Eric Delaney (22 May 1924 – 14 July 2011) was an English drummer and bandleader, popular in the 1950s and early 1960s.
Aged 16, he won the Best Swing Drummer award and later joined the Bert Ambrose Octet which featured George Shearing on piano. The main Ambrose band was resident in London’s West End while the octet played the variety theatres, and when war broke out George Shearing, being blind, had no problem getting around in the blackout and would escort the young drummer home at night.
Called up at 18, Delaney played in an RAF band for the duration and, listening to a Geraldo broadcast one night, was heard to say: “Marvellous band, I’m going to play with Gerry one day”. Four years later he auditioned for the band, but Geraldo himself was away in America at the time, and Robert Farnon was standing in for him. Nerve-racked at the prospect of playing for the great Farnon, Delaney could hardly believe his ears when he was asked if he would like to stay on for the band’s broadcast that evening. “Yes please” was his reply, and following the broadcast he was given the job.
It was during his eight years with Geraldo that Delaney began using two bass drums with tom-toms on top. One day, finding some timpani in the studio, he began playing them with his wire brushes. The trombonist Don Lusher, who was in the band at the time, liked the sound he made, and gave Delaney the idea that was to make his name. “I’ll play the timps with brushes,” Delaney declared, “no one has ever done that before.”
Delaney left Geraldo in 1954, formed his own band and recorded Oranges and Lemons featuring the timps, which became a first-time hit for the only British band on the American-owned Mercury Label. Other hits followed, including Roamin’ in the Gloamin’ and Delaney’s Delight. He later signed with the new Pye Records label. He made three Royal Variety Show appearances, the first in 1956.
Alan Roper was hired as arranger for the line-up of five trumpets and four saxophones, three tenors and a baritone, reflecting Delaney’s admiration for Woody Herman.
Delaney was a born showman and now the ideas came thick and fast with a different stage setting for every number. For Hornpipe Boogie there was a big ship with cannon that went off; the drum rostrum was on a revolve with flashing lights so that the audience could see the two bass drums. Eric specialised in up-tempo dance hall music, often carrying a rock n' roll label but closer in spirit to that of Geraldo and Joe Loss. In 1959, with the arrival of Bill Hayley and rock and roll, Delaney decided to downsize to a six-piece band which included Tony Fisher, Alan Skidmore, Kenny Salmon and later Steve Gray and Jim Lawless.
The Eric Delaney Band released this version of "Manhattan Spiritual" in 1962, it did not make the UK charts, the version by Reg Owen was UK hit in 1959. Below is the B Side "Down Home."
As with many similar artists, the music he performed became less popular after The Beatles entered the musical scene. He remained active touring in the UK, notably in holiday resorts, nonetheless. In the 1980s he led a small band at Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach, gaining a big following with his revolving drums. In 1998 he moved to Benidorm where he became a nightly attraction playing at the Talk of the Town into the early hours of the morning, when many of the other cabaret performers would stay on to watch him. He returned to Britain in 2006 and continued entertaining audiences and inspiring a new generation of musicians.
Eric Delaney died peacefully in his sleep on July 14 aged 87. He was married three times and is survived by his daughters, Hannah, Donna and Kindah, and son, Tony.