22nd Oct, 2021

MUSIC MATTERS - RIP Don Ker - 'a Coventry music great and a gentleman'

Coventry Editorial 27th May, 2021 Updated: 28th May, 2021

COVENTRY Music Museum curator Pete Chambers BEM writes for the Observer.

RIP Don Ker

IT IS a sad day for all who remember Don Ker, and many will as he was very much the musician’s musician, a fine guitarist and a real gentleman.

Don began his musical journey in November 1958 when he successfully auditioned for the local Skiffle band The Hepjacks, as Skiffle turned to Rock ‘n’ Roll then so did the band’s sound and they became one of Coventry first rockers under the new name The Atlantics.

Don actually came up with the name, giving a British slant to the American trend of naming bands after classic cars – the car in question is the Austin Atlantic A90. Don Kerr became a member of the Johnny B Great backing band the Goodmen and appeared on the single School Is In and on the Orchid single Gonna’ Make Him Mine.

In 1969, he became a member of Stavely Makepeace and their unique ‘scrap iron’ sound alongside Rob Woodward and Nigel Fletcher who would both go on to have huge success with Lieutenant Pigeon.

He played on Stavely classics like, ‘(I Wanna Love You Like A) Mad Dog’ and ‘Edna (Let Me Sing My Beautiful Song)’.

Here is Nigel Fletcher’s tribute to his old band mate.

 

‘The Gate Creaks No More’ by Nigel Fletcher

Dear Don Ker has finally made it to that great orchestra in the sky! He was 79.

For many years, we from Stavely Makepeace have referred to him as the Creaking Gate because of his constant health problems and refusal to succumb to them.

He never seemed to enjoy the best of health but he made up for any shortcomings in that department by being quietly witty, extremely likeable and of course a truly magnificent guitarist.

We all loved him in Stavely Makepeace. He was the quiet one in the group but when he did speak it was usually something very funny.

I well remember we had a gig in Manchester many years ago and when we picked him up he said: “Where’s Steve?” (Johnson). I told him Steve was joining us later as his friend was bringing him up to Lancashire in his Spitfire. (A sports car of the 60s era). Don’s reply was,

“What’s his name, Biggles?”

Don was born in Scotland but his father’s job as a doctor brought the family south.

He attended King Henry VIII school in Coventry and soon found a natural talent in music.

He was unusual being very left handed but learning to play a right handed guitar. Every musician who ever played with him was impressed at not only his skills but his unique inventiveness.

My first memories of him were when I met him through Rob Woodward in 1966 and he worked on a session with us in Midland Sound Recording Studio.

I’d already clocked how good he was when we were warming up but the ‘incidentals’ and ad lib ‘licks’ he added to the guitar track have never left me. He was a very rare inventive talent.

When The Brook Brothers, a successful act from the USA toured Britain in 1961, Don, still only 19, was chosen as part of the backing group for the duo’s tour. His talents had already been recognised.

We consider ourselves honoured to have had him in Stavely Makepeace. He did play with many other set-ups over the years but we like to think he will be remembered primarily as part of our team.

So both the youngest and oldest members of Stavely have now gone but both will live on for ever through the music.

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