Ron McKay
by John Muskett

 

Sad news time again. Drummer Ron McKay died on 3rd May 2013. He had asked that his funeral be attended only by his family, so news of his demise was not released for a while. Ron was a mainstay of Acker Bilk's Paramount Jazz Band in the 1950s and 60s when the band's fame was at its pinnacle, Ron contributing to the driving rhythm and providing many memorable vocals. He then played with the bands of Max Collie and Phil Mason before quitting touring; living in Manchester he joined The French Quarter, although later he went back on the road with Phil.

Ron was from Bootle: perhaps less well-known is his earlier career with Everton Football Club, where he progressed as far as the reserves before a broken leg (sustained against Manchester United) more or less ended his football aspirations. In the early 1950s my Dad took me to watch several reserve games at Goodison Park (before I was deemed tough enough to withstand first team crowds), so I may even have seen Ron playing football! I certainly saw him playing jazz with Acker at the Cavern in the late 50s
(The Swinging Blue Jeans were the back-up group, playing skiffle and country music), so it was a great honour to play alongside him in The French Quarter.

Ron was an excellent musician and companion, with no hang-ups from his glory days and a number of endearing traits. He would never sing until he felt sufficiently relaxed, and would then remove his glasses before taking the mike (there were several conflicting explanations for this). His rhythm was rock-solid, but if he felt that I had been pushing the tempo he might remark, at the end of the tune, "picking up a little there, John", probably the gentlest rebuke I've ever received. He and wife Val (ironically a United supporter) were wonderful company especially on the festivals (in Holland and Germany) that we attended - I remember a particularly mirthful flight from Amsterdam to Manchester - Ron hated flying, and usually took some of the relaxant before boarding a 'plane.

Ron was 84 and had been in a nursing home for two years with a variety of afflictions that had progressively disabled him. I telephoned Val a week and a half ago and she said that his death was not unexpected, but that they had enjoyed wonderful times, and that Ron wouldn't have changed anything. We reminisced and I remarked on Ron's custom (until very recently) of writing several paragraphs of news on the annual Christmas card, saying that if he did that for everybody he must have started in November. "Actually," Val said, "it was October". What a lovely man, what memories; condolences and best wishes to Val and the family.

Harmoniously,

John Muskett
26/05/13


 I played with Ron in the French Quarter Marching Band for a number of years (Ron on snare, me on bass drum) and it was great fun; how could it not be with Ron and Les walking alongside. 

I was lucky enough to dep for Ron with the French Quarter Band for a few months while he had his hip replacement, sharing a gig at the Keswick Little Theatre before he took over again. 

Lovely man, great company.
Graham Martindale


29/05/13

Sad to hear about Ron McKay. I wonder what other drummers think about Ron's kit. He was right handed but played a left handed setup. This meant that he played his bass drum with his left foot and his hi-hat with his right and yet played his snare drum in the conventional right handed way !

Moe Green.
 


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