Bill Eyden

Jazz drummer at the heart of British bebop

Procul Harum had been having problems in the studio for some days whilst recording "A Whiter Shade of Pale". Eventually the producer Denny Cordell telephoned the jazz drummer Bill Eyden and asked for his help. Eyden, who was paid an ordinary session fee at the time, went to the studio and took over the drums on the ultimate recording. When Procul Harum appeared with the hit version on television thereafter their drummer had to mime to Eyden's playing.

William James Eyden, drummer: born Hounslow, Middlesex 4 May 1940; twice married (one daughter, and one son deceased); died Isleworth, Middlesex 15 October 2004.

Procul Harum had been having problems in the studio for some days whilst recording "A Whiter Shade of Pale". Eventually the producer Denny Cordell telephoned the jazz drummer Bill Eyden and asked for his help. Eyden, who was paid an ordinary session fee at the time, went to the studio and took over the drums on the ultimate recording. When Procul Harum appeared with the hit version on television thereafter their drummer had to mime to Eyden's playing.

In those days Eyden was a regular in the bands of people like Tubby Hayes, Ronnie Scott and Harry South and as such was at the very heart of British bebop. He was so versatile that he also became a first-call drummer for much of the entertainment field and, for example, played regularly in the Ray Ellington Quartet when it worked on The Goon Show. Eyden can be seen on the video of the reunion programme The Last Goon Show of All.

But, like Phil Seamen, Allan Ganley and others of his kind, he was a drum master who could play anything, and Eyden accompanied and recorded with blues names such as Long John Baldry, Wee Willie Harris, Alexis Korner and Georgie Fame.

Eyden had come a long way since he first played drums in the Hounslow Army Cadet Corps Band when he was 13. By the time he finished his National Service in the RAF in 1950, he was good enough to take lessons from Max Abrams, a much-respected jazz drummer of the Twenties and Thirties who ran a drum school in London.

His first professional job was in 1952 with the forward-looking big band led by Ivor and Basil Kirchin. Ivor Kirchin had been injured in a car crash in 1951 and his son Basil, himself a drummer, fronted the band. When Ivor returned to the band Eyden left, but had no trouble finding regular work with the groups of Ray Kirkwood, Johnny Rogers and in late 1953 on television with the pianist Steve Race.

That same year saw Eyden as the house drummer at the Studio 51 jazz club, where his colleagues included the trumpeter Terry Brown, the tenor saxophonist Jimmy Skidmore and the bassist Joe Muddel. During the same period, 1953 to 1954, he was drummer in the "commercial" bands of Johnny Rogers, Roy Fox and Harry Roy. In 1955 he was with the big band led briefly by the guitarist Malcolm Mitchell. Mitchell returned to the trio for which he was better known in June that year, and Eyden played the first of his many stretches with the various bands led by the tenor saxophonist Tubby Hayes.

His work with Hayes, particularly in the Jazz Couriers, co-led by Hayes and Ronnie Scott, called for great fire and dexterity. His drumming was particularly musical in the way that he was able to drive a band and make a lot of noise, but always with discipline and never interfering with the sound of the soloists.

He toured South America in late 1963 for three months with the eccentric pop singer Wee Willie Harris and was relieved to step up a class or two on his return when he joined the band led by the jazz singer Georgie Fame for a year. A regular at Ronnie Scott's Club, he accompanied many visiting American musicians as a member of Stan Tracey's Trio. From 1970 onwards he played in a variety of jazz groups including those led by Dick Morrissey and Bobby Wellins, and returned several times to Hayes.

But he widened his field and played in a number of West End shows including Bubbling Brown Sugar, The Mitford Girls and Promises, Promises. He also taught percussion at a variety of London schools.

Eyden was a regular member of the Bebop Preservation Society, led by Bill Le Sage through the Eighties and played in the big band led by the Rolling Stone Charlie Watts. In recent years until the onset of a lengthy illness he played in the quintets of Jack Honeyborne and Ken Baldock.

Steve Voce

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game