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.
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.
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.
man, great company.
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