The beat goes on in Eric’s memory

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THE memory of one of the resort’s best-loved drummers is to live on forever.

Eric Delaney was a world-renowned drummer who kept the crowds at the Tower Ballroom entertained for years.

Eric might have been on drums but, unusually, was the bandleader too. He sat at the front whenever his group performed and provided the soundtrack for many a kid growing up in Blackpool, as well as countless number of tourists flocking to the town.

When he passed away in July 2011, that seemed to be that - another part of the town’s rich entertainment industry lost forever.

But thanks to the efforts of a couple of local musicians and Eric fans - jazz singer and Galleon bar owner Stephen Pierre, and Andy Mudd, who was Eric’s keyboard player for years and now works with Joe Longthorne - there is to be a lasting memorial to one of Blackpool’s best loved figures.

A plaque with Eric’s name on it is to be installed in the Tower Ballroom with the grand unveiling planned for next month.

“I am delighted about this because Eric deserves to be honoured - he was a one-off, unique,“ said Mr Pierre.

“He is part of the Tower’s history and the man who really saved the ballroom from being into a disco.”

Eric was born in London but aged 16 won best swing drummer and joined the Bert Ambrose Octet, which featured George Shearing (the famous jazz pianist). He formed his own band in 1954, signed with Pye Records, and made three Royal Variety Show appearances.

Eric specialised in up-tempo dance hall music, with a touch of rock n’ roll, but like many artists of a similar style, he became less popular after The Beatles burst onto the scene in the 60s and changed the music tastes of the country forever.

Eric remained active though, touring the UK holiday resorts and falling in love with Blackpool in particular.

He did 23-week summer seasons in the Tower Ballroom throughout the 1980s - and Pierre, a huge fan, described how Delaney had influenced his own upbringing.

“When I was 16-years-old in the 1980s, I was fascinated by the Tower ballroom and Eric,” he added. “His kind of band had fallen out of popularity by then. Blackpool was the last ballroom of its kind operating with a band.

“But what Eric did was to trim the band right down and he toured with a five piece and it made it economical.

“Then later on, with the like of Michael Buble making the old band-style music popular again, he had a resurgence and became popular with the younger generation again, collaborating with the likes of the Wigan Youth jazz orchestra.

“He was such an exuberant figure. I used to watch him in awe because even late into his 70s he would bounce round the stage like a 25-year-old. He was the last of his generation really and a major inspiration to myself and many others.

“He was also a major part of Blackpool Tower Ballroom’s history - I’m glad the Tower and the Council have listened and we are going to get this plaque up in Eric’s honour.”

The unveiling will take place at the Ballroom on Wednesday February 27, during the afternoon dancing.

Later that day, there is a special tribute night in honour of Eric at the Galleon Bar on Abingdon Street.

Featuring vocalists Sara Cheston and Catherine Kerr, as well as Stephen Pierre, the event starts at 8pm and lasts till midnight. Entry is free.