Manager steps into The Shadows

  • People
  • Wednesday, 09 Oct 2013

Bobby McFhee, 60, is a one-man band. Besides the guitar, he also plays the keyboard and drums.

A building manager embarks on a one-man crusade to promote The Shadows music.

ON some nights, Bobby McFhee, 60, takes his Fender guitar and plays like Hank Marvin. Armed with a ‘57 Fender Stratocaster, a fiesta red maple neck guitar, he took a year to learn to play like Marvin, the legendary lead guitarist of The Shadows, a pop/rock group which dominated the British popular music scene in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

McFhee, whose real name is Low Teong Fhee, was 53 when he started to pick up The Shadows music after his cousin Sonny Hon gave him a backing tracks CD of The Shadows. Hon, a rhythm guitarist, passed away three years later. He was the one who inspired McFhee to play the guitar.

“My cousin was very impressed with my guitar skills. He told me: You’re really good. Keep it up!” said McFhee, who has a small studio at his apartment in Desa Petaling, Kuala Lumpur.

“It took me three months to pick up The Shadows’ music. I played by ear. Within a year, I managed to master Marvin’s playing style.”

McFhee did some research and bought a number of amplifiers and effects to capture the sounds of The Shadows. He even mastered the handling of Fender guitars. He bought a repair/maintenance book for Fender guitars and started to experiment on the musical instrument. Within six months, he became adept at sound adjustments and repairs.

In the early days, McFhee practised The Shadows’ music every day for a few hours and over time, he grew fond of it. “At one point, I was crazy enough to wake up in the middle of the night to find the notes,” he said.

“Not many bands in town play The Shadows’ music,” said McFhee, a father of two. He was coaxed out of retirement with a contract to manage an office building in Kuala Lumpur.

Another cousin, Terry Young, a retiree and guitar enthusiast, would share tips on how to get the sounds of Marvin.

“We used to buy and tried all kinds of guitar effects, such as Zoom 505, Zoom GTX, Zoom G2, Behringer Time Machine and Danelectro echo reel,” he said.

“So far, the best effect I have is the Yamaha UB99. This year, I also found that Ibanez echo shifter was just as good. I also used another effect called Joyo AC Tone to bring out the sound of the Vox AC30.”

McFhee hopes to bring the music of Marvin to life and promote it to the younger generation.

“Most people who know or love The Shadows are probably 60 to 70 years old. Some might not be around anymore,” he said.

McFhee obliges friendly requests to perform at wedding dinners and events. Since 2009, he has played in Imbi Chinese Village (a food court which has since closed down), Flamingo Cafe (in Flamingo Hotel, Jalan Hulu Kelang, Selangor), and the Royal Commonwealth Society at Damansara Heights, Kuala Lumpur, on July 7 this year.

Four years ago, he started to promote his music on YouTube and has since uploaded 54 videos under BobbyMcFhee.

You would think that McFhee was mesmerised by The Shadows when he was a young man. But he confessed: “I was strumming my guitar and singing Bee Gees songs then.”

He started playing rhythm guitar at the age of 15, and stopped after three years. A self-taught guitarist, he learnt by watching others play the guitar. He can also play the keyboard and drums.

“As a one-man band, there is no need to depend on others. You just play along with the backing tracks CDs. I produce my own backing tracks CDs and most of the songs in the backing tracks are edited with sound improvements.”

McFhee has written lyrics, in English, for some Chinese songs. They include Love You 365 Days (by Yao Su Rong), The Moon Represents My Heart (Teresa Teng), Shanghai Beach (Frances Yip) and Mun Sui Ching San (by Hacken Lee but originally sung by Lisa Wong).

“I love these songs very much but I can’t sing in Chinese,” he said. So he wrote his own lyrics which he sang to the tune of his favourite Chinese songs. McFhee is indeed a master of improvisation.

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