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Tributes pour in for jazzman Kenny Ball, formerly of Emerson Park

PUBLISHED: 10:10 15 March 2013

Kenny Ball with son Keith, wife Betty and daughters Gillian and Jane, just after Jane's birth in 1963

Kenny Ball with son Keith, wife Betty and daughters Gillian and Jane, just after Jane's birth in 1963

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From Emerson Park to Japan, via Moscow, the influence of jazz legend Kenny Ball stretched far and wide.

Last week the 82-year-old passed away peacefully in the arms of his “true love” Betty. Thousands of tributes have been pouring in for the internationally renowned star.

The jazzman, originally from Ilford, found fame in the 1960s with song Midnight in Moscow being an international hit.

Kenny, who also hit the top of the Japanese chart with the theme from James Bond movie From Russia With Love, was also the only performer to top the US chart with a Japanese song, Sukiyaki, in 1963.

A regular on TV shows, including Morecambe and Wise, Ball moved with Betty and their young family to Elm Grove, Emerson Park, in 1968 – the same year he supported Louis Armstrong on a UK tour.

His son Keith, 52, said: “Louis Armstrong once said about him, ‘That white boy Kenny Ball is a genius’. That was like winning the world cup for Dad. We’ve had over 2,500 emails from all over the world, on behalf of the family I’d like to thank so many people for getting in touch. They all show what a wonderful man he was, every one talks about how he helped someone with something.”

In 1981 Kenny and the Jazzmen performed at the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, after meeting the prince at a charity dinner.

The band toured the Soviet Union in 1984, playing to thousands of people in venues including Red Square.

Kenny said he saw Cold War leaders Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev singing Midnight in Moscow together during the break at a summit. Keith said: “He said that he helped make America and Russia friends.”

Kenny, who was undergoing treatment, joined son Keith on stage in Germany in January in front of 4,000 people in what would prove to be his last gig.

Keith has vowed to continue his father’s legacy and is perfoming with the Jazzmen, including last Friday in Leicestershire.

He said: “It was so emotional, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, including a few tears on stage. He was a father figure to a lot of the band members too.

“He was telling me how he wanted me to lead the band a few days before he died.”

As well as Keith is survived by his daughters Jane, 49, and Gillian, 56.


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