Early in my life, my late father (Peter Husband, who was a great musician) regularly took me along to his sessions with the Northern Dance Orchestra in Manchester. Bob Turner played drums, and he swung and powered the band magnificently, but it wasn’t until my dad took me with him on frequent engagements that he’d take on at the Wakefield Theatre Club that I got to witness Ronnie’s great skills for the first time.
As the club’s hot resident house band drummer I watched him back country singers, popular artists of the day, variety acts, comedians and the like with total flair conviction and authenticity. But it was during the band’s set at the beginning of the evening that Ronnie bowled me over with his immaculate, swingin’, driving, jazz expertise, panache and swagger.
Ronnie played for the music, always, whatever it was. But, very significant to me, this was the first time I was introduced to someone with REAL jazz qualifications. As I got to meet him more and more . . . and believe me, I took every opportunity to have him visit the house, get him to coach me, write out lists of players of distinction; people he saw as the real guys.
I acknowledged the value of everything that he was saying. I literally lapped up all the knowledge that I could get out of him, aware and assured that what HE didn’t know about jazz and big band drummers and arrangers - last and present - wasn’t worth knowing.
I salute you and thank you immensely for all that early wisdom that you bestowed on me, Ronnie.
Gary Husband. (Drummer, pianist, composer)
I’ve known Ron for some 46 years.
In the early days of our friendship we played for entertainers of every possible description, singers, comedians, magicians, jugglers, even (purportedly) the world’s strongest man! Ron, inevitably, had a story to tell about each of them.
More importantly, we played and recorded our music in each other’s groups. Throughout, Ron’s love of jazz has never wavered and he’s as committed to music as much now as he ever was. His zest for life and music is an example to us all and, to quote Duke Ellington “We love you madly.”
Derrick Harris. (Guitarist, arranger, composer)
I joined Leeds College of Music in September 1991 and in April 1992 I lost my darling mum. To say it was rough is an understatement and I could easily have left the course but, Ronnie, you had me involved in every band going, either on saxophone or piano. You taught me so much (including how to always keep the music immaculate) and I had no choice but to throw myself into my lessons 100% and practice for England.
Nearly 30 years on, music is still my life and has allowed me to meet so many people and make incredible friends. I’ve seen many parts of the world too that, otherwise, I would never have seen and for this I thank you with all my heart. You May be 30 years older than when we first met but you’re still playing, writing big band charts and running bands, now THAT’S inspiration!! (You May also have contributed to a few hangovers back in the 90s but we won’t mention that).
P.S. I still use a ruler when I have any music to hand copy.
Anne Tinsley. (Nee Hansen) (Saxophonist, pianist)
Ronnie Bottomley: Drummer, Musical Director, Arranger, Music Educator and a great bloke!! . . . . . . Legend!!
Andrew Bold. (Drummer, band leader, teacher)
Ronnie was one of my tutors at the Leeds College of Music in the 1980s. He was a fantastic teacher and lead many of the ensembles that I was in at that time.
Most of my professional work has mainly been as an MD in the theatre and what I’ve taken from Ronnie is, to be yourself, to be blunt and honest but also listen well to what other musicians and performers have to say while, perhaps, not always agreeing with their opinions.
Steve Hill. (Pianist, musical director)
My first encounter with Ronnie was in 1994 in Cork City when he and Tony Faulkner came to do a workshop at a music course where I was a student. I was so blown away by their knowledge and the way in which they imparted information to us students that the following year I found myself enrolled at the Leeds College of Music (LCoM) and I was lucky enough to have Ronnie as my drum teacher for the final two years of my time there.
His humour and wit made his absolutely fascinating lessons flow with such ease, sense of camaraderie and friendship. He fostered and nurtured my learning and progress in such a way that I hardly noticed how much my personal development, not only as an instrumentalist but as a musician, flourished under his mentor ship.
The debt that I owe to Ronnie is incalculable. He was simply amazing.
Colin Byrne. (Drummer, arranger, composer, band leader)
I first played in bands lead by Ronnie when I arrived at the Leeds College of Music in the mid 90s. These rehearsals always contained steep learning curves and lots of laughs that continue to this day.
Every gig with Ronnie is a lesson and a laugh.
Adrian Knowles. (Bass player and ensemble leader)
Ronnie was my drum teacher at the Leeds College of Music in the early 90s and it soon became apparent that, as an 18-year old, I had found a senior figure and mentor who not only loved the same drummers and music as me - Mel Lewis, Sonny Payne, Buddy Rich, big band jazz, Frank Sinatra, etc - but that he, himself, actually grew up alongside these amazing artists and their styles of music and watched, first hand, as all these areas of music evolved . . . . I was in heaven.
I soon noticed in lessons with Ronnie that the conversation could quickly turn from “Buddy Rich or Mel Lewis played such-and-such a phrase” to “but if you’re going to make it as a professional drummer you need to know that whom ever you’re working for will want it done their way. Have your stuff together ready to ‘shine’ when that moment comes but, remember, that that will happen only 1% of the time. Always look after the band and in return the band will look after you.” That last one is, probably, my most favourite quote of Ronnie’s amongst the very many and it is so, so true. I soon realised that he was teaching me how to earn a living and survive.
I think that Ronnie spotted the type of drummer I wanted to be quite early on and I will be eternally grateful to him for that. He instinctively knew that I didn’t wish to be a Louie Bellson / Gene Krupa / Dave Weckl - type drummer (much as I love all their playing) but just a no fuss type of drummer who can be relied upon at all times to do a steady and accurate job across varying styles of music. I remember us spending many an hour studying players like Steve Gadd or Mel Lewis so that I would fully appreciate the understated role that good, solid working drummers set out to achieve.
I cherish every single moment of your drum lessons, your Monday evening drummer’s band, your Sextet, the college ‘Flagship’ Big Band and not forgetting the Writing and Notation lessons. The basic principles that Ronnie taught at LCoM could fill a book in itself.
Those wonderful arrangements that Ronnie wrote for his various college ensembles and the big band. I don’t think, to this day, that I’ve played many charts as enjoyable as his.
What an amazing musical mind he has and I urge anyone that if they ever get the opportunity to hang out with him that it will be a life enriching experience of fun, stories and tricks of the trade from a true master of his art.
Thank you so much, Ronnie. You’re an absolute legend and a genuine fun loving and life loving guy. A true inspiration.
Richard Blanchard. (Freelance drummer and percussionist)
I first met Ronnie Bottomley in 1983 when I was a student at the Leeds College of Music. I was 25 at the time studying guitar and arranging.
I was time tabled to play in Ronnie’s 9 piece Nonet in my first year and his 6 piece Sextet in my third year. Ronnie’s musicianship and vast experience intermingled with his humour made every lesson invaluable.
Ronnie certainly improved and enhanced my musical ability as well as many, many other students that passed through the doors of the college.
I was first introduced to Ronnie in 1998 when I had left school and needed a new teacher. I had done all the grades and thought that I now knew most of what I needed to know about playing drums, as many of us probably did at that age. From the start lessons with Ronnie were a huge revelation and not only did he open my mind to a whole new level of instrumental playing but he also educated me about the importance of musicianship and listening to how the ‘greats’ approached playing, particularly Mel Lewis, and he would supply various listening materials for me to digest later which were equally informative and exciting.
Whether watching him play or listening to his fabulous ensemble and big band arrangements you can’t escape from the passion he has for music and the unwavering high standards that he expects of himself and you only have to look at the other musicians on the gig to see how much his input is making it enjoyable for them too.
Over the years I have learned a lot from Ronnie. His support, guidance and love extends far beyond music and I am proud to call him my very good friend.
James SE Robinson. (Drummer)
Ronnie is an exemplary professional, a legendary educator, a unique communicator and listener. He’s also an award winning arranger, an author and, if you turn his initials around you get BR. Maybe there’s something in that . . . .
Peter Fairclough. (Drummer)
I remember feeling rather apprehensive of Ronnie when attending his Writing and Notation classes for the first time at the Leeds College of Music. As one of my lecturers there he had a reputation of having a sharp tongue and wit to match and no time for slackers either in the class or the ensemble in which I played.
However, in the years since then he has become one of my dearest and kindest friends and was the arranger, drummer and ever supportive force behind the Nicki Allan Sextet. It has been an honour to work along side him singing in his Jazz Orchestra and all the other countless gigs over the years.
I’ve learned such a lot about the business, jazz music and arranging from his driving , relentless passion for jazz and his hilarious anecdotes have always brightened every gig.
Thank you, Ronnie, you are one of a kind and a truly special person.
Nicki Allan. (Award winning vocalist, pianist and band leader)
I first met Ronnie in the mid 70s when I was playing drums for the ‘Rocking Berries’ and we were appearing at the Wakefield Theatre Club. Ronnie was the drummer in the resident house band and what a great band it was. After the show each night we’d be invited up to their band room which was an elaborate affair with a bar and a hot meal section. There we’d sit until the very early hours having one of Mel Slinger’s (Trumpet) home made curries, chatting and drinking and it was there that I found that Ron and I both had a love of drummer Steve Gadd.
I was buying any LP that Gadd played on at the time and every time that we played at Wakefield, or anywhere in the vicinity, I would meet up with Ron and we would sit up all night while he explained the intricacies of Gadd’s drumming and musicianship and I learned so much from him. Later on in the 80s, when he was touring, he’d stay at my house each time that he was appearing in Birmingham and we’d do it all again.
The man is a legend and I’m so proud that after all these years we’re still in touch with one another and that he calls me his friend.
Keep on keepin’ on, Ronnie.
Keith Smart. (Drummer, Roy Wood’s Wizard’ and Rocking Berries)
I was introduced to Ronnie by Ted Platt, the guitarist, when I needed a drummer to replace the one leaving the five piece quintet that I ran playing residencies and private gigs and, at that time, I had no idea of his pedigree.
Not only is he a great drummer with faultless time but he’s also a wonderful arranger for both small ensembles and big bands and I’ve spent many, many enjoyable nights working with him in my band but also being backed by his Jazz Orchestra and the outstanding musicians that are in it plus all the marvellous arrangements that he’s done for these sell-out occasions.
Ronnie would often ring me before a gig and sing the arrangement down the phone and he must have had more faith in me than I had in myself because we seldom had a rehearsal, if any (the band is full of professional gigging musicians who are far too busy to rehearse, but then, they have to be to sight read all that fabulous music). However, in spite of all this, the concerts were successful and always went without a hitch.
Ronnie is more to me than a great drummer/arranger/musician. He is a dear, dear friend who has taught me a great deal, far more than I can ever thank him for, and I am grateful for all the enjoyable fun filled years that we have worked together.
Long may they continue.
Colin Moore. (Aka Eddie Martell)
I first met Ron back in 1967. He’d just returned from playing in America and I was studying at York University. Mrs Weaver, the owner of the Owl Country Club in Hambleton, near Selby, was getting a new trio together to play at her club with John MacDonald (a local musician) on bass, myself on piano and Ron, because of his experience, on drums.
At that time Ron knew very little about harmony or the theory of music but was attempting to arrange things for the trio to make it sound more polished and professional. He did this totally by ear on a little stylophone that his daughter had won in a competition. He was educating himself by trying to transcribe the arrangements of the great figures in the jazz world like George Shearing and Nelson Riddle when arranging for Frank Sinatra.
When he became stuck he’d call at my house in Belle Isle, Leeds (sometimes twice or three times per week) and sing me the chords of these arrangements so that I could try to figure them out and write them down. The singing would often be accompanied by facial grimaces and a wheeeee if the underlying harmony was particularly juicy. He didn’t know what the chord was or how to notate it but he knew what it sounded like and when I found it he would shout “That’s it!” and he would sit at the piano beside me and smile and beam with excitement like a kid with a new toy. He’s carried on studying over the years and now 50-plus years later he is an accomplished musician writing arrangements for various artists and, more notably, his well known Jazz Orchestra, of which I’m proud to be a member.
The rapport that we’ve developed while playing together all these years, added to my tendency to employ quotations and coupled with our shared sense of off beat humour has resulted in our having lots of fun. Busking through some standard tune or other, I only have to play a few notes at a given point for Ron to suddenly look over to me and start grinning because he’s guessed what’s coming. Sometimes he’ll even look over BEFORE I’ve got to that point and then we’ll both go into a fit of giggles. Of course, it’s all done surreptitiously and hardly anyone but us notices, nor does the music suffer - we love it far too much for that.
Throughout, it’s all been wonderful music, good fun and laughter and I’m grateful for it.
Dr. Graham Hearn. (Pianist, composer, arranger, educator)
Studying with Ronnie at the Leeds College of Music was one of the most invaluable experiences during my musical education. I still often think about his teaching and how it has benefited me enormously during my transition to becoming a professional musician.
Ronnie’s experience and knowledge of the drums, plus his infectious enthusiasm for music is something that I’ll cherish forever. We’re still friends, mates and partners in jazz and humour and long may that continue.
Andy Brotherton. (Freelance drummer)
As a reluctant bandleader back in the 80s (well, somebody had to do it) I realised the importance of every member. We were always happier playing standards and jazz numbers but, of course, our main job was to please the paying customers and, as there was always at least one moan from behind me when announcing their requests, I found a way round this by just giving the key signature. Once we had started I would sing “Spanish Eyes” or “Tie A Yellow Ribbon” and the like. I used to apologise afterwards but I don’t think that they forgave me, really.
We also had to sign for our wages at the end of each week and I must have been a bit ‘green’ because I never checked the signatures. The secretary once said to me “I can’t understand this. You have the same personnel every week but their signatures are always different. Who is O McDonald, B Darren or D Duck?”
Joking aside, the musical understanding that we all had of each other was uncanny and made us excel at everything we played. I was very privileged to have worked with musicians of that calibre in the residencies of Milford Hall Country Club and Selby Fork Motel and we later got many engagements at various functions and weddings on the quality of our work there.
I’ll always treasure Ron’s, Graham Hearn’s and John Hamilton’s humour. It was catching ‘cos sometimes I even saw the customers laughing along at some of the private musical quotes that we were putting out. The love and respect that we all had for each other carries on long after the music has ended right up to the present day.
Thanks, Ronnie, for all those precious memories. They got me through a difficult time in my life. Love you always. x
Chrissie Scott. (Vocalist)
It was as visiting bass player at the Wakefield Theatre Club with Gene Pitney in the early 70s that I first met Ronnie.
I recall that his skills made quite an impression on me. The superb drumming plus the wonderful arrangements that he’s done which were a big feature of the ‘Willie Hirst Swinging Brass’ house band’s programme . . . . not to mention his talents as the band room raconteur after the show.
Since then I have considered myself fortunate to have shared the band stand with him many times, in the Sunday concerts that we did together in the Geoff Laycock Orchestra and with the George Bradley Band at the Grand Hotel, Scarborough.
One other occasion that springs to mind was when the Maurice Merry Orchestra, of which Ron was a member, were playing for the Keith Harris Summer Season at the Grand Theatre, Blackpool. The band were scheduled to go to America to work with Gene Pitney the day after the show closed but because of it’s success the show got a two weeks extension.
This resulted in Ron having to be left behind to take over from Maurice Merry as the Musical Director using yours truly on bass and a group of other musicians from Hull on the East coast.
We all met in the car park of the White Bear pub at Tingley Cross roads then travelled in the same car to Blackpool. These trips were hilarious, to say the least, filled with jokes and raucous laughter and we’d sometimes arrive at the theatre with only minutes to spare before showtime and the show still holds the record, to this day, for audience numbers and length of run.His musicianship and arranging skills seem to go from strength to strength and long may that continue. Many thanks for your cherished contribution to my career, Ron.
Bob Malinowski. (Bass player)
I had the honour of studying drums with Ronnie during my time at the Leeds College of Music, the first year by timetable and the final two years by request as my ‘one to one’ tutor. Of all the people that I can bring to mind he is, by far, the most hard working, dedicated, knowledgeable, inspiring, reliable, loyal, warm hearted and all the other endless adjectives that I could use.
What drew me to Ronnie as a teacher was the no nonsense, real life, useful knowledge that he passed down, the kind of information that is often taken for granted and overlooked because it is assumed that it goes unspoken and many teachers miss it out altogether.
As my teacher nothing was too much trouble for him. I have a huge pile of CDs in my studio that he made for me to listen to and a big folder full of Ronnie’s transcriptions plus one or two that I’m fairly sure he transcribed especially for me.
I owe a huge part of how I’m managing to sustain a living as a drummer now to having met and studied with Ronnie and I can’t thank him enough.
Joe Montague. (Session drummer, educator)
I was incredibly fortunate to study with Ronnie whilst attending the Leeds College of Music many years ago. The lessons that I had with him completely changed my approach to playing drums and introduced me to a whole new world of rhythmic possibilities and musical ideas that I’m still exploring to this day.
More than this, his whole work ethic and advice on how to be a successful musician has stayed with me all my working life. His enthusiasm and love for not only our chosen instrument but for music in general (not to mention, life itself) still makes me smile whenever I hear his name.
I’m incredibly proud to have known Ronnie now for over 25 years and even prouder to call him a friend.
Nick Carter. (Freelance drummer, educator)
You were a breath of fresh air and a kick up the backside for me as a 19 years old student, fresh at the Leeds College of Music. I had no female drummer role models (apart from Karen Carpenter) but you were patient and kind with me, sharing your tales of touring and experience in the music business.
I listened and learned and gradually gained confidence. Somehow, I won the BBC Big Band Competition for best drummer in the College ‘Flagship’ Big Band, which was such an honour, and I always felt that you were there for me and that you took me seriously as a drummer and musician.
I am so proud of my links to college and it’s heritage as a leading contender in Jazz Education for the last 50, or so, years.
I have so much respect for you, Ronnie, and all your colleagues, who paved the way and worked so hard to deliver a consistent and real experience for us students to carry forward into our own careers. I always think of you in many of my playing situations and that keeps me positive and inspired.
Thank you for being here . . . you are loved very much. xx
Caroline (Caz) Boaden. (Freelance session drummer, educator)
I was in a band run by Graham Hearn for ten years from 1984 - 1994. Ian Mann was on bass and Ronnie was the drummer. This was during my student days at the Leeds College of Music (where both Graham and Ronnie were lecturers) and long after.
Although never formally, Ronnie taught me so much that, even now decades later, I am still processing aspects of what he passed on to me. I spent all those years standing in front of him on stage, often not even realising how much he was influencing my performance. I would ‘come up’ with a new way to phrase a song only to later realise that all the time Ronnie had been subtly playing it behind me. He literally beat jazz into me!
His constant professionalism as a performer set a very high bar - one that I have emulated since for the rest of my life. The time that I spent working with him was a pinnacle of my career as a singer and the band that we were all in together was a blessing.
Katerina El Haj. (Vocalist, educator)
Ronnie was my second drum teacher and started teaching me when I was around age 12. Even at that young age I had a great appreciation of how talented a drummer, musician and arranger he was. Under his tuition my playing improved greatly and by the the time I was 15 I’d passed my grade 8 and become a relatively confident reader. This was an impressive feat in itself as I’d always loathed sight reading!
It was through Ronnie’s recommendation that I also became the kit player for the Yorkshire Imperial Brass Band, who were promoted to the championship section while I was a member.
Although I chose to pursue a career in engineering rather than music, the work ethic, persistence and self belief instilled into me by Ronnie was instrumental (get it?) in my university life and also later in my career as a mechanical design engineer.
He has, and continues to be, an inspiration to me and many others and I feel honoured to have been taught by him. I now play as a hobby in the Wakefield Big Band and we’re still great friends after all these years.
Matthew Zelei-Good. (Drummer)
I first met Ronnie in 1966 when I went to the Leeds College of Music to do a degree in Jazz Studies. In my second year, I was assigned weekly drum kit lessons with Ronnie and also time tabled a place in one of his ensembles. My overriding memory of these years was his unbridled enthusiasm for both music and teaching and, perhaps more importantly, the fact that he so clearly demonstrated his belief in my potential as an individual and a musician.
I think that Ronnie recognised the fact that I was a keen listener and directed me towards, literally, hundreds of outstanding recordings. Recordings which have formed a key part of my musical education over the years (and which continues to the present day). Ronnie was always very complimentary about my time keeping ‘feel’ but I am certain that this was gained by my constant listening, much of which was guided by his recommendations in the first place.
Although I left Leeds in the late 90s, it is a testament to Ronnie’s influence that we are still in touch and great friends to this day and I have fond memories of my wife and I driving down from Newcastle one snowy Friday night a couple of years ago to see his Jazz Orchestra in Wakefield - an unforgettable evening of outstanding music. Similarly, I snapped up copies of both Ronnie’s autobiography and his ‘Power of Three’ drum book and eagerly devoured them both. Long may you continue, my friend.
David Francis. (Drummer, educator)
I’ve know Ronnie since our days together at the Leeds College of Music and have always cherished his friendship, added to that my wife loves him to bits.
You are never in doubt with what he wants, thinks or feels and if the world was run according to the laws of Ronnie Bottomley it would, in my opinion, be a much better place.
Of course, the main reason that we all think the world of him is that he is simply hilarious to be with and has us in stitches with his many anecdotes and attitude to life.
We care for him dearly.
Jeff Swift. (Freelance guitarist)
I first met Ronnie in 1979 when, as a fresh faced 18 year old, I started the jazz course at the Leeds College of Music.
I was time tabled in to his nine piece ensemble which rehearsed in the Upper Mezzanine.
In there was a wonderful Fender Rhodes electric piano, which I’d never encountered previously, but the real buzz was Ronnie’s charts, the like of which I’d never seen before.
His enthusiasm for music was contagious and his attention to detail in everything was a lesson to me. My memories of those times are vivid and precious and I’m glad to say that he’s remained a close friend to this day.
His love of writing arrangements continues unabated and it’s hard to believe that 40 years have passed since our first meeting. He’s a rare talent and a uniquely funny man as I’m sure that anyone who knows him will agree.
Nigel Chapman. (Pianist, educator)
I first met Ronnie when I enrolled on the BA Jazz Studies course at the Leeds College of Music in the late 1990s. He had just officially retired from being a full time lecturer and had carried on working there part time part time.
One of his duties was running the Performance Studies Ensemble and he would have us students play through his own great small group arrangements of tunes such as Horace Silver’s “Sister Sadie” or the funky West Coast style of “King Cobra” by LA Express. He was never a hard task master with the drummers in these ensembles and there was none of that ‘Whiplash’ nonsense. Under his excellent leadership, guidance and enthusiasm he brought out (and still brings out) the very best in all the musicians with whom he has worked, or works.
When I was at Leeds the high standard of performance on the jazz course originally made me feel like a small fish in a big pond. Ronnie very much took me under his wing and invited me to deputise in his trio which, back then, played regularly at Border’s Cafe in York.
In addition to giving me the opportunity to play with one of the best drummers with which I’ve ever worked, playing piano in his trio had a profound effect on my performance as one of the many special things about working with Ronnie was that he encouraged all the musicians ‘how to tell a story’ and keep things melodic when soloing.
The journeys to and from Leeds to York were always full of jokes, hilarious anecdotes and stories from his varied career, many of which are in his autobiography. During my time at Leeds Ronnie and I became good friends and have remained so to this day.
Thanks for your friendship, Ron, you’re a great bloke!
James Clemas. (Pianist, band leader)
Ronnie has been my mentor, life coach and, most importantly, my friend since we met in the mid 1980s when I was a student at the Leeds College of Music. His tremendous life-force and passion for music is his greatest legacy.
He not only taught me to play (and what not to play) but how to retain a life long relationship with music. His enthusiasm is boundless and he truly cares about all his former students - and their families too!
I owe him everything and much more. He has metaphorically stood behind me on every gig that I have played since leaving college and I can hear him whispering encouragingly “Make it swing - Read it - Give it one! All of my greatest moments in music have been a direct consequence of something that he has taught me.
There is much, much more to Ronnie than the funny stories, anecdotes and continuous laughter that he bestows on everyone he meets. He is one of a kind, a musical giant, but also an immense human being who is respected by us all.
Steve Smith. (UK) (Drummer, composer, educator)
There are musicians in the world who possess more than just a gift for sharing knowledge of their instrument but also valuable life-lessons designed to keep us in check and on the right track. Ronnie was one of those people. He taught me not only how to be a drummer with diverse skills but he also reminded his students never to be complacent and to take nothing for granted.
I think of Ronnie as a teacher from the “old school” who genuinely gave praise when it was due and kept me inspired to reach the very best standards possible. I treasure the time I spent under his tutelage at the Leeds Collage of Music. He made me a better musician.
Matt Home. (Freelance session drummer)
I first met Ron when I did the occasional dep at the Wakefield Theatre Club sometime in the early 70s. As a drummer Ron was exiting to watch and the band were excellent so playing with them gave me something to aspire to. After that I moved to Manchester to take up a new post and we only met from time to time when we coincidentally played on the same gigs.
I next met Ron when I joined the staff of the College of Music in Leeds. He was a part time lecturer then but eventually became full time while still continuing to gig around the country. In time I became his line manager and I would always have a queue of students requesting that Ron be their tutor for the forthcoming year.
While being strict, he was also very generous to his students and gave many their first opportunity to become professional musicians by recommending them to various band leaders or placing them in bands that were currently touring.
When I needed a drummer for ‘The Good Old Days’ stage shows at the City Varieties Theatre in Leeds Ron was the obvious choice and, over the years, we have worked with many of the top artists such as Eartha Kitt and Marion Montgomery. Ron lived up to his pedigree, of course, and now coming up to his 30th year in the drum chair he’s still as good as ever.
It has been a great pleasure to have worked alongside him all these years. He is a legend in the business and an inspiration to us all.
David Smith. (Former Head of Performance Studies at LCoM, pianist and Musical Director)
I attended the Leeds College of Music in the 1990s and Ronnie was one of the drum tutors there at the time. His love of drums was, and still is, infectious and still inspires me even now when I think back to those days.
He has a huge amount of experience under his belt and has always been generous in passing on the knowledge that he has acquired. Ronnie knows how to swing and he always does it with a smile.
Scott Hammond. (Freelance drummer)
I first worked with Ronnie on my concert to a packed out audience at the Queen’s Hall in Burley-in-Wharfedale Summer Festival in 2008 and again when he played on my first album ‘Seasons of Love’ in 2009. Since then we’ve done lots of gigs together and he always makes them great!
His phenomenal playing keeps you on track and his constant musical and industrial advice is always given warmly and generously, but it’s his sense of fun that really stands out, his humorous anecdotes and renowned jokes are legendary.
Working with Ronnie taught me a lot and I’ll be forever grateful for the lessons and the fun.
Beverley Bierne. (Jazz Singer)
I first met Ronnie at the tender age of 12 when he came as a peripatetic drum teacher to the Secondary School in Pontefract, West Yorkshire where I was a pupil. I had always had a burning desire to play the drums but had never even held a pair of drum sticks before.
On day one Ronnie walked in with his practice pad to a group of four young novice lads and after the first hour of sitting in at the drums we were all absolutely blown away blown by what we had experienced. That was just the beginning for me and I had no idea at the time of what doors would eventually open based on that first encounter.
Within two years of lessons and at the age of 14, I found myself (due to Ronnie‘s networking and recommendation) playing at a Working Men’s Club on a weekend as resident drummer with, Les Chambers, one of clubland’s finest organists.
The rest of my career after that initial meeting with Ronnie has been like dropping a pebble in a pond and watching the ripples spread out. From joining the army and eventually commanding one of H.M the Queen’s army bands I went on to become the teacher of Percussion for the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra and musical adviser to the Royal Oman Police Band to present day teaching at my own studio in Harrogate.
Now, in my later years, I still look back fondly as if it was only yesterday at those lessons that I had with Ronnie and still base my own teaching methods on my personal experiences with him. That is a testament to Ronnie and the musical influence that he had, and still has, over me after all these years.
My dream of becoming a musician was all made possible by that first meeting and I owe everything that I am today to the Legend that is Ronnie Bottomley.
Ian Macpherson. (Drummer, Teacher, Composer and Staff Arranger for Safemusic Ltd)
It’s quite difficult to put into words just how much playing in Ronnie’s college ensemble while I was a student at the Leeds College of Music has informed my drumming. He was a master at showing us how to play phrases and navigate charts musically and I count myself lucky to have had his guidance. I just had to use one of his arrangements for the final recital of my degree as they were always so tastefully written.
His funny, caring, and straight down the line personality made him so easy to get on with and to learn so much from . The years of experience oozes from him and he really is a living legend on the music scene. Thank you for everything, Ronnie!
Steve Drinkwater. (Drummer)
There are few people who can be wholly synonymous with an entire establishment or a name that always comes up in conversation when you discover that a colleague has also attended the same college as you, just at a different time.
Fellow professionals are amazed - and a bit envious - when I say that we had a one hour class in Writing and Notation every week during our first year of study. That is, learning the art of writing down music neatly and accurately with a bottle of ink, a fountain pen and good old fashioned ten-stave manuscript paper. I still have my Osmiroid Italic (!) and, even though we’ve now all switched to software I still follow all the rules that he taught us.
Added to this were the bands that he directed - all the arrangements that he wrote for them - and you have a formidable legacy indeed. I was lucky enough to be in his sextet and his big band, with charts (arrangements) all written by the man himself. An excellent foundation for any student, in my humble opinion.
The establishment of which I write is the City of Leeds College of Music and the man is, of course, the one and only Ronnie Bottomley.
Jim Lynch (Session musician and trumpet player with the John Wilson Orchestra)
I fondly remember Ronnie Bottomley - - walking around the Leeds College of Music with a permanent grin on his face (and a plethora of jokes on the tip of his tongue). He always seemed to be determined to have a good time (two essential ingredients for great jazz).
I remember is swinging command of the drums and his natural groove on the band stand, but what really made the biggest impression on me was the first time I attended Ronnie’s reading class for drummers.
I didn’t even really know how to read, but that didn’t stop Ronnie from encouraging me (and complimenting me on my feel). As a young student, it could easily have been an embarrassing experience, but he turned it around and made it into something positive.
Thank you dear Ronnie! I’ve played drums and percussion my whole life and will always be grateful for your encouraging words - they made all the difference.
Keep swinging - all the best.
Jeff Busch (Drummer, percussionist, composer, educator) Seattle, Washington, USA.
I love Ronnie Bottomley. . . . and this is why.
When I first got into the Leeds College of Music my reading of musical notation wasn’t that great. I was good with chord charts, so I photocopied the music that he’d given me and wrote the the chords under every bar of notated music on the piece. I then tried my best to follow the rhythms but staying in key with the chords underneath . . I thought . . if I can stay in key and catch as many rhythms in the notation as I could then I’ll be okay. He realised what I was doing but let it slide and only offered encouragement, which I appreciate.
Things in my life are now better because of that and similar experiences with him. Love you, Ronnie.
Warren Freeman (Bass)