Lives Remembered

Jackie Flavelle: Jazz great remembered by fellow musicians and friends

Jackie Flavelle died aged 78 on Monday. Picture by Stuart Bailie

THE death of Jackie Flavelle has come as a blow to many people.

Musician, broadcaster, family man, he was much loved for his wit and reminiscences of playing with the greats, from Chris Barber to Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart and Bowie.

Jackie was a character, his own man who was happy as long as his beloved double bass was in the back of the car.

Chris Barber said he was a good friend and a fine musician.

"Jackie had a great command of the blues and gospel music which he and I loved," he said.

"He played excellently the string bass and bass guitar for my band from 1967 to 1977 and again from 2010 when his health defeated him. I miss him."

Trevor Courtney was a classmate at seven of age: "He sat behind me at the Boys' Model and he was always whistling and humming tunes the whole day long.”

The boys remained friends.

“One night, sitting in Jackie's house in Donaghadee, I'm fooling around on the piano and Jackie playing guitar, he said: ‘Wait till ye hear this wee song I wrote.'”

The song, which was recorded, was My Home in County Down.

“One of the lines in the song goes....'I've a picture in my jeans of a girl they call Noreen and an old record of Johnny Cash singin' Forty Shades of Green."

Singer Trevor Kelly's memory also goes back to Butlin's, Mosney when as a teenager he won a twisting competition with the same Noreen - the girl who would become Jackie's wife. “He loved that!” he said.

George Jones met Jackie in 1965 when he replaced him in the Dave Glover band.

“I was only 20. His advice and help was invaluable - I will never forget what he did for me. An absolute gentleman,” he said.

Not long ago broadcaster and journalist Stuart Bailie sat with his friend and recorded his remarkable life story, including how he played the flute in the school orchestra at Inst.

But the bass became his instrument of choice and it served him well as he played his way round the UK, Ireland, Europe and America.

It ended up recently in Newry working with Ciaran Lavery on his mini-album A King At Night – The Songs Of Bonnie Prince Billy.

Jackie said: “I knew that was my last kick of the ball. We went down to this tiny studio near Newry and I put the bass on these Bonnie Prince Billy songs. It was quite nerve-racking in a way, but I got away with it, I'm on it and it sounds good.”

Candy Devine worked with him in Downtown Radio.

“He loved to laugh and talk shop," she said. "He adored his beloved, departed Noreen and daughters Lisa and Melanie and music was the stuff of his life.

"My former colleague and friend has left us to make music with his other departed jazz and blues buddies, particularly Monty Sunshine and Ottilie Patterson. Jazz and blues will miss you, Flav, and so will your friends and the muso fraternity.”

Jackie's fan base is immense - not surprising over 60 years. He started his career with Glover in the Arcadia Ballroom in Portrush and the last time my heart leapt to his music was in the Waterfront Hall two years ago when he was in Barber's line up - people were dancing in the aisles and the double bass vibrated through the auditorium.

When introduced to the audience there was a huge ovation for the local man.

“I love everybody,” he told Stuart. “More or less! I can't think of anyone that I really hate. Even ones that do me down, I just laugh it off.”

And what advice did he give young musicians wanting to go on the road?

“Well, I tried to talk my grandson out of it and it didn't work. It's in the DNA.”

Jackie Flavelle died aged 78 on Monday at his Co Down home. He is survived by his two daughters and three granchildren.

Anne Hailes

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Lives Remembered