Talented jazzman who brought music to the Fylde coast for 60 years dies

Picture by Julian Brown 01/07/17  Alan Riley plays with the Wyre Levee Stompers at Blackpool Jazz and Blues Festival 2017
Picture by Julian Brown 01/07/17 Alan Riley plays with the Wyre Levee Stompers at Blackpool Jazz and Blues Festival 2017
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A talented jazzman whose passion for music spanned more than 60 years has died.

Alan Riley, 80, died on Thursday April 4, just three days after his last big band performance at the Ashley Club, Victoria Road East, Thornton, where he regularly played.

Mr Riley, who played the baritone saxophone and trombone, was a founding member of the Fylde Coast Jazzmen in the 1960s and played at the Blackpool Tower, the Winter Gardens, and on Central Pier.

In 1966 the Jazzmen found success on ITV’s ‘Opportunity Knocks’, and later appeared on TV talent show ‘Star Town’ and game show ‘It’s a Knockout!’.

In recent years Mr Riley, who lived on Dianne Road, Thornton, played the trombone and saxophone for the Wyre Levee Stompers.

The group held a special performance in his memory at the North Euston Hotel, Fleetwood, on Sunday.

Ken Emery, founder of the Wyre Levee Stompers, said: “Alan played even when he shouldn’t have been playing. He was a gentleman. He liked to reminisce about old times in his musical career and he was very entertaining with the stories he would tell.

“He didn’t have a bad word for anybody.

“He was a superb musician. He was very inventive. He had total command of his instruments.

“We have played once since his death and we played without a trombone player. We put his trombone on the stand where he used to play.”

Willie Barrow, banjo player and guitarist for the Fylde Coast Jazzmen, said Mr Riley signed up for three years of national service in the 1950s just so he could join the army band.

“He was Mr Jazz,” he said. “At our high point we were playing six nights a week. He played trombone and baritone sax, which was a very strange combination and gave the Fylde Coast Jazzmen a different sound. We were moving into the realms of mainstream jazz.

“He had such a good ear, once he heard a tune he’d get it in his head. He was a very, very accomplished musician.

“I was called up for national service, but he volunteered. He decided to go for the three year option and that meant he could be a bandman, which is what he was.

“He was a lovely guy and an enthusiast.”