A SUNDERLAND-BORN musician who played with more than 50 bands and orchestras, in a career spanning seven decades, has died.
Des Lumsdon, who played saxophone, clarinet and flute, was 87 and died after a short illness.
Born in Castletown in March 1926, to Edward and Maria Lumsdon, and brother to Frank, he was always adventurous and keen to explore the world.
Aged just 16, he and friend Vince Henshaw cycled from Sunderland to London on rickety old bikes, that they had put together themselves with no gears, with the intention of volunteering to help out during the Blitz, only to be told they were too young and had to cycle all the way back again.
Des’s love of music began at an early age when he played the saxophone with his uncle, who ran a small band at the village hall in Castletown on Saturday nights.
His musical career began properly when he joined the Merchant Navy after serving an apprenticeship at Doxford Shipyards.
He took his clarinet with him on his first voyage and this made him realise that music was the path that he wanted to follow.
After the war he pursued his dream and soon found regular work with Sunderland band leaders Jackie Brown and Billy Carr, at the Seaburn Hall.
It was here that he was spotted and offered a job by Bert Ambrose, which took Des to London and the Café de Paris, where his talent with the saxophone in particular saw his career flourish.
During the 50s, 60s and early 70s he played with the likes of Eric Delaney, Syd Lawrence, Ken Mackintosh and Cyril Stapleton, performed with Sunday Night at the London Palladium Orchestra (including several Royal Command Performances), the BBC Radio Orchestra and the BBC’s Come Dancing Orchestra (long before Strictly) and supported the likes of Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones and Englebert Humperdink.
His final, and longest-serving role, was with The Joe Loss Orchestra, not only as lead saxophonist, but also as Joe’s right hand man and loyal friend.
From 1975 to 1990, Des performed with Joe all around the UK, travelled the world on the QE2 and played at Buckingham Palace and Windsor castle on numerous occasions – all the while remaining fiercely proud of his northern roots.
After Joe’s death in 1990, the orchestra carried on and Des continued on lead saxophone until his retirement in 2003.
Des was married to Yvonne, also from Sunderland, for more than 50 years.
They met at a Newcastle jazz club in 1955 and were married two years later.
He is survived by Yvonne, children Paul, Peter and Julie, and grandchildren, Joe, Jemma, Jamie and Sophie.
A funeral service, at which Julie wrote and recited the eulogy at his funeral, was held at Chingford All Saints Church, close to the family home in North East London, but the family is planning to hold a memorial service in Sunderland shortly.