Ed Mitchell, former Editor of The Blues Magazine has died, aged 52

Ed Mitchell
(Image credit: Future)

Ed Mitchell, music writer, and former Editor of The Blues Magazine has died aged 52. He had been suffering from cancer.

Ed grew up in Gourock in the west of Scotland. He was a scooter boy in his youth, and a guitar player, and the period shaped his views on music and style. It’s probably fair to say that his first loves were ska and punk. As a schoolboy, he used his dinner money to buy Madness records – his parents couldn’t understand why he was getting so skinny. As an adult, his tastes went way beyond that into country, blues, rock’n’roll and more. He thought The Who were the greatest rock band of all time and loved The Beatles and The Jam.

His tastes weren't all mod-approved. He loved Bruce Springsteen and Motley Crue (probably because of what he saw as the sleaze-punk Johnny Thunders/Dolls connection), and had encyclopaedic knowledge of guitar players like Roy Buchanan, Danny Gatton and Duane Allman. 

He left school at 16 and went straight to work at McCormack’s, a famous Glaswegian guitar shop, in October 1986. It was the same week that his beloved Madness split up. The band appeared on Top Of The Pops (opens in new tab) and at the end of the song, guitarist Chris Foreman and bassist Mark Bedford showed the audience the backs of their guitars. Written on them were two words: “The End”. Ed joked that his childhood ended that week. 

At McCormack’s his unpretentious-yet-style-conscious attitude brought a new innovation to the store. “I remember Ed telling me that he installed a full-length mirror in the shop,” says Henry Yates, who started writing for Total Guitar magazine around the same time as Ed. “He’d encourage punters to pose with the guitars before they bought them.

“It was typical of his playful philosophy to rock'n'roll, and I think that flowed into his writing style, which was always so funny and enthusiastic. As a music journalist, Ed couldn't have been po-faced if he'd tried. Whenever he wrote about a band, I'd always want to listen to them afterwards. I've also never known anyone who was so passionate about so many different genres.”

The years in McCormack’s were the perfect grounding for the role of Reviews Editor on Total Guitar magazine. “The first time I ever saw Ed was the mugshot introducing him as reviews editor of Total Guitar in 2003,” says Henry. “In the photo, he was biting into a Fender Telecaster, like a shark mauling a surfboard. But while he looked hard as nails, Ed had a heart of solid gold. He was so kind, warm, witty and – for a wet-behind-the-ears freelancer like I was then – really nurturing and encouraging of my writing.”

Ed Mitchell

"Like a shark mauling a surfboard": Ed's first mag picture in Total Guitar, 2003. (Image credit: Future)

Ed himself moved beyond reviewing guitars into writing features, interviews, album reviews, how-tos. His guitar-modding column Ed’s Shed appeared in print on both sides of the Atlantic, in both Total Guitar and Guitar World (opens in new tab) magazines, and he wrote stories for Classic Rock and Guitarist. Between them, the websites Louder, MusicRadar (opens in new tab) and Guitar World (opens in new tab) host over 400 of his articles – among them, interviews with Billy Gibbons (opens in new tab), Paul Weller (opens in new tab), Brian Setzer (opens in new tab), profiles on Roy Buchanan, Duane Allman and Peter Green, a joint interview with Jimmy Page and Jack White (opens in new tab), and dozens of guitar reviews – and that’s just the ones that made it online.

In 2012, he was appointed Editor of The Blues Magazine, a sister magazine to Classic Rock, designed to cover the resurgent blues scene headed up by the likes of Joe Bonamassa, as well as bring serious appreciation to the original bluesmen. (In 2013, he added to that the short-lived Country Music Magazine: the idea was that the mags would be bi-monthly, and he would alternate from one to the other as Editor.) 

Blues magazine covers

Assorted issues of The Blues Magazine. (Image credit: Future)

Emma Johnston was Deputy Editor of The Blues Magazine. “Ed was one of the funniest, quickest-witted people I’ve ever known,” she says, “with a fantastically dark, razor-sharp sense of humour and a complete inability to suffer fools gladly or silently. He was fiercely loyal to his friends, as well as a brilliant writer and a walking encyclopaedia of music –  his time presenting a radio show [for Feedback Radio] was an education in soul, ska and Two-Tone – although he very vocally drew the line at anything to grace the Prog stereo.”

“As an editor, he was a brilliant whirl of inspired chaos,” says Henry Yates, “seemingly pulling off every issue at the last minute like a monthly great escape – probably why the issues he helmed felt so energetic and exciting to read. He'd talk in rockabilly-speak, too – I suspect nobody else will ever call me ‘daddio’.”

Ed Mitchell

Ed when he presented The Boss Reggae Show on Feedback Radio in 2020. (Image credit: Ed Mitchell)

He was a great musician too. He would jam with Stephen Lawson, the Editor of Total Guitar, and it developed into something more. “His wonderful wife Julie christened us ‘The Boo Hoo Brothers’ when she heard us practising my melancholic country-folk songs in their house in Frome,” says Steve. “She and Ed had the same wicked sense of humour. 

“We were actually pretty good. A Bristol promoter hooked us up with a female singer-songwriter who these days plays with former members of Portishead and The Verve. Ed played mandolin and bass. His playing really inspired me: a mix of no-frills Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn-style groove and McCartney-esque melody. He had so much feel and taste. Actually, he had more than that, he had soul. He was also the only person who ever lived who could get away with wearing sunglasses in the office.”

Country

The short-lived Country Music Magazine: one of Ed's favourite projects (Image credit: Future)

The Blues Magazine ran until June 2016, closed by owners TeamRock (opens in new tab) who were then facing the financial troubles that would see the business go bankrupt by the end of the year. Ed was already dogged by health problems and went freelance, continuing to write for Classic Rock and Guitarist (opens in new tab).

Ed could be scathing – he was hilariously intolerant of all the right things – but he had a big heart. He hated unfairness, bullies and small-mindedness. (He recently told a story about being on a hospital ward earlier this year. A guy in the bed opposite was being racist towards the staff. “Want me to unplug his life support while he’s asleep?” he joked with the nurses. “I’m dying anyway. It’d do us all a favour.”)  

He was in good humour right until the end. He got his cancer diagnosis a few days before Christmas 2021. "I’ve been given between a year and 18 months before I pop my clogs,” he wrote. “I got that news a few days before Christmas. It’s the worst Christmas present I’ve received since someone got me a hideous Sweater Shop jumper in 1995.”

At the beginning of October he emailed: "Since I last saw you I’ve been in and out of more hospitals than Jimmy Saville. I had a stroke and then treatment for cancer in my spine. It’s been a right laugh!

"I survived working for TeamRock,” he joked. “Cancer isn’t that bad.”

Scott Rowley
Content Director, Music

Scott is the Content Director of Music at Future plc, responsible for the editorial strategy of online and print brands like Louder, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog, Guitarist, Guitar World, Guitar Player, Total Guitar etc. He was Editor in Chief of Classic Rock magazine for 10 years and Editor of Total Guitar for 4 years and has contributed to The Big Issue, Esquire and more. Scott wrote chapters for two of legendary sleeve designer Storm Thorgerson's books (For The Love Of Vinyl (opens in new tab), 2009, and Gathering Storm (opens in new tab), 2015). He regularly appears on Classic Rock’s podcast, The 20 Million Club (opens in new tab), and was the writer/researcher on 2017’s Mick Ronson documentary Beside Bowie (opens in new tab)