Derek "Rockhard" Roberts

Obituary by Tony Davis & Keith Allcock

May 2006?

Very, very sorry to report that Derek Roberts, the fine banjo player from Wallasey, died last week after a long, brave fight against cancer. Derek will be best remembered as the pivotal rhythmic force in Bruce Bakewell's Norleans Jazz Band, in which he earned his nickname "Rockhard" after a marathon session in New Orleans variously reported as having lasted anything from four to six hours non-stop! Since Bruce's enforced retirement from active playing, Derek has made a further name for himself as one of the happy gang around The Star at Rainford, most recently I believe in the back line of "Doctor Jazz". Derek was always ready to help out anyone who needed a hand and I have a personal memory of this quality when I put together a talk which needed certain musical illustrations. A casual mention of this brought Derek round with a dozen tapes containing all I required. Others have even more generous examples of his many kindnesses. To use a hackneyed, but very true phrase, he will be sorely missed. All our love and sympathy goes out to Jean who, as always, steadfastly supported him through these last months. Derek's funeral will be at Landican Crematorium, near Arrowe Park Hospital, just off Junction 3 of the M53, on Tuesday, 23rd May. Jean would like to see as many musicians as possible, so turn out and meet the cortege at the Landican gates at 11.45 to give Derek a real New Orleans funeral. 

Tony Davis



It was with deep sadness that we recently heard of the death of our former banjo player, Derek Roberts. Derek was a real stalwart of traditional jazz in the North-west and played for years in Bruce Bakewell's Norleans Jazz Band, a quintet much loved by New Orleans enthusiasts. It was with Bruce that he earned his nickname, Rockhard, when he played non-stop for between 4 and 6 hours (reports vary!) on a session in New Orleans. More recently he played with New Orleans Express and was also a member of Doctor Jazz from its formation early in 1999, bringing to both these bands the enthusiasm and reliability which were his hallmarks. Derek knew a vast range of tunes and  was a mine of information about the music he loved. Unlike a lot of banjo players, his playing had a buoyancy and lift which allowed the band to really swing and his sense of time made him easy to play with. Also, where some banjos sound like they're made of soggy cardboard, his had a real ring to it. The members of Doctor Jazz salute him out of respect for his playing and gratitude for the sessions we enjoyed together.

Keith Allcock

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