Musician who played in many gigs in 1066 Country dies

Ray Elgar
Ray Elgar

A musician whose band played in thousands of gigs in Bexhill and Hastings over many years, has died aged 97.

Ray Elgar enjoyed a long career as a double bass player and became one of the world’s leading authorities on the instrument, his son Philip said.

Philip added: “Ray researched and recorded the development of the bass and its place in the history of music. He found time to travel the world in order to research, write, and publish three books. A champion of the Italian virtuoso bassist Giovanni Bottesini (1821–1889), he published several previously unknown works in his own hand. Ray’s unending passion for the instrument led him to gather together a vast collection of information.”

Born in 1919 in Hastings, Ray formed his first band in 1936, aged 17.

In 1939, Ray left Hastings and joined Frank King’s band playing bass alongside Steve Race. Both played piano at the Paramount Ballroom in Tottenham Court Road. The band travelled to Manchester to perform opposite Ivy Benson, then on to the Piccadilly Club in Glasgow.

In 1941, Ray appeared at The London Palladium with Edmundo Ross and his Rumba Band in the Jazz Jamboree. He then moved on to join the Harry Leader band at the Hammersmith Palais before being called up, aged 21.

After a long stint playing with the staff band of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Ray was posted to the Army Radio Orchestra and recording unit in London, making recordings for the War Office Overseas Radio and Broadcasting Service.

Ray became conductor of the Hastleons Orchestra in the 1950s and 60s and continued to play his regular gigs at the De La Warr Pavilion with the Neil Jecley Orchestra.

After retiring at 82, Ray devoted his time to distributing the vast collection of musical instruments and antiquarian music he spent a lifetime accumulating.

His son added: “Ray taught himself the art of Punch and Judy and gave many performances. He also became skilled at performing with marionettes and, along with his devoted wife Edna travelled as far afield as Saudi Arabia entertaining the children of royalty.”

Ray died last Wednesday (April 19). He leaves his son, Philip and daughter Chrissie.

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