Tributes have poured in this week for legendary Birmingham jazz saxophonist Andy Hamilton, who died at the weekend aged 94.
Andy, who was still performing regularly until earlier this year, arrived in Britain in the first wave of West Indian immigrants in 1949 and was made an MBE in 2008.
Birmingham historian Professor Carl Chinn paid tribute to his great friend, saying: “I am very sad. Andy Hamilton was a most special man.
“He was a man who gave to the city he loved. He mostly gave and he did more for people than any other man or woman I knew.
“He used to say, ‘There is no colour in music’. He should have been made a Freeman of the City. I think his family are very special.”
Andy was born in Jamaica in 1918 and as a young man worked with the legendary Hollywood actor and playboy Errol Flynn, for whom he composed the jazz calypso tune Silvershine.
After arriving in England, Andy took up lodgings at a house owned by Professor Chinn’s aunt Violet in Trafalgar Road, Moseley, and went on to form his band The Blue Notes.
In his last interview, given to the Birmingham Post in April, Andy spoke of his struggle in the early days. “It was real tough at times,” he said. “Some places would not let us in and sometimes there was trouble but most people were friendly.
“I remember going to a jazz club with my sax and got invited up on stage and did a couple of numbers which went down real well. I was really happy but when I went back the next week and they ignored me.
“I went home real sad and decided the best thing to do was organise my own band and find places to play.”
Gigs followed at venues like the Tower Ballroom, Rum Runner, Chaplins, Cedar Club, plus nightspots in Coventry and Wolverhampton.
After decades of performing, Hamilton’s big break came when an article by renowned jazz journalist Val Wilmer earned him a slot at the Soho Jazz Festival in London.