National Service memories of big band leader

I READ your obituary of Peter Coe (April 1) with more than passing interest. I had no idea he was living so close. What a chance I missed to renew an old friendship of some 52 years ago. I met Peter in Wuppertal, West Germany, in 1955. (I always thought h

I READ your obituary of Peter Coe (April 1) with more than passing interest. I had no idea he was living so close. What a chance I missed to renew an old friendship of some 52 years ago.

I met Peter in Wuppertal, West Germany, in 1955. (I always thought he was younger until I read your obit.)

Peter was in the Band of the 'Buffs' under Bandmaster Trevor Sharpe (of Dad's Army tune fame) and was one of a number of outstanding National Service musicians at that time. I well remember that, apart from Peter, they had a great trombonist, whose name escapes me, and a fantastic pianist named Chris (I think) Reed: he went on to fame big-time with orchestras for ITV & BBC and as a conductor, arranger and performer.

My acquaintance with Peter came about through an arrangement we had at the NAAFI club in Wuppertal on Monday nights. I was 21 and lead trumpet of the Royal Ulster Rifles dance band, and he, of course, was the lead sax with the Buffs dance band.


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We used to play for free dances on alternate weeks and, naturally, we spent some time together as fellow musicians. In addition, we frequently met as our two full military bands met up for the occasional massed concert for the locals. I would also meet Peter off and on in the Wuppertal jazz club, quite often in the early hours of the morning when we could 'jam' with local musicians.

My first meeting with Peter was memorable. As I arrived at the NAAFI club to liaise with the Buffs dance band about handovers, I could hear, blasting out from the open doors, Earl Bostick's Flamingo. I thought it was the juke-box turned up way too high but no. It was, of course, Peter. It was featured every second Monday and drew crowds....better than Bostick, as I thought at the time.

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We went on to become good friends until the Buffs moved on: I lost track of Peter and many of the other National Service bods, but frequently met up with others from his band in later years.

However, I tried to follow his career and feel pretty sure that he played for awhile, (mainly on clarinet, I thought) with Humphrey Lyttelton: in fact, he might have been on another hit with Humph's Bad Penny Blues.

I had continued with my own career, but in the Army, and went on to become a bandmaster before retiring to the South West to teach at Millfield School, retiring from there to Huntingdon in 1997. To think that Peter was living only down the road! What a shame I missed him.

He was a one off: a character, a great player and as laid back as they come.

PETER O'CONNELL

Devoke Close

Huntingdon

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