Clarrie Henley

Died Thursday January 15th 2015

16/01/15 - I am very sad to tell you that after a difficult but short illness my lovely Dad, Clarrie Henley, died yesterday.   Dad was a very popular man and had many friends which made his life such a happy one.  With great sadness - Carol and Alice

This photograph was taken when Jazz writer Clarrie Henley and his wife, Alice celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in 2010. The party was held at the Capernwray Diving Centre, near Carnforth and with doors and windows open on a sunny day, the music resounded over the waters. Clarrie was persuaded to bring his guitar out of retirement to join the band for a few numbers and pictured here is the entire ensemble. Left to right: John Muskett of Bolton (bass), Derek Jones of Manchester (cornet), Billy Edwards of The Wirral (trumpet), Clarrie, now of Carnforth (guitar), Dave Rigby of Merseyside (banjo and guitar) and Harold Troughton of Rainhill (clarinet and reeds).

16/01/15 -

Very sad to hear about Clarrie Henley, although not surprised as I rang him 10 days ago and I knew the situation was serious.. He was a great guy with a terrific sense of humour, I first worked with him at the Warrington Guardian in the 1950's and we played in a band together with Clarrie on guitar. I recall when we played at Neptune Moorings that Clarrie would write his own amusing lyrics to well known tunes, and one I remember well was a tribute to 'The Neptune's Burger'. He was very interested in jazz but he had to give up playing with us when he moved on to the National Newspapers where he became a sub editor and was dealing with reader's letters. Such was his sense of humour that one day some people came up to me and said, "I agree with everything you said", and it was then I discovered that Clarrie had written a letter himself with my name on it! Clarrie eventually retired to run a boarding house in Blackpool for a short while before moving to Carnforth where his son & daughter-in-law had bought a quarry. They had it filled with water and various obstacles, like an aeroplane, and they started a diving school. Clarrie then lived on the banks of the quarry in a Canadian style log cabin. He had relatives in America and made lots of contacts with professional musicians over there. He was also an avid collector of classic jazz records, and I reckon he had more jazz recording than the BBC. He has been my best friend over the years and not long ago I joked with him that after he'd gone they were all destined for the tip, and he was very pragmatic about it and said, "Well I've enjoyed listening to them". -

Harold Troughton.


Very sad to hear about Clarrie Henley. I first met and played with Clarrie in the late 1960's when I was a member of the (Warrington) Riverside Jazz Band playing weekly at The Cherry Tree in Culcheth, my first ever live gigs. We then played together with Webster's Washboard Wizards in and around Liverpool - Bob Webster, Bernard Bibby, Derek Jones, myself with Clarrie joining us sometimes on guitar. I also recall a gig at the Cherry Tree which Clarrie organised with both the Riverside Band and The Wizards with Nat Gonella as guest. I have a rather tinny recording of some of that gig including a seven minute version of Nat's St James Infirmary.

I stopped playing for a while but met Clarrie and Alice again during that period when I lived up in the Horwich hills and discovered that they lived on the lower plains. I then, with your kind help Fred, was in touch with him last year. I spoke to him a couple of times and have kept the emails which contain many reminiscences in Clarrie's inimitable style.

I visited America in 1979 and it was Clarrie who gave me introductions to musicians in New York, Chicago and New Orleans when I was there. He seemed to know everyone and could really open doors for you.

One incident to prove the point sticks vividly in my mind. I was at the Kenny Davern concert at Birch Hall in 1983 (Davern, Bobby Rosengarden and Philip Larlin on piano - I think it was Dick Wellstood who had been taken ill). During the break I had introduced myself to Davern and was chatting to him and Booby Rosengarden when Clarrie walked by.  Kenny saw him and exclaimed, "Hey, you're Clarrie Henley, aren't you?". Was I impressed or what?

Clarrie also had an incredible memory when it came to names, events and dates. To my embarrassment I learned how good his memory really was when, last year during one of our conversations, he reminded me that, when they lived in Horwich, I had bought some LPs from him but still hadn't paid him !!!

Knowledgeable, articulate, generous, never afraid to speak his mind and, to top it all, a lovely man.

Graham Martindale

21/01/15 -

Lots of musicians and friends, who live far from you, will be in thought with you all.

Clarrie was a real jazz bug and friend!!!!! I miss him!!!!

Dan Vernhettes

22/01/15 -

It would have been in the early 1970s, when we both lived in Lymm (Cheshire), that I got to know Clarrie. I was playing with the Original Dam Jazz band and Clarrie was playing piano and guitar with The Riverside Dixielanders. Inevitably our paths crossed when depping. We lost contact when Clarrie and Alice moved to Blackpool, and Meryl and I went to Bolton. Somewhere around 1990, on the recommendation of Colin Smith who couldn’t do the gig, Clarrie ’phoned me to ask if I could play in a small group at Hoboken House (then his home in Horwich) accompanying guitarist/singer Marty Grosz. These gigs became an annual event, first at chez Henley, later at the Ridgeway Arms, Blackrod, and one at Poynton. He would produce tapes of these sessions, annotated in his immaculate handwriting.

Clarrie was an excellent companion. He was friendly, witty, thoughtful and with an encyclopaedic knowledge of jazz. He was more interested in the quality of the music and interpretive abilities of the players than in any particular style. As a journalist and author he had produced a considerable amount of penetrating writing on jazz. Regular contact was lost again when Clarrie and Alice moved to South Lakeland, so I was glad to be an invited performer at their Golden Wedding celebration at Capernwray in 2010. Soon after we met up again in the audience at The Rhythm Station (Rawtenstall) when he gave me a number of his CDs in an effort to reduce his own collection. Our most recent contact was at the end of October last year in connection with Peter Stafford’s death: Clarrie had just learned of his own bowel cancer; circumstances conspired against his attendance at Peter’s funeral.

I am very sorry that such an erudite and affable musical colleague has died: Meryl and I would like to send condolences to Alice and Carol.


John Muskett

27/01/15 -

It is very sad to lose another good friend and the following few thoughts give my reason for appreciating what a super fellow Clarrie Henley was.

I have some good memories of Clarrie Henley. We were so pleased when he wrote a very enthusiastic report of my band in the Daily Telegraph in 1989. This was followed up by various mentions of our gigs in his weekly column in the Telegraph. He would come to see the band quite often and when I asked him if he would like to write the sleeve notes on a CD I was planning to record, he offered to do this for me. This was the band’s recording of “T’Ain’t Nobody’s Bizness If We Do”. When we started to do the concerts with Marion Montgomery, Marion was interested in recording with us, which resulted in the CD “Makin’ Whoopee”. I invited Clarrie to write the sleeve notes on this, and he was delighted to accept. He was very impressed with the CD and wrote a tremendous review of it in America’s Jersey Rag. Sometime later he called me to ask if I would like to accompany Marty Grosz on some nights of his tour in the North West. I told him I certainly would like to do this and it was all arranged. It was a pleasure to accompany him at the Executive Suite at Burnden Park just before Bolton Wanderers moved to their present premises. This was on 18th January 1997 and the following night we were together at Poynton Royal British Legion. A few weeks later the trio, Allan Dent, Colin Smith and I accompanied Marty at the Ridgway Arms, Blackrod. Clarrie also gave a good mention in the Telegraph when my band accompanied Yank Lawson at the Birch Hall Hotel. Happy days!

Kind Regards Mart Rodger


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