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Born This Day
Louis Armstrong and Steve Andrews.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

FAREWELL TO A LEGEND by Eddie Sammons

It was a busy Friday afternoon on the 29th July at “The Ship” at Mortlake. Beer was supped, sandwiches munched; friends reunited, new friendships made; memories were rekindled, stories were swapped. A host of Delaneys – Donna, Tony, Hannah, Kindah and various grandchildren – mingled with visitors as did Eileen, Eric Delaney’s partner of many years.
I spotted Eric’s pal, Alex Jackson, “alleged comedian” (his own words!) Danny Downing and a host of musicians, many from the Coda Club. The sole surviving musician from Eric’s big band was there – pianist Don Innes – as were a number of British jazz/swing stalwarts – Stan Roderick, Ronnie Hughes, Bill Geldard, Ray Wordsworth, and Bobby Orr. From Eric’s “little big band days” came Bernadette Wilde, Andy Mudd, Michael “Munch” Manship, Micky Greenwood and, of course, Tony Fisher.
An explosive display of percussive pyrotechnics by 2009’s Young Drummer of the Year, Richard Rayner, told us it was time to listen. Though it was force of circumstance that put Richard on first, it was appropriate. Eric’s support for young players was always there and a sort of bond had developed between the “young blood” and the “old maestro”. Tony Fisher then led a jam session with Don Innes on keyboard and Guy Walsh on drums. Many regretted not having brought instruments with them. So trombones and trumpets led the way. Tony proved that he still “had the chops” but I think even his eyes lit up when Georgina Jackson played and she showed why Eric had hired her when she was just eighteen! Eric would have loved it – the music, all his old and not-so-old pals, and the music.
He would have loved, too, the place where we had said our formal farewells. Mortlake Crematorium has beautiful settings and Eric was always fond of green areas, flowers and trees. The humanist ceremony was opened by Kevin Miles, in full uniform, from the R.A.F. Central Band thus representing “The Squadronaires” with whom Eric played in recent years and acknowledging Eric’s service with the R.A.F. Celebrant Pippa Wilcox took us through a potted history of Eric’s life and character which was often hilarious. Interspersed were tributes and stories from Tony Fisher, Arthur Casson from Blackpool, Stephen Henderson from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and Eric’s long-time pal, Alex “Big Al” Jackson, and, to end, a piece by Dr. Ian Darrington, MBE, read (beautifully so) by broadcaster Sheila Tracy. A reflective, diverse selection of contibutors whose words were supported by equally diverse music. Eric would have loved it. “Bring Me Sunshine” by Morecambe and Wise, the anvil bit from Wagner’s “Gotterdammerung”, “Little Drummer Boy” (Eric was not really very tall, was he?) played by his great friend the late Louie Bellson. To end? What else but Eric’s own recording of “Manhattan Spiritual”. I am told that about 250 people attended. Certainly the chapel was packed. Other than those already mentioned, I noted a few people I recognised and they included Kenny Ball, drummers Lloyd Ryan and Peter Cater and I expect there were more. Nigel Bates (ex-Chief Percussion, ROH) was there. So, too, was Ken Chaisty who organised many Delaney events. It was good to see Alan Skidmore there in a sort of a dual role – in his own right and in the spirit of his father, Jimmy, for whom Eric had the greatest respect. Both father and son had played in Eric’s bands. Eric was used to seeing large audiences and it was fitting that he should depart with a full house. Goodbye, Eric, there’ll never be another like you.
Eddie Sammons.
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Re-posted with permission from Eddie Sammons author of "The Magnificent Eric Delaney."
Originally posted on Mike Dolbear DRUMS - the definitive drummers website.
Lance.

1 comment :

Bill Weston said...

I read an article about Eric in today's Times.
Some time ago, Lance, you introduced me to him at the New Crown, South Shields.
Nice to think I got to meet a legend.

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