A LEADING figure from Bradford’s rock ‘n’ roll scene has died, aged 79.

Ray Kennan, who passed away peacefully in Airedale Hospital, was also the Sanyo Team Manager for former British show jumping champion, Harvey Smith.

Here Derek AJ Lister, former resident DJ at Bradford’s Gaumont and Majestic dance halls, pays tribute to Ray, who played a significant role in shaping the city’s music scene in the 1950s and 60s:

“Sadly, another of Bradford’s elite of our rock ‘n’ roll days has passed away. Ray, who was a Bingley lad, was the supreme showman as a vocalist. His first group was The Belvardos, followed by the Deepbeats.

Things got better when he joined the Del Rio Four as a vocalist and compère, playing the season with them at Butlins.

Ray later formed the Ray Kennan Combo, which was considered to be one of the most professional groups in Yorkshire. His further moves were to The Toledos, followed by the Quiet Three, and then a ten piece rock ‘n’ roll band called The Governors.

Then Ray decided to go it alone, and overnight he became a single vocalist compère,which brought him instant success,

Now firmly established, he went on tour with Lulu, the Rolling Stones, Manfred Mann followed by shows at the famous Eden Saloon in Berlin with Sammy Davies Jnr, Johnny Cash Jerry Lee Lewis, and the early days of Tom Jones.

One of Ray’s last shows took place at Blackpool. PJ Proby had failed to turn up to perform at the North Pier and Ray was asked to take over. His stage presence, experience and easy singing style more than compensated the disappointed Proby fans.

But with the world seemingly his oyster, Ray, with his usual flair, coolly packed his tent and just stole away. He had had enough.

Later, he would join our rock ‘n’ roll nights at Bradford venues the Pile Bar on Lilycroft Road, the Midland Hotel and the popular Hilton Hotel, and was still the same showman of his rock ‘n’ roll days, singing Hello Mary Lou.

I know our group members of yesteryear will be saddened, with his passing. Ray was a good artist and friend to all. RIP.”

* Derek A J Lister was known as Dal Stevens when he was DJ at Gaumont and Majestic from 1960 to 1965.

He profiled Ray Kennan in his book Bradford’s Rock ‘n’ Roll - The Golden Years. Said Derek: “Back in the mid-1950s everything had changed; before the rock ’n’ roll years hit Britain, we’d lived in austere times and everything was in black and white. Suddenly there was this burst of creativity - fashion, haircuts, cars and music changed forever. Everything was about ‘now’ and everyone wanted to be in a group. Kids with no formal training were starting to play guitars.

“Every town and city had its homegrown skiffle, rock ’n’ roll and beat groups, none more so than Bradford. The scene was vibrant and there was real talent here.”