Tributes to esteemed band leader Dave Brennan

By Michael Upton | 09/02/2018

Tributes to esteemed band leader Dave Brennan

A HIGHLY-rated jazz man who played for Louis Armstrong and brought a host of big names to Rotherham has died aged 81.

Band leader Dave Brennan played a key role in the town’s music scene from the early 1960s onwards and put on shows with the likes of Wingy Manone, Louis Nelson, Alton Purnell, Benny Waters, Herb Hall, Wallace Davenport, Al Casey and Billy Butterfield.

Terry Kennedy, the drummer in Dave’s band since the early days, described his friend and fellow musician as a “musical legend” who was known as a “musician, band leader, opera lover, cricket fanatic and avid follower of Rotherham United.”

Dave founded the Dave Brennan Jubilee Jazz Band in 1961 and built a strong reputation in Rotherham, the rest of the UK and around Europe, performing at a wide range of festivals including Swanage, Lyme Regis, Bude and Upton-upon-Severn.

“Over the years dave was responsible for bringing to Rotherham to play with his band many top North American jazz celebrities,” said Terry.

“His band also toured with Alton Purnell, Wingy Manone and Wallace Davenport.

“Just about all the top UK jazz bands played with the band over the years and they were joined by people such as Humphrey Lyttleton, Ken Colyer, Pat Halcox, Roy Williams, Sammy Rimington, John Barnes and Barry Martyn.

“Dave and his band regularly toured in Belgium, Germany, Holland and France and even did two tours in the old USSR.

“Dave also twice took his band to St Quentin in northern France to take part in celebrations following the town twinning with Rotherham.

“With Dave being an enthusiastic cricket fan, one of the highlights of the band’s history was a night playing a benefit at the Cranworth Hotel for one of his heroes, Geoff Boycott, in 1973.

“Another noteable job was to play on the tarmac as Louis Armstrong arrived at Manchester Airport to begin a UK tour.

“Wherever the band played dave was an enthusiastic ambassador for his home town and he was rewarded for this when he and the band were made official ‘Ambassadors of Rotherham’ at a ceremony in 2005.

“Dave was also leader of two New Orleans parade bands, the Heritage and Jubilee bands, both of which were well known throughout the UK.”

Terry said the band had many residencies around Rotherham, most notably at the Cranworth, where their band nights were “an institution” for 19 years, as well at the Wellington on Westgate, the Rockingham Arms in Wentworth, the New Broom, the Cross Keys and The Three Horseshoes at Wickersley, the last of which ran for 22 years.

Terry said he intended to keep Dave’s long-running residency at The Elms in Retford running and would keep the band going.

A member of many other bands, Dave played with the Chris Blount band for 15 years, and toured Europe with the Anglo-American International Jazzband in 1997. 

Terry added: “He played banjo while in New Orleans and in Tokyo while visiting his son julian and his family.

“He also loved skiffle and would play this whenever possible.”

Dave’s radio show Now You Has Jazz on BBC Radio Sheffield ran for 15 years, with a series of interviews of star guests and, Terry said, “his contribution to jazz was such that he earned himself an entry in The International Who’s Who in Music”.

Terry added that Dave, who was in poor health for two years before his death, remained a passionate Millers fan, recalling: “One of his last outings saw him witness Joe Mattock's 91st minute winner against Portsmouth which, according to his son Jason, he celebrated with great enthusiasm — resulting in two days in bed.”

He added: “Dave leaves a legion of fans and friends in Rotherham, countrywide and across europe, who all appreciated what he has done for the music he loved and the town in which he spent his entire life.”

Dave's funeral will be held next Friday at 11am at Rotherham Minster.