It is 14 years since Bill Sowerby took to the stage at Ilkley’s King’s Hall with his star-studded big band tribute to the genius of Count Basie and Glenn Miller.
The concert was the last of Bill’s high-profile public performances, and brought an end to a glittering career, which started at the Wharfedale Music Festival and embraced most of Britain’s best-known and most respected orchestras.
Educated at the Ilkley Church of England School, Bill learned to play the trumpet with the Burley Brass Band, and as a teenager performed at several local venues including the King’s Hall, Otley Mechanics Hall, Yeadon Town Hall and Guiseley Hare and Hounds.
After service in the army, his career took him to London, where he played with the orchestras of Vic Lewis, Lou Praeger, Eric Winstone, Johnny Dankworth and Ken Mackintosh.
He performed in over 300 radio and television broadcasts supporting Shirley Bassey, Johnny Mathis, Mel Torme, The Drifters and Frankie Vaughan.
The Newcastle launch of Tyne Tees television brought with it an opportunity for Bill and his wife Marion to return to the north permanently, where he performed with the resident studio orchestra.
His success prompted an invitation to set up and lead his own network of big bands across the north-east for the Top Rank organisation, where he spent 20 years before leaving the UK to set up and manage bands in Spain.
Bill and Marion returned to Yorkshire in 1998 where they continued to support local events until Marion’s death in 2009.
Bill moved to Guiseley in 2011 to be closer to the Yeadon and Burley big bands in which he continued to perform until last week, when he passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 87.