by the late Joe Silmon

Joe Silmon & Des Hopkins at Southport Jazz Festival 3rd June 2007
Photo by Fred Burnett


Hello Fred & Jazz Colleagues everywhere,

I can vouch for this book being, not only a really good read and very entertaining at the same time, full of Irish humour here and there, which is frequently hilarious; but also, one has to consider the fact that Des spent some years in the 1960s in the Oldham/Middleton area with his parents.

Very soon after arriving from Ireland, Des Hopkins gravitated to the Manchester Jazz scene with a vengeance! He was already a highly experienced drummer, although still a teenager, and a great soloist who soon grabbed the local Jazz fans' attention. Playing mostly with the band of the late Johnny Tippett, he perhaps cut his Jazz teeth locally with Johnny's band, as most of his previous work in Irish Show Bands was of a totally different genre. However, the result was a great showman, besides an outstanding drummer on the local scene. His aim was always "to leave an audience entertained", which was very much the maxim of the show band musicians. When he went back to Ireland, the Manchester Jazz scene lost a great local asset.

Fortunately, many of us have seen Des and the Original Guinness Jazz Band, that included his late brother, Billy Hopkins (keyboards/bass guitar, vocals), on our shores, and some of us have even played with the band while over here, particularly at the Southport Jazz Festival, which used to be an annual affair that included all styles of Jazz, and the band frequently had an Anglo/Irish lineup, with Brian Mellor (bjo/gtr/voc.), Danny Hammerton (tpt/, etc.)., and Andy Hillier (tbn and "funny walks through the crowd", while blowing). I was with the band at Southport, too, a good few times and on other gigs on the same tours. Now Southport doesn't feature all the bands that it did before. So we don't see Des and the boys too often now over this side of the Water. Our loss!

The above said, Des's book, which I had the privilege to see the raw manuscript of, before its publication, isn't solely about Irish show bands; it also involves the scene in the North West too, at a time when part-time musicians in Jazz bands were working almost around the clock!  Yes, this is Des's life being displayed in all the raw aspects of another kind of scene, when he worked not only in Ireland, but also in America, Canada, Scandinavian countries, etc., before he reached England's North West, but it involves us too. I think that it will be of some considerable interest to the Manchester Jazz Society, and to the many people who got to know, or played with Des and his brother Billy over the decades.

Happy reading. And no, I'm not Mr Hopkins's Literary Agent!!!

Thank you, Fred.
Joe Silmon-Monerri


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