The Costa del Sol has become home for countless British entertainers over the years and many have used their skills to raise funds for local charity organisations, and none as much as Mel Williams, the 75-year-old musician who died last week.
When it came to rock and roll there were not many acts that could compete with the veteran rocker, a born entertainer who loved nothing more than performing on stage in front of his adoring fans.
Mel Williams was most certainly an icon on the coast, where he had lived and performed for more than 40 years, and he became one of the most respected and admired entertainers on the circuit.
An avid supporter of several local charities, Mel was revered for his drive and ambition, because he was always willing to offer his services when needed.
Born in England in 1943, he began his musical career at the age of 14, when he formed a skiffle group with his brother. During the 1960s, they took rock and roll to the Middle East, but Mel returned to Europe two years later and began performing with countless named artists, including Bill Haley, Little Richard, Gene Vincent and The Rolling Stones. By 1965, Mel was working at top cabaret clubs all over Europe and even secured a number one hit (Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head) in Argentina.
Life on the Costa del Sol
In 1974, Mel moved to Spain with his wife, Sally, and he soon began entertaining on the Costa del Sol, quickly establishing himself as an entertainer who could be relied on to perform for the worthiest causes. He was an avid supporter of Cudeca and as well as performing at countless events to raise funds for the organisation, he also undertook the singing of You'll Never Walk Alone at the start of Cudeca's annual Walkathon.
Cudeca founder, Joan Hunt, spoke fondly of her association with the singer, telling SUR in English: "Cudeca will always be proud of its warm friendship with Mel Williams and his wife Sally, which we shared for almost 20 years. At the annual Walkathon, Mel set the walkers off with his rendering of 'walk on', then remaining for the day to entertain participants, patients and families, and to encourage donations to the hospice. Without Mel, our annual Walkathon will not be the same, but his great spirit, natural talent and warm personality will always walk on with us."
For a time, Mel, who had four children, six grandchildren and one great-grandson, owned Mel's Beach Club and Mel's Club Banús, and he soon began to make a name as one of the most energetic and charismatic entertainers on the Marbella scene. He appeared regularly with fellow musicians, Leslie Harrison and David Mairs, on Maurice Boland's television programme and he knew many of the celebrities who Maurice invited to the show.
One in particular was Lonnie Donegan, with whom Mel would form a close, personal and professional friendship. In 2004, Mel performed at the Lonnie Donegan memorial concert at the Royal Albert Hall alongside Lonnie's sons, Anthony and Peter, and a star-studded lineup that included Roger Daltrey, Van Morrison and Joe Cocker.
Radio and television presenter, Maurice Boland, who said the "news of Mel's death came as an utter shock", first met the singer at a charity concert in aid of Kids for Kids, an organisation set up by Mel and Sally. "One of the things I found was that Mel always inspired me. I always tried to aspire to his level and I looked to him for inspiration: he was the headmaster, the king of rock and roll; I was just a pretender," he said.
Maurice, who referred to his long-time friends as being like the "John and Yoko" of the coast, added, "He was always willing to help out and I don't think I ever organised a charity event without Mel being there to participate."
However Mel was more than a musician and entertainer; he was also an author, composer, and he wrote a musical called Professor Fossil's Last Expedition, which enjoyed a sellout run at the Salon Varietes theatre in Fuengirola. One of the songs from the show, Peace to the World, was used by UNICEF as its song of the year.
Songwriting brought Mel many celebrity partnerships, one of which was Samantha Fox, with whom he collaborated on the song Señorita. The former glamour model gifted Mel a leather jacket, which he confessed to "never have been able to fill out quite the same as her".
In 2001, Mel wrote his memoirs, Nearly Famous, a look at his colourful life within the crazy world of rock and roll.
Close friend and associate, Martyn Wood said, "His book, Nearly Famous, tells lots of wonderful stories, but there are many who would like to change the title. Mel was famous to thousands of people who he entertained during his long career, and he helped so many more through his fundraising; in fact, I'm pretty sure there is a benefit concert being organised for someone up there right now, and what a band he has to work with."
These words were reiterated by fellow Costa entertainer, One Wish Steve, who said, "I was inspired by his energy and enthusiasm, a great professional and jovial gentleman who was warm and funny. The coast has lost a true rock star; he will leave a massive void here on the Costa del Sol and around the world. Almost Famous - never. He was more famous than we will ever know."
Mel's funeral was held in the municipal cemetery in Álora, the town he had called home for many years. A convoy of motorcycles, (another passion of Mel's) lined the path as his coffin was carried into the chapel, which was packed with dozens of family, friends and admirers, all of whom had come to say their last farewell to the coast's most celebrated entertainer.
In a statement published on Facebook shortly after the funeral, Mel's son, Jason, said:
"My incredible stepmom Sally has asked me to send her sincere gratitude and thanks to all of you who have sent such beautiful and heartfelt messages to her and all of our family over the last week. Sally is exhausted, but you have truly kept her going and indeed all of us with such an outpouring of love for Dad/Mel. It has kept her going beyond anything you can imagine. I thank you with everything I am from Dad/Mel as I know he will be looking down with such gratitude to you all for your support, strength and kindness you have shown now and for the time you have known him."