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Saturday, January 17, 2015

RIP Derek Hunter

From the late '40s up to the early '70s there was an abundance of good pianists in and around South Shields. Just about every pub, club and dance hall had one. Names such as Ronnie Callaghan, Alan Bulley, Ray Tones, Kenny Goodall, Chic Cole, George Laing were just some of the players who could be heard in various watering holes most weekends.
Another was Derek Hunter.
None of these were out and out jazzmen although, when called upon, they could hold their own with most of the recognised jazz 88ers.
Derek Hunter, who I only discovered yesterday had died last November was just such a player.
I also discovered yesterday that he wasn't called Derek but James Frederick! Which reminds of the first gig I ever did with him - as I collected the cash Derek whispered, "Don't give them your right name!" and so the "Bill Montgomery Quartet" was born!
He was an enigmatic figure but a lovely pianist. Memories that will forever live with me are Derek playing a George Shearing arrangement of  Again and his own versions of Body and Soul and Honky Tonk Train Blues.
Then there was the night drinking with miners' leader Joe Gormley after a gig in Durham, the after hours gigs where Derek would find a piano and just play, the hanging out...
It's hard to believe that it's probably over 30 years since I last spoke to him or heard him play and now I never will.
I hope his family have recordings...
Derek died on November 23, 2015 aged 84.
Sadly missed
Lance.

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