Saturday, 8 February 2014

Britain is still a country with to an old rock band called Deep Purple, remembers Jon Lord and needs another 69,000 signatures on Maggie Watts e-petition for research into the cancer which killed him

Jon, unique and oft imitated keyboard player, known for his pioneering work fusing rock with classical music with 'Deep Purple', was 71 years old when he died from pancreatic cancer in 2012.
What you possibly didn't know about Jon, that he :
* was born in Leicester in 1941, during the Second World, where his father, an amateur saxophonist,  took him to afternoon tea dances, instilled him with a love of music set him to study classical piano from the age of five with a mix of Bach, medieval popular music and Elgar.

* in his teens at Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys, took part in amateur dramatics and the school choir, while R and B, American organist, Jimmy McGriff and Jerry Lee Lewis started to influence him and later said : "The first four bars of 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On' totally turned my head around. I tried like hell to make the old piano at home sound like that but it wouldn't. That's when I realised there was more to rock and roll than meets the ear" and at 17 in 1958, saw Buddy Holly perform in Leicester.

* left school at 17, worked as a clerk in a solicitor's office for two years then in 1959 moved to London, studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama before becoming a founder of  a breakaway group of students and teachers, 'Drama Centre London'.

* graduated in 1964 and got small acting parts but played the piano and Hammond organ in clubs to pay the bills, initially with jazz band 'The Bill Ashton Combo' at the age of 19 in 1960 then with 'Red Bludd's Bluesicians' until 1963 and played keyboard to the Kinks hit, "You Really Got Me". 
The Art Wood Combo
* moved on to 'The Art Wood Combo', later renamed 'The Artwoods', appeared on tv on 'Ready Steady Go' and had a chart single with 'I Take What I Want' which reached number 28 in 1966 and were focused on the organ as the bluesy, rhythmic core of their sound, in common with the contemporary bands, 'The Spencer Davis Group' with Stevie Winwood on organ and 'The Animals' with Alan Price.
* created his trademark sound when he formed 'Santa Barbara Machine Head',
(right with hat)
which featured Ronnie Wood and bassist Nick Simper, which with its powerful, organ- and guitar-driven formula, gave a preview of the future style of 'Deep Purple', then went on to cover for the keyboard player in 'The Flower Pot Men' and toured with the band in 1967.

* in 1968 at the age of 27, with Nick, formed the backbone of 'Deep Purple' and were joined by guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, singer Rod Evans and drummer Ian Paice when businessman and manager Tony Edwards invested in the new group and auditioned the cream of London's young talent.

* began experimenting with a keyboard sound produced by the Hammond organ by driving it through Marshall speakers in an effort to match Ritchie's guitar and  in the 8 years which followed, infused the band's songs with classical influences, as in song 'April'
in 1969 and with his organ playing, counterpointed by Ritchie's virtuoso lead guitar, played in the world's largest stadiums and produced a series of  LPs : 'In Rock'
in 1970, 'Fireball' in '71, 'Machine Head' in '72 and 'Burn' in '74
until the bands break up in a haze of drugs and exhaustion in 1976.

* formed a new band with singer Tony Ashton, released 'Malice in Wonderland' in 1977, then joined and remained with 'Whitesnake' until rejoining a reformed 'Deep Purple' in 1984.

* undertook solo projects and collaborations in the 1980s including 'Before I Forget' in 1982, the soundtrack of Central Television's 1984 series 'The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady' and guest spots on albums by his Oxfordshire neighbour George Harrison and Pink Floyd's David Gilmour.

* toured and recorded with Pink Floyd for eighteen years, retired from the band at the age of 61 in 2002
and followed with solo projects including a collaboration in 2004 with Abba singer Anni-Frid Lyngstad, the formation of a blues band, 'Hoochie Coochie Menin 2007.

* was a member of George Harrison's social circle in Oxfordshire and was a close friend of John Mortimer  the barrister, dramatist, screenwriter, author and released his solo album 'To Notice Such Things' dedicated to his memory after his death in 2009.and in 2010, was made an honorary fellow of Stevenson College, Edinburgh and the following year, at the age 68, was awarded an honorary doctorate of music by the University of Leicester.

Jon died from pancreatic cancer on the

15th January with David paying this tribute :
"Although he played the simple soul of Trigger in Only Fools and Horses, he was a very intelligent man and a very fine actor capable of many roles."

The cancer which killed Jon remains the Cinderellas of cancers in comparison with bowel, breast and prostate. Only more funding and public awareness will lead to earlier detection and, ultimately, better survival rates. It is often called the 'silent killer' since many of its symptoms mirror other less critical illnesses and doctors may not recognise these early enough, resulting in lost time before diagnosis and a terminal outcome. It kills 7,900, mostly old men and women in Britain each year with 75% of cases in those aged 65 years and over.

Last year, Maggie Watts, who lost her husband to pancreatic cancer at the age of just 48 in 2009, launched a UK Government E-petition to push it further up the political agenda.
The petition is a call to :
'Provide more funding and awareness for pancreatic cancer to aid long overdue progress in earlier detection and, ultimately, improved survival rates'

Maggie speaking to ITN :

So, in memory of Jon, please sign Maggie's petition and spread it to family, friends and colleagues though facebook, twitter and other social media to help her get her 100,000 signatures :


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