John peddling away at his Steck pianola. The instrument followed him throughout his life and was repaired many times. When John moved from London to the little country cottage, the pianola was dismantled and put in the lorry alongside the rest of the furniture. One of the removal men picked up the action like he was manhandling a sack of potatoes and promptly snapped off a whole bunch of the hammer shafts. We spliced them back together, carefully whipping the shafts up with fine twine and glue. It worked a treat and the hammers held out fine.
Although the action is a little shot - not surprising after the daily assault of John's dedication - the Steck is still a great instrument and has been played by some fine musicians. There were regular visitors to the cottage from around the world, and everyone was encouraged to play, often late into the night. Anyone who could play something other than a piano was always expected to bring their instrument with them, with the expression... 'choose your weapon'.
John played with The Black Bottom Stompers for many years. They were a great bunch of chaps and would regularly pile into John's VW camper van and head off to Europe, usually somewhere like Dusseldorf, to play a few gigs. I suspect that whatever they got paid barely covered the booze bill judging by the state of them by the time they managed to crawl back.
When he wasn't near a piano (in this case, at a big picnic in the middle of a field), John would invariably have his nose deep in a newspaper. He loved crosswords - the more difficult the better - and made mincemeat of the devilish ones printed on Sundays, like the Azed. Once done, he would fling the page to the floor, announcing disparagingly that is was 'mindlessly easy'. He was very, very funny.
The pianola pretty much dominated the tiny sitting room in the cottage. As you can see, it was right by the window which looked straight out onto the street. People walking past would stop and wonder where the incredible jazz was coming from. Of course, all the locals knew that it was John, and that the kitchen door was open if they fancied dropping in for a whisky.
Everyone used to have a lot of fun peddling the old QRS Word Rolls. Friends would gather around the piano, usually after sinking several bottles of wine, and sing along to tunes like Blue Moon and Barney Google. The bus stop was also right outside, and probably the most entertaining spot in the village. When John was laid to rest, we put Barney Google in with him, it having been a favourite nonsense song since we were kids.
A true bon vivant, John was never one to want for anything more than a cigar, a dram of whisky, and the company of his family and friends. Here he is getting into the stride of a family wedding. What can I say.. me and my dad were always in each other's pockets.