Dunstable Jazz hero, Tony, will be remembered

Wayfarers rehearsed behind the Wagon and Horses (now Froth and Elbow)
Wayfarers rehearsed behind the Wagon and Horses (now Froth and Elbow)

A Dunstable music historian and influential founder member of Wayfarers Jazz Band has died.

Anthony ‘Tony’ Ward passed away aged 81 on January 22 in Luton and Dunstable Hospital following a short illness.

Talented Tony was the proud author of Strike Up The Band, a book celebrating two centuries of brass bands, orchestras and other groups in Dunstable and its surrounding area.

He was still playing gigs and teaching pupils about Jazz until recently.

Tony’s cousin, David Janes, said: “Tony had a good sense of humour and had a wide circle of friends who enjoyed his company, founding Wayfarers Jazz Band in the 1950s.

“He and I were choristers at St Peter’s Church, until our voices broke. His father was my mother’s brother.

“I was taken to Dunstable at the outbreak of World War Two, to be near my grandparents, and Tony’s father, Percy, senior compositor at Index printers, used to visit them at lunchtimes to play cribbage. ”

Tony was born in Dunstable in March 1936, living in the same area all his life.

He played the piano in his early childhood, continuing under the tutelage of Fred Taylor, who was the brother of the owner of the Dunstable Gazette, and whose music classes were held in a room on the top floor of the old Gazette offices in Albion Street.

Tony attended Burr Street (now Icknield) school and then Dunstable Grammar school.

He became a chartered management accountant in local government and played cricket, badminton and tennis, as well as learning the clarinet and saxophone.

Throughout his life he collected details about musical activities in the town, inspired by memories of two of his uncles who were members of Dunstable’s Excelsior Silver prize band and the Bible Class Orchestra at the Square Methodist Church, and with this information he was able to write his beloved book.

Funeral details are to be announced soon.

Special thanks must go to David Janes and John Buckledee for their assistance with Tony’s tribute.