Dad was born in a small Shropshire hamlet called Asterley near Pontesbury on 1st February 1937. His loving parents were Edward and Ida Hughes. He lived there for 6 months before moving to Bayston Hill because of the war. He described the house in Bayston Hill as next to Lythwood Hall. It was a small semi-detached house with a big garden at front and back, and trellis at the front door. Dad remembered that he used to scooter downhill to Bayston Hill School.
He left there when he was nine and then moved to Elm Street in Shrewsbury where he went to the Lancasterian school in Castlefields.
He and Phil Taylor, his lifelong friend, created a small business selling newspapers in the area. Dad didn’t pass the exam to be an Artificer (Apprentice) in the Navy so he went to Shrewsbury Technical College. Here it was suggested that, because he was good at art, he should become a printer. So he started a 5 or 6 years apprenticeship at Wildings the printers, in Shrewsbury, where he met Don Harrison and Mick Holloway. Dad started National Service at around 21 August 1958 when a Colonel Dolby (who knew his father) offered Dad an audition. He was in the army band for 2 years based at Honiton in Devon.
Dad formed his first band called The Clubmen when he was around 18…there was John Bradbury on drums, Ray Key on piano, himself playing sax, a lady singer called Grace, Bill Jones playing the double bass, and his friend, Phil Taylor, playing alto sax. They played at the Music Hall in Shrewsbury.
Phil recalls “One Saturday night, out of many, Spike and I was returning from the Music Hall, having consumed one or two pints. Walking or staggering along Severn railings we decided to sit on a bench. Spike said he was tired so I said I would drive him home. Opposite was a Ford garage. I went around the back and found a car steering wheel. I then got Spike to stand in the road and I stood in front of him with the steering wheel. At that point, a policeman arrived on his bike and wanted to know what we were doing. I told him I was driving Mike home and he said that was OK.”
Over the years, Dad went on to play his sax and sing in many bands in and around Shropshire and further afield. The best ones by far, in his opinion, were called Casino and The Peter Chandelle Show Band.
He married his first wife Pam in 1962 and his first daughter Deb was born that August followed by myself in 1967. Around this time, and for many years after, Dad worked as a compositor at the Shropshire Star during the week and played in the band at the weekends, always practising on his much-loved saxophone. Deb can remember as a special treat being allowed to go one night to one of the working men’s clubs he played in and can recall Dad singing the Charlie Rich song ‘The most beautiful girl in the world’…all the time looking at her.
We also remember the very many happy and carefree holidays we enjoyed with Dad in Spain, with Phil and Elsa and their two children, Michelle and Lorraine at El Delphin Verde. This was where Dad discovered his love of Spain and El Cid. In those days, there was no such thing as sun lotion and they all covered themselves with oil and lemon. We sometimes camped there and at other times stayed in apartments, but always enjoyed the small villages and beaches in the area and the Spanish way of life.
Dad helped teach Deb to drive and Deb now has two confessions to make… “Yes, Dad I did bump your car right in front of you on whilst reversing into the garage” …and… “Yes, I did scratch the car too whilst reversing into a barbed wire fence on The Long Mynd.” Dad just recently mentioned this again to Deb, it was an on-going joke between them that she always denied causing the damage.
Dad married his second wife Diane in 1988 and Charlotte was born in June 1989. Charlotte can remember when she was very small being bitten by a chicken on her bottom whilst visiting with Dad and Diana in their first home together in Bircher Common….she has her own chickens now! Deb can also remember a moment of panic whilst on holiday with Dad in Majorca. Charlotte who was very small at the time went missing at breakfast time. After a frantic search, Dad found her on the toy train ride.
Dad married his Diana in 1994 and they had their wedding reception at Deb’s house. Soon after they moved to live in Spain which was always Dad’s dream. Firstly, they lived in Nerja but they then moved to a house in the mountains with wonderful views, surrounded by local Spanish people. Dad and Diana got on very well with their neighbours and their dogs. They learnt to speak Spanish fairly fluently and travelled all over the country enjoying a truly Spanish way of life. He continued to play his saxophone and sing in many bands in the hotels and clubs of the area.
Dad recalled in hospital a particularly funny incident. He travelled with his bandmates, far away from his home in the mountains, to a place called Conil de Frontera just outside of Cadiz. They had been offered lots of money to play which was very unusual and they couldn’t understand why. It turned out to be the Spanish version of the Oscars. The organisers had tried to book several Spanish bands but because of an ETA terrorist threat to bomb the event, no Spanish group would perform…only those crazy English guys. The organisers were so grateful they wouldn’t let the band lift a finger, they were treated like royalty, others carried all their gear. Dad said he never saw so much red carpet. Dad was as happy doing this as he was just jamming with his mates in a small bar, at his home with Diana or with his Shrewsbury mates when coming back to England for a visit, always with his saxophone by his side.
After 20 blissful years in Spain, with lots of holidays enjoyed there by ourselves, Dad and Diana returned to the UK and decided to live in Abergele to be next to his dear friends Phil and Elsa and to be close to Charlotte.
Charlotte is very grateful for the time she got to spend with her Dad in the latter years and for passing on to her his love of musical instruments, especially the sax, and of Spain which we all share with her. Also for providing her with the motivation to become fluent in the Spanish language…. Charlotte has especially fond memories of taking her alto sax to Dad’s and Dad teaching her and playing along with his tenor sax. Charlotte spent a lovely evening with Dad, Diana, Phil and Elsa at a jazz gig in 2019, where Dad got up and told the keyboard player he thought he would fall off his stool as he was playing so enthusiastically!
She is also grateful that Dad made the trip from Spain to Bangor to attend her graduation in 2012 and has fond memories of her parents and siblings being together at that happy celebration. She is also particularly proud of Dad managing a treacherous walk down to the river and waterfall by her house last year at the age of 82. Dad referred to the route as the jungle as it was so overgrown! This is a quiet and beautiful place Charlotte now likes to go to remember Dad.
Back in Abergele, Dad still continued to play his saxophone….” I’m going for a blow” he would say and we would hear him practising away. In hospital even when he was very poorly he loved to listen to his favourites, Errol Garner, Chet Baker, Stan Kenton, Miles Davies and many others.
The last time Dad played his sax was on the Monday before he died, tapping with his fingers. He was listening to the tune “Autumn Leaves”
The last song Dad was ever to sing was Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, with his 2-year-old great-grandson, Eddie, whilst celebrating his 83rd Birthday in hospital. Luckily, we captured this on video.
We love you Dad… God bless… you keep on playing your saxophone up in the stars.