Memory Lane: Don’t stop the music

Gordon Bonney, musician, soloing on his feet with the-then Don Smith Dance Band in 1954
Gordon Bonney, musician, soloing on his feet with the-then Don Smith Dance Band in 1954
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READER David Clarke says: “According to my English teacher of long ago, stories need a beginning, a middle and an end.”

But, he adds: “The problem with this one, about my friend, Gordon Bonney, is that, thankfully, it hasn’t yet reached an end!

Gordon Bonney, aged 85

Gordon Bonney, aged 85

“He was 85 on Sunday and he continues to contribute to our Blackpool live music scene on a regular basis.”

And David asks: “Does Blackpool have the best 85-year-old jazz tenor saxophone player on the planet?”

He continues: “Gordon has taught hundreds of youngsters and adults a love and appreciation of music, many to a very high standard of performance. They will see us well served in the future!

“Music, he says, with an expression of passion one might more associate with the dawning of a career than the twilight, is a living, breathing part of all our lives. It is inextricably woven into the fabric of our every day, nowhere more so than here in the entertainment capital of the north.”

Born into a local farming family between the wars, he was enthralled by the clarinet playing of Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman and Charlie Parker on alto sax.

Self-taught on a handed down clarinet, by 17 he was good enough to be recruited into the Station Band at RAF Kirkham upon conscription towards the end of the Second World War.

Demobbed, Gordon joined a band playing in the Isle of Man and Blackpool, ultimately becoming part of the front line in Charlie Barlow’s Band at the Tower Ballroom.

They played nightly and, in particular, for the-then World Dance Festival held there annually. Charlie’s band was the band of choice for those dancers.

He was a member of the resident band at the Imperial Hotel for many years and, following the fire at the Tower Ballroom, played with a smaller band at the Palace Ballroom.

He attended the Northern School of Music in Manchester for his music degree, later in life because of the war, and became a member of the famous Northern Dance Orchestra (NDO).

During this time, which included doing gigs and sharing solos with players like Ronnie Scott, he still lived and taught in his home town Blackpool.

Today he continues to entertain audiences with The Alan Riley Jazz Orchestra, and the Northern All Stars Band.

David points out: “Gordon modestly declares that other local contemporaries have made the same contribution to musical education and performance.

“Musicians such as Alan Riley, Jimmy Thompson, Duggie Drake, Frank Flynn, Terry Reaney and many others. He is quite right and they also should be accorded ‘Seaside Star’ status. The dictionary defines ‘star’ as a distinguished or celebrated person.

“I think our own true Blackpool ‘stars’ are epitomised by all those who, like Gordon Bonney, unselfishly, consistently and, mostly uncelebrated, provide us with such a high standard of entertainment in our world famous town.”