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'Gary Pickford Hopkins deserved so much more recognition - he was great singer'

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: June 24, 2013

By Kate Clarke

'Gary deserved so much more recognition - he was great singer'

Neath-born singer Gary Pickford Hopkins

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PROG rock giant Rick Wakeman has shared his memories of his time on the road with Neath-born singer Gary Pickford Hopkins, who died yesterday, aged 65.

While another of Gary's long-term musical partners, Ray 'Taff' Williams, has said "I feel like I've lost a brother."

Gary's scorching R&B voice has been a fixture on the local scene for decades and it gave him an in into swinging 60s London, with the Melody Maker magazine favourites Eyes Of Blue.

He went on to work with Rick Wakeman on his groundbreaking albums Journey to the Centre of The Earth and The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table.

Rick says they kept in close touch over the decades and he is pleased to have so many joyful memories of Gary to keep close.

"It is very sad news. I knew he was ill, but still, you don't expect it do you?

"I spotted Gary when he was singing with Wild Turkey when they were supporting Yes in the US.

"I had been looking for a second voice for Journey and as soon as I heard him, I knew that was the voice I wanted.

"Gary was such a great singer and he had lovely control and feeling in his voice.

"I always felt he deserved a lot more recognition than he got as a singer, though he had that recognition from his peers and his contemporaries.

"Gary had great sense of humour, which you need if you are going to be on the road with someone for a long time.

"I remember he was very keen photographer.

"He used to carry around this Super 8 camera, which was the bees knees in those days.

"And a few years ago the surviving members of the Journey tour got together and Gary brought out these films of us all together, with the long hair. I don't think any of us recognised ourselves. We spent the night rolling around laughing.

"It was drug free band but we made up for it with drinking and we did like to party, so I have a lot of happy memories of being on the road with Gary."

Positive

In Swansea and Neath Gary will be remembered for his partnerships with guitarists Ray 'Taff' Williams, Steve Jenkins and others.

Ray says he's struggling to believe Gary is gone, though his jaw cancer put him through the mill.

"He was so positive throughout the cancer. He did worry that the operations would affect his singing but after he had the first op he told me he used to drive up in to the mountains and sing at the top of his voice, to get everything working.

"We were working together just before he got ill, and we were making plans to do more gigs.

"We travelled the world together with music and we were like brothers.

"Like all brothers we used to bicker. I worried about his drinking and smoking, he worried about me eating too much chocolate.

"He used to say to me 'you can't be a fat rock star'.

"But I loved him and he loved me."

Gary, who lived in Garnant in his last years, leaves behind a wife, Sian, two sons and stepchildren.

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2 comments

  • HALHEL  |  November 17 2013, 1:48PM

    I too am shocked & saddened by the news of Gary's passing.I was not associated with Gary musically/professionally but was a friend of many years standing.We started in Alderman Davies' school together & his mother & my parents were friends & neighbours for many years. In the mid 60's Gary & I along with Martin Davies,also sadley passed away,Jeff Slocombe & others used to go up the Ritz in Skewen together as well as to other venues.I can remember his appearance on TV with The Eyes of Blue circa:1966 but not sure if it was BBC Wales or HTV. Also sadly a mutual friend of I & Gary's,Gareth South had passed away a year ago.I prefer to believe they have just gone ahead of us & we'll see each other again in a better place. Bryan Triggs

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  • simongeorge  |  June 24 2013, 5:23PM

    Shocked and saddened to learn of the death of this great talent, witty raconteur and true gentleman. I have fond memories of sharing a drink with him after various gigs over the years as he recounted tales of his youth spent with other, less talented but much better known musicians. I only regret I once passed up an invitation to join him on stage. he will be sorely missed. If there is a heaven, he'll be up there, duetting with Elvis, accompanied by Ray Charles and Jimi Hendrix, what a party!

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