, the last Whisky Priests album on which Mick was to appear, and Mick moved on to other things, including a stint with the great Tippin’ The Wink and a string of projects with Whisky Priests’ founding member Gary Miller. In 2018, Mick was back in The Whisky Priests’ fold as the band reformed and were welcomed back to the live arena on their Bloody Well Back tour. Most recently, Mick had been working as a duo with Gary Miller and launching his new band, The Chime Hours, formed with former members of The Buttermountain Boys and The Wicker Men.
I was fortunate enough to meet Mick on a couple of occasions, back in the mid-eighties. The first time, at a house party in Darlington in 1984, he burst in (after the pubs had kicked out…) like a tornado, commandeered the music facilities, and absolutely energised the party with the most fantastic party compilation tape I’ve ever heard. When I asked the party’s host (my mate Dave, no mean guitarist himself) who this whirlwind was, he introduced me to “Mickey, a star of the Darlington music scene.”
Our next meeting was a year or so later at the Darlington Beer Festival, held in the town’s Arts Centre. This time, Mick was brimming with enthusiasm for a band he’d just been to see in Newcastle, a group of London/Irish vagabonds that were going to “give folk music a right boot up the arse.” He was, of course, referring to The Pogues and it was Mick’s passionate recommendation that urged me to seek out their debut album, Red Roses for Me. To this day, I can’t hear Transmetropolitan, that album’s opening track, without recalling that boozy conversation back in Darlington.
Mick Tyas passed away on 25th November in Darlington Hospital, another talented individual whose life has been prematurely and cruelly curtailed by the COVID virus. He leaves behind his wife, Margaret and daughter, Rosemary, but he also leaves many, many happy memories and a formidable musical legacy. Rest in Peace, Mick.
Watch The Whisky Priests stealing the show (Mick’s on the bass) at the 1990 Cambridge Folk Festival here:
The Chime Hours Online: Facebook