TONY FRANKS of Pensnett has written to us with sad news; the passing of his friend and fellow musician Bob Ford, a stalwart of the Black Country music scene for many a year. Bob, originally of Coseley, began his career over fifty years ago, as Tony explains ...
"Some time in the 1950s, a young man called Burt Poutney changed his name to Bob Ford, and started singing in pubs and clubs around the Black Country.
"One Saturday night in 1964 he was booked on a show to be backed by a group called The Variety Four. They were a classicaly trained pianist called Nelly, Ray Bird on drums, Tony Franks on lead guitar and Winstone Plant on rhythm guitar; the latter two had both played with the now-defunct Sapphires.
"The show was a great success, so the decision was made to join together and we became Bob Ford and the Fabulous Variety Four. Sadly this line up lasted only a few months, as Nelly and Ray decided to leave. They were replaced by Jack Appleby on organ and Harry Cutler on drums, from the disbanded group The Blizzards.
“This line up had great success, playing music six or seven nights a week, in clubs and pubs, doing a variety of music from pop songs of the day to Country and Western. Bob had a great singing voice, performing standards by Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Gene Pitney and of course the Big O, Roy Orbison; gaining the group a regular following of fans.
"Bob would finish the night with a 25 minute section of Al Jolson, in a black suit, white shirt and black bow tie, with his face blacked up to mimic the great man himself; ending the night with Climb Upon my Knee Sonny Boy, and leaving the sage to a standing ovation and an audience in tears.
Ballroom "The band continued and by branching out into ballroom dancing became a popular dance band.
"In 1969 Tony and Winston left to start their ow group, called Magazine.
Bob carried on with Reg on bass and his brother Fred on lead guitar. Over the years he also added a saxophone player and a trumpet player, becoming a top line dance band. Bob continued to play until the 1980s, sometimes working for nothing so he couuld pay his band.
"Sadly Bob passed away on January 31st after a short illness. His funeral took place at Christ Church, Coseley, on 19th February at 11.20am.
"Rest in Peace, old friend."