Tributes to Bill Williams
7th Oct 1927 - 30th Sept 2006 

01/10/06 - I had a phone call from John Lawrence this morning to pass on the sad news that Bill Williams, ex Panama Jazzmen drummer, had passed away. John said, "He was a lovely person, and the Merseys had a lot of affection for him. He was a true gentleman, and even in the warmest of conditions Bill would continue to wear his jacket and tie, and in true army tradition his shoes were gleaming".

01/10/06 -  "Hi Fred, just heard the sad news about Bill Williams. He was a top man and a great friend and indeed will Be sadly missed. I still use his Battle cry of Two jam butties and a bowl of rice".-  Pete Darwin 

01/10/06 - "Bill Williams, our dear friend and drummer for over 30 years with the Original Panama Jazzband died peacefully in the early hours of Saturday 30 September. Our thoughts are with Stewart, Jane and their family. He leaves a big gap in the list of friends for many people and will be greatly missed. Details of Bill's funeral are to be arranged". - Jon Critchley. 

02/10/06 - Hi Fred, I was really upset to hear about Bill Williams. Bill was one of the first people I got to know when I started playing, and we played together in allsorts of bands over the years. While he was playing actively, he was a regular dep, with both The Rioters and earlier, the Alt River Jazzband, and could always be guaranteed to pull something spectacular out of the hat.   Bill never learned to drive, and in my early days as a rookie musician/skint student I became adept at cramming his drum kit into the back of my mini, and Bill and myself (neither of us was small) into what was left of the front...... Like this, we managed to get all over the northwest and still arrive fit to play!!!!  Bill ceased to be really active on the jazz scene some years ago, due to health problems, but always kept in practice, and was a regular visitor/sitter in at our various residencies around Crosby, playing superbly as usual........ We will miss him.  -  Jeff Lewis.

02/10/06 - "Dear Fred, I was very sorry to hear about the passing of Bill Williams. He was a very special individual, with a heart of gold. Many years ago I had my car stolen and, although I got it back a few days later, the half of my drum kit that was in the boot was stolen. This included my traps case containing all my stands, cymbals and snare drum.  Bill very quickly came to the rescue with the donation of a super little piccolo snare drum and some old stands and, I think, something in the way of a stopgap cymbal. These were all donated and saved my musical life at the time!  Years later, while living in the USA, I renovated the snare drum and, the last time I saw Bill at the Crowne Plaza Merseysippi function I happened to have it with me.  I dragged it out and showed it to Bill, and he seemed to be very impressed with the result as well as being very surprised that I still had it.  It now becomes the Bill Williams Memorial Snare Drum, and every time I play it I will remember Bill for his friendship and kindness.  Sincerely  Mike McCombe Co. Wexford, Ireland".

03/10/06 - Dear Fred, I have been reading the wonderful tributes to my Dad (Bill Williams ex Panama Jazz Band) on your website. Would you be able to inform friends of my Dad through your website that his funeral will take place this Friday 6th October, 12-45pm at St Faiths Church, Crosby, opposite Merchant Taylors Boys School. Best wishes Stuart Williams

05/10/06 - From Keith Allcock, " I'd just like to add my voice to the many who have paid tribute to that grand old trouper, Bill Williams. Bill was, as others have said, a real gentleman, who invariably greeted you with a friendly word. He was always immaculately turned out and completely true to the values in which he believed. He was, in the best sense of the term, "one of the old school". I also loved his introductions of the other musicians on the stand which could be very amusing. To use one of the phrases he often used in those introductions, he was "an all-round good egg.".

06/10/06 - Dear Fred, I was deeply saddened to learn today of Bill Williams passing. Bill often played with my band The Santa Fe Syncopators during the 1990s.  He was one of the first jazz musicians to become friendly with me when I started playing and he was always supportive and encouraging. The funniest gig we did together was at an open day on an ostrich farm and I am sure he never forgot it.  Incidentally it is interesting reading the other tributes as I always referred to him as "The Gentleman of Jazz". He was a truly wonderful man. - Paul Marks .

09/10/06 - Hi Fred, I have been reading the tributes building up to the Great Billy Williams, and feel compelled now to put pen to paper, (well... finger to keyboard...) I too was a member of the short lived but eventful Santa Fe Syncopators on Sousaphone... Billy was the most helpful, kind and patient guy a 'newbie' on the trad jazz scene could hope to meet - many a weekend was spent with him around the clock tower in Ormskirk - and also the Ostrich Farm mentioned by Paul Marks earlier on... indeed an eventful gig... Luckily I still have the tapes we made - albeit crackly dictaphone tapes, but you can hear Billy driving us all from the back... lovely memories and such a loss. Keep up the great work with the site!... Simon Jones

01/11/06 -  Hi Fred, I've only just found out about the death of Bill Williams, courtesy of your site, and just wanted to let you know that he is very fondly remembered even as far afield as Australia. I played (trumpet) with Bill in the Original Panama Jazz Band from 1966 - 1973 before emigrating to Australia and remember him as being a superb, tasteful drummer as well as a great bloke with a fine sense of humour. At our regular gigs at the Black Horse Hotel in West Kirby he would keep the audience entertained even as he was packing his gear away with his ventriloquist's act involving an imaginary character called George Blenkinsopp who hid away in one of his drum cases. Really! Does anyone remember those days?   My old friend, fellow muso and Oz resident Andy Jenner also remembers Bill as a fine musician and an all round good bloke. I'll drink to that! - John Braben Trumpet player.

Reproduced from the Liverpool Daily Post Wed Oct 11, 2006, by kind permission of the Editor

THE drummer shined his black shoes with spit and polish and elbow grease until even the mirrors blushed with shame.

That was because Bill Williams, who played with Liverpool’s Panama Jazz Bend for 37 years, joined the Army as a boy, serving with the Royal Artillery, the First Battalion of the Scots Guards, and then as Drum Major with the band of the Liverpool Scottish.

Williams was brought up in Luton. During the war he served in Yugoslavia and Italy with the Scots Guards, with whom he would later drum at great national events. Among them were a passing-out parade at Sandhurst attended by HRH Princess Elizabeth, the tattoo at Aintree racecourse, and the Trooping of the Colour on Horse Guards Parade. 

In the early 1950s, he met his wife Vicky Hazell, a Bootle girl. They married after six dates, but then were  separated for two years when he continued his Army service in Egypt. The couple settled in Crosby and he worked as manager of a Liverpool paint and wallpaper shop, before moving to Lewis’s department store, where for a couple of years he was Father Christmas. By then he had joined the Liverpool Scottish, TA regiment, and was seen at many ceremonial events in his bearskin and kilt, including the warm-up for the Portugal/North Korea World Cup match at Goodison Park in 1966.
Standing at 6ft 2ins, Williams was an impressive figure with a generous manner. He could seamlessly move from the tighter rhythms of military music to the swing of trad jazz.

In addition to his great years with the Panama band, once being billed ahead of The Beatles at The Cavern, he also drummed for the Red and Blues Marching Jazz Band, performing at the Liverpool Garden Festival in 1984 and the Liverpool/Everton Milk Cup Final in the same year.

A service was held for him near his home at St Faith’s Church, Crosby, followed by burial at Thornton Cemetery.

His Panama jazz friends played When The Saints Go Marching In, Flowers Of The Forest and then his own favourite, Bye Bye Blackbird. 

Williams is survived by his son Stuart, a catering lecturer.

Bill Williams, soldier and musician; born October 7, 1927, died September 30, 2006.

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