January 29th 1938 – December 10th 1994
Brilliant pianist Ron Edgeworth, Judith Durham’s dearly beloved late husband, had an impressive career covering performances in all aspects of the music business – from concert tours with such superstars as Cliff Richard, Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck, and The Seekers, to the world famous Newport Jazz Festival with Judith.
In his formative days in London, Ron started out playing boogie, blues and 20s jazz, but it was his versatility and imaginative playing in many spheres from pop to classics that were to make him in such demand in a wide variety of musical fields, as a soloist, with his duo and trio, in traditional and modern jazz, accompanying nightclub acts, in society bands, and as a Musical Director – playing, in fact, anywhere from pubs to palaces!
He worked in Europe and North Africa doubling on trombone in a military band, on the US bases in Germany on piano with a 40s style swing band, and in England with the famous broadcasting big bands of the day; Ronnie Aldrich, Cyril Stapleton, Johnny Howard and Bob Miller.
Ron’s introduction to the showbiz side of the music world came about when comedian Don Arrol (compere of UK TV’s top-rating show ‘Sunday Night At The London Palladium’) invited Ron to be his personal accompanist. Ron then worked on stage in Don’s act in theatres and nightclubs throughout the UK and on radio and TV.
Ron was a touring member of the John Barry Seven, the hit recording group. With other musicians from the Seven he formed a rock group “Shade Joey & The Night Owls” and had a single out in the UK, produced by Joe Meek of ‘Telstar’ fame.
Around this time he was asked to join the band of legendary blues guitarist Alexis Korner, who had been such a big influence in the early days on many up and coming blues bands and rock groups of the time – notably The Rolling Stones. There followed many memorable one-nighters all round the country with Alexis and his band of local musicians, along with American blues shouter Herbie Goins, culminating in the album for Transatlantic Records ‘Alexis Korner’s All Stars – Blues Incorporated’ featuring Ron on piano and Hammond organ.
He joined a vocal-instrumental stage and nightclub act called The Trebletones, working in Spain with Helen Shapiro and touring all over Poland, becoming one of the first ever pop groups from the West to play behind the ‘Iron Curtain’. In the UK The Trebletones were booked in Summer Seasons, nightclubs and pantomime, and went on to perform in every major theatrical venue on concert tours staged by The Grade Organisation and the Harold Davison Agency, in shows headlined by such major artists as Cliff Richard and The Shadows, Tom Jones, Englebert Humperdinck, The Bachelors, Frank Ifield, Dick Emery, Russ Conway, Val Doonican, and The Seekers – playing for Judith Durham for the first time in her solo spot in The Seekers’ shows.
Ron was also Musical Director and accompanist for other big-name artists such as Clyde McPhatter (US hit record act from the 50s), and singing star Vince Hill. He was Musical Director too for pop pianist Russ Conway’s Summer Variety Show and was also booked as solo opening act for the season.
When Judith Durham left The Seekers, she contacted Ron and asked him to become her Musical Director and Arranger for a tour that brought him for the first time to Australia and New Zealand – for concerts and television work, followed by a trip to the United States to record Judith’s first solo album (on this record date he played Hammond organ and piano with a Hollywood orchestra that included such legendary names as Herb Ellis, Pete Jolly and Louis Belson).
Ron continued working with Judith Durham for many years, touring the world’s major concert halls, theatres and nightclubs, and making numerous television appearances. In the 70s Ron picked up on his earliest trad jazz influences, starting with an extended booking in San Francisco at Turk Murphy’s famous nightclub “Earthquake McGoon’s”, working as a Duo with Judith and in his own spots as a solo pianist. It was at McGoon’s that Ron’s unmistakeable two-fisted piano style began to emerge, along with his feeling for the wonderful ballads and standards of the era. Later, together with Judith, he formed his own jazz band, The Hottest Band In Town, hand-picked from the cream of San Francisco’s great players, and produced and arranged the album ‘Judith Durham & The Hottest Band In Town Volume 1’.
Ron and Judith put together a second ‘Hottest Band In Town’ in the UK, producing the follow-up album ‘…Volume 2’. Ron also worked with Judith on television shows such as ‘Sunday Night At The London Palladium’ and ‘The Benny Hill Show’. Ron Edgeworth and Judith Durham with their band The Hottest Band In Town went on the road for concert tours throughout the UK and Australia, and Ron playing solo piano provided a show-stopping opening act.
By this time, back in Australia, Ron’s brother, screenwriter Patrick Edgeworth, had become a producer and writer of major television drama, and an episode of the Logie award-winning TV series ‘Cash & Company’ – set in the 1800s – was specially written for Judith and Ron. In the episode ‘Golden Girl’ Judith and Ron featured as goldfield singing star Sarah Simmons and her pianist Charlie Owens. While in Australia, Judith and Ron joined Turk Murphy’s San Francisco Jazz Band on tour.
Winning much critical praise and setting audiences everywhere alight, Judith and Ron went on to numerous performances throughout the world, including Europe and the United States.
Ron and Judith teamed up in a new musical partnership, The Hot Jazz Duo, featuring solo piano and voice. The highlight of this partnership came in the United States where they made a sensational appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival at the instigation of iconic jazz impresario Stanley King. They opened the show and to a growing crowd of 3000 stamping and cheering and received three standing ovations. Later, at Criteria Studios in Miami Florida, Judith and Ron co-produced ‘The Hot Jazz Duo’, a live album combining performances from The Newport Jazz Festival with some amazing performances from their concert in Hobart after the Australian Jazz Convention the previous year.
Apart from his performing credentials Ron Edgeworth was a talented composer, having written many original works covering all categories of music, some in collaboration with Judith Durham, which have been recorded and broadcast. His theme music, which he arranged and recorded for the soundtrack of the movie ‘Raw Deal’, was nominated for the 1978 Sammy Awards. He also worked as an extra in this movie – as a piano player!
Exceptional talent and experience aside, to hear Ron Edgeworth play was to be aware of an infectious excitement that was a true tonic, and was guaranteed – as Judith’s song says – to ‘Chase Those Blues Away’. But Ron’s music, which lives on today, is not just for listening to, so don’t be surprised if you’re listening to a track like “My Buddy” on ‘The Hot Jazz Duo’ album, and feel yourself unable to resist the urge to get up and dance!
Tragically, Ron Edgeworth died of Motor Neurone Disease in December 1994, with his beloved wife Judith at his side. He lives on in her and in the music they made together, as well as in his own brilliant solo playing.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID ABOUT RON EDGEWORTH
‘Fantastique’ – Le Canard Enchaine, PARIS
‘An excellent solo pianist … a perfect accompanist’ – Peter Hepple, The Stage, LONDON
‘Fans left calling for more … last night’s audience was roused by two boogie solos by Ron Edgeworth’ – Star Weekender, AUCKLAND
‘Great gusto and considerable talent … very very good’ – Sun Herald, SYDNEY
‘Extraordinary piano playing’ – Australasian Express, LONDON
‘… Ron’s piano … often amazing in its fullness’ – Steve Fleming, Three Rivers Jazz Chronicler, U.S.A.
‘Edgeworth played some of the best Harlem piano I’ve ever heard … should be exploited for artistic as well as educational reasons … a big hit’ – Schenectady Gazette, NEW YORK
‘Much impressed with two-fisted Ron’s 88 ideas … standing ovation!’ – The Jazzologist, U.S.A
FROM THE NEWPORT JAZZ FESTIVAL
‘Ron Edgeworth is a perfect accompanist with his entirely commendable two-handed playing that stands comparison with the very best’ – News, ADELAIDE
‘His playing was one of the highlights of a star-studded programme … a perfectly controlled mastery of the keyboard … one of the country’s most acclaimed jazz pianists … unleashed a truly virtuoso performance embracing blues, ballads, ragtime, boogie and stride that sounded just like the great Fats Waller reincarnated. The audience loved it all’ – Sunshine Coast Daily, AUSTRALIA
‘Pianist Ron Edgeworth is something special, playing a very capable stride piano style, that was at once engaging and refreshing’ – Mississippi Rag, U.S.A.
‘Very fine and well received’ – Cashbox, U.S.A.
‘A special treat’ – New Jersey Jazz Journal, U.S.A.
‘The thumping stride, Edgeworth-style is always exciting and unpredictable’ – Joe Payne, Record Review, AUSTRALIA