Tribute to Les Reed

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Jun 2019 Tribute to Les Reed

By Ron Tennant

ON WEDNESDAY, May 15, 2019, at 12 noon, the great songwriter and musician Les Reed OBE had a wonderful funeral to celebrate his remarkable life and career. It was at St. Bartholomew’s Church, Rogate,West Sussex, followed by a lovely reception afterwards at Southwood Manor.

Les was born on July 24,1935, and died aged 83 on April 15. The church was crammed with family and friends. Many were celebrated singers and musicians themselves, Sir Tim Rice, Justin Hayward, Mike Batt, Roger Greenaway, Madelaine Bell, Patti Boulaye, P J Proby, Johnnie Hamp, Dave Clark, Mitch Murray, and many more. Family members included his daughter Donna and grandsons Alex and Dom. Also attending were Celia Reed, David Reilly, Ron Roberts, David Stark, Annie Toomaru and many more friends and admirers.

Mitch Murray was hysterical in a cleverly-worded church tribute that included recorded music featuring Les himself with Rain Of Love, Engelbert’s Les Bicyclettes de Belsize and Roger Greenaway with a moving “live” rendition of There’s A Kind Of Hush. Great tributes by his grand-sons Alex and Dom were delivered with warmth and affection for a man who truly was one of the kindest and loveliest of people.

At the reception, Madelaine Bell presented her interpretation of There’s A Kind Of Hush and Barry Mason treated the guests to the giant Tom Jones hit Delilah. Lots of people do not know this but it was especially written by Les and Barry for singer P J Proby, but at that time, in late 1967, P J was not a fan of the song, so even though he recorded, it he decided not to put it on his new LP.

So manager Gordon Mills grabbed it for his singer Tom Jones who had a giant hit with it.

Les married his wonderful wife June in 1960 and singer Adam Faith was the best man. Les lost his dear wife in June 2011 and her death really upset and shocked him and the whole family.

Les’s dad Ralph was a soldier in the Second World War.He was away fighting but returning home, he formed a semi-professional variety act called The Westfield Kids and young Les played the accordion. In 1950, aged 15, Les formed the Willis Reed Group with his pal Peter Willis. Les passed the entrance examinations for the London College of Music but he was later conscripted for national service, during which he played the clarinet and wrote arrangements for the Royal East Kent Band.

Les was demobbed in 1956 aged 21, and two years later, he played a summer season at Butlins in Clacton with guitarist Vic Flick. Vic recommended his pal Les to Barry Mason and soon Les was playing piano on the BBC TV series for teenagers ‘Drumbeat’. That is when Les discovered Rock ‘n Roll.

He became involved in a few of Barry’s hit records, Walk-Don’t Run and Hit And Miss, and he also played piano on Russ Conway’s 1961 hit Pepe. In 1962, Les joined Piccadilly Records and arranged hits for Joe Brown and Emile Ford. He also formed his own group The Les Reed Combo. His first successful composition was Tell Me When done by the Brummie group The Applejacks,which was a Top 10 hit in 1964.

At about that time, Gordon Mills, a member of The Viscounts, had gone into management and he had signed up the unknown Tom Jones. Gordon asked Les to complete and arrange a song he had began writing himself.

The song was It’s Not Unusual and after Les made it magical, it became the first big hit for Tom Jones, reaching No.1 in February 1965. From that moment, Les became a hugely successful song-writer and he had many more No.1s. He was deservedly awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honour List in 1998.

Les wrote the music for hundreds of wonderful songs….here are some of them: It’s Not Unusual, I’m Coming Home, Delilah, Daughter Of Darkness, The Last Waltz, Winter World Of Love, I Pretend, There’s A Kind Of Hush, Everybody Knows, It’s Your Day Today, I’ve Got My Eyes On You.

All, and many others, were written by Les with Gordon Mills, Geoff Stephens or Barry Mason. Les has had more than 60 major hits, all earning numerous gold discs, Ivor Novello awards,and in 1982, the British Academy Gold Badge Of Merit. The great Les is estimated to have written more than 2,000 songs…what an amazing achievement.

LESLIE DAVID REED,
songwriter and musician.
Born July 24, 1935:
died April 15, 2019.