Roger Dean
[ the one with the guitar ]

Roger on the Cruises, Big Bands and Royalty

From Rock and Roll to Blues, Soul to Country to Gnomes and Top of the Pops, PJ Proby to Benny Hill. You certainly can't accuse Roger Dean of being stuck in a rut. Work continued to roll in with TV shows and session work, then Roger met up with Bobby Patrick, manager and leading light for girl group The Flirtations and one hit wonder husband and wife team R&J Stone....

Bobby Patrick featured heavily in your life for a while with both the Flirtations and one hit wonders R&J Stone. Were you touring with them or doing session work?

I worked for Bobby a lot in the 70's, he was MD both for the 'Flirtations', R+J Stone, Peter Gordeno etc. We used to do a week in various clubs (cabaret) up and down the country. I once remember finishing a gig at Stockton 'Fiesta Club' at 1am, and driving solid to St Agnes in time to play a week there starting that same evening! I drove the truck, Bobby drove the girls ... I must have been stark raving mad.

Then you played on The Sheer Elegance hit, did more residencies and then The Platters. Complete change of style again. How does playing old soul differ to the newer stuff?

I didn't do the Sheer Elegance recording session, I did the roadwork. They were number one in the charts, and all was fine while Paul Grade was managing them .. things changed when Paul lost interest. Styles don't bother me, I love playing guitar... any style suits me, but I really love 50's rock 'n' roll, got to play the right solo's though, and that can be a challenge ... you need a long memory!

After a couple of other jobs you moved on to the Three Degrees and stayed with them for two years and did the now infamous 30th birthday party for Prince Charles. Good times?

Yes, the Degrees were lovely girls to work for ... as long as their manager Richard Barratt liked you, you were very well looked after ... Richard liked me, so no probs. Can't really remember the birthday gig, the 3D's music was demanding, so there was little time to take in the scenery. We had a champagne breakfast and Prince Charles came in to chat briefly... we were in a very small room, not like the ballroom where we used to play with Joe Loss.

Has he ever invited you round for tea since?

He did ask me, but I told him I couldn't make it because I'd miss 'Coronation Street' ... he never asked me again.

You were obviously happy working with them so why did you leave the Three Degrees?

I was only ever a hired hand, and I did a few tours, it was great fun while it lasted!

More sessions for various big names and then Joe Loss for 14 years. Was this a full time job?

Yes, it was very full time. I was very lucky to get it, there were a lot of guitar players after that job at the time ... World Cruise every year, can't be bad. I really owe the job to my old mate Dougie Henning. Doug was bass player for the 'Degrees', and his missus was Rosa Loveband, the vocalist for Joe Loss ... I leapt in through the open back door. The job was very demanding, because you were expected to sight read well, AND you had to be able to cover every style from the 20's right up to the latest pops. I once blew my 150 watt speaker off it's mountings during a spirited solo in 'Fame' in a park concert in Sunderland!

Did you find it easier than working with the bands?

No, because with Joe, you never knew which number was going to come at you next. The first thing you had to do was learn the location of all the different charts... the second thing was to get them out fast, because you felt a right pratt if it was a guitar intro, and everybody's waiting for you.

You did a lot of backing work on the QE2 which gave you a captive audience and must have been pretty laid back.

The first few are fantastic, but when you start going to Acapulco for the 7th time, you tend to lie about by the ship's pool... great when all the punters are ashore, and you can get some peace and quiet.

The Royal Command Performance in November 1980 in honour of the Queen Mother's 80th birthday and starring Aretha Franklin and Sammy Davis Jnr., was that the pinnacle of your career or just another gig?

It was heads down and get on with it. Sammy Davis came over and chatted with us, which was an incredible experience for an 'umble guitar picker... Bruce Forsyth pretended that we weren't there... I suppose it takes all sorts? We opened the show on the stage, I seem to recall that we played 'In the Mood', after which the 'Lionel Blair Dancers' nipped about, but I can't remember which tune they were dancing to. I do recall that Vic Mustard, who was playing lead trumpet, accidentally knocked his music on to the floor... Joe smartly picked it up for him and I don't think anyone noticed, but it could have been a disaster.

In 1992 you started working as a music teacher and taught in a number of schools, were you ever recognised?

I covered teaching duties at one school for my friend Rick Morcombe while he went to France for a brief tour ... he stayed 5 years, so I jumped the peripatetic teaching queue in Islington. There wasn't much time for gigs. Was I recognised? Naaaaah! Kids think you're bulling, so I never told them nowt about my career. A couple of my best girls only recently found out through Eddy's site ( I've now got street cred.

Your last position, before the car crash in 2004 and your subsequent retirement from professional playing, was with Islington Youth Orchestra. What did that involve?

Islington Youth Orchestra was the brainchild of one of my former Heads of Music. The musical talent from three schools in the area were put together. Each section was under the charge of a professional player, and we had about 60 players in all... we performed the 'Adagio' from the Rodrigo Alhambra guitar concerto, my students got the easy parts, guess who got the rest! We also performed 'Carmen', which was great fun. I once played 'Zorba the Greek' together with my colleague Randall, and 15 guitar students.

You've had an incredible career and worked with some amazing people. If you could go back and choose just one gig to do again, which would it be and why?

I would go back to 'Klooks Kleek' and redo all my guitar parts on the 'John Mayall live' album. We recorded live, which is a very unforgiving situation ... and it's there for ever ... Oh well!!!

At the end of 2004 Roger was visiting his mother in a new nursing home. Whilst driving off the premises a car ploughed into the side of Roger's car at high speed. He spent many weeks in hospital recovering and trying to regain the use of his right arm. Sadly, although he can now play, it doesn't meet his high standards and reluctantly he was forced into retirement in 2006.

In a cruel twist of fate, having almost completely recovered from the accident, Roger was diagnosed with Cancer. After a long battle with apparent recoveries followed by further relapses, Roger died on August 3rd 2008.

He leaves a wife, Pam, and two sons, Marcus and Matt, and a vast number of friends who will miss him a great deal. A celebration of his life was held on September 25th 2008 at Dusty's Club in Holmer Green, where friends, family, students and colleagues all gathered for an evening of music. Musicians who hadn't seen each other, let alone played together, for many years all jumped on stage and jammed the roof off. Roger would have loved it.