Pete Appleby

Pete Appleby by MarkieG
Pete Appleby, a photo by MarkieG on Flickr.
PETE APPLEBY 1928 – 2012
It is with great sadness that I have to report the the death of the great British Percussionist Peter Appleby.
As many of my readers will know Pete was the driving force behind the Lonnie Donegan Skiffle Group when I was still a lad! Previous to joining Lonnie’s band Peter played with an endless list of household names, both Jazzers and popular performers. He was with the Mick Mulligan band for over 10 years, the singer in that band was the legendary  George Melly – George mentions Pete in his book. Other names that people will recognise include, The Humphrey Littleton Band, The Johnny Dankworth Orchestra and Dame Shirley Bassey.
In later years Pete devoted himself to musical education and was still teaching up to 2010. I recently received a number of emails from ex-students of Pete’s, one of which is now a Doctor of Music and he owes all his early start in music to Peter. Of course Pete didn’t only play kit, he was an all round Percussionist which included; Vibraphone, Xylophone and Tympani etc. But was more famous for his drum kit work.
I first saw Peter perform when he joined the Donegan band in 1960 and he bowled me over, little did I know then that I would end up taking over the drum chair from him with the band in the late 60’s, a hard act to follow as any musician who has worked with Lonnie will tell you.For the past 30 years – give or take – Peter has been happily married to wife June. Although they had known each for many years before that when June was also in show-business as a professional dancer. For the past number of years Peter had been ill on a number of occasions suffering with a serious chest complaint and even beating Bladder Cancer in 2010 with the ever stalwart care, love and dedication of June.

  It was Saturday the 28th January 2012 that Pete passed away in the Middlesborough Hospital, June having called the Paramedics when Pete started having breathing problems the previous evening.
It was reported that Pete died peacefully in his sleep with June by his side.

10 thoughts on “Pete Appleby”

  1. Hello Mark,

    When I contacted you before, I asked you say hi to Pete from me – i do hope you were able to.
    Sadly today, I have just learned of Pete’s death & am cherishing all my fond memories of Lonnie, Sharon & the band in Vancouver.
    We had so many special, happy moments that I will never forget. Every time they performed, I enjoyed it more & more.
    It was a privelege to have them over to my place for dinners & great conversations – we shared stories & laughed so much.
    Many cups of tea later…
    I cheerfully washed & ironed shirts for them so they didn’t have to go to the laundromat in their downtime.
    Pete & I became friends & all these years later, I still have the drumsticks he gave me – we laughed so hard as he tried to teach me to use them! I finally managed a beat after much practice & concentration.
    Rest in peace Pete, you were a wonderful drummer!
    My heartfelt condolences to his family.

    Karen Snihur Hinchey


    1. Hi Karen
      Yes I did pass on your regards. However, there appears to be some discrepancies vis a vis dates.
      What year was it that you are referring to when the band was in Vancouver? And what were the venues? It would help me as I feel you may be mistaking the ‘Peters’.
      Look forward to your reply.

      Best wishes



      1. Hi Mark,

        The earlier 70’s rollicking performances were at the Blarneystone in Vancouver & I also flew down to Lake Tahoe. The Nevada trip was in 1976 if I remember correctly.

        That turned into a very unusual trip as I was staying in the same building as Lonnie & Sharon, which was close by a river – so
        I walked down there on a sunny afternoon & sat on a rock. Another chap arrived & sat on a different rock, we began conversing for quite awhile & then I headed back up to my room.

        Sadly, all of a sudden the police arrived to question the entire buliding – that chap had been murdered & I was last person to see/speak to him at the river until the murderer got there.

        When I returned to Canada, I was contacted more times by the Lake Tahoe police for details & they said they might need me to return to testify at the trial.
        It was like some strange plot line that occurs in movies.

        He is the only Pete I ever knew with the band, I wasn’t aware of any others. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photographs of those times, only my drumsticks.
        Have you any copies of photos or articles from newspapers about their different gigs in Vancouver?
        I’d gladly send you my email if you did.

        Pete used to tell me that everytime he saw me, for some reason I reminded him of the song “Hey, Carrie Ann” & he was always singing it to me – that memory always brings a smile to my face.
        I’m smiling as I write this.
        Memories are precious!


      2. Hi Karen

        OK, Pete Appleby was the drummer with Lonnie from about 1959/60. He took over from Nick Nichols, who was the original drummer. I took over from Pete Appleby in 1967/8 and I remained with Lon until 1973. I remember playing Vancouver with Lon in about 1970/71. We played a club where there were topless dancers, something like ‘Uncle Sy’s”. The week before us was Lulu. When I left in 1973 to join CBS Pete Merrick took over and I think this is the Peter you are thinking off. Not very tall, and thinning hair or none at all. The Bass player was probably Melt Kingstone, can’t mistake Melt, he was a very big lad, long hair and long beard. He used to be with the New Vaudeville Band (Winchester Cathedra). On Keyboards was probably Graham Elliot, and Guitar probably Les Bennetts.
        As far as I know, Pete Merrick is still alive and kicking although I have no proof of that.

        Not sure if you are on Facebook or not but Sharon Donegan is on there, a quick search should show her up. Also, her sons are there Peter & David.

        I trust this puts your mind at rest, you could try and search for Pete Merrick on either Facebook or Google him, he lives in the West Country, Somerset or Wiltshire in the UK.

        Good luck and let me know hoe you get on. If you register with my blog you will get regular updates and news of what is happening here.



      3. Hi Mark,

        You are such a good source of so much information!
        Now that you have given me dates/details, I can see it had to be Pete Merrick.
        I shall attempt to look him up, but I think you are more in the musically connected loop in the UK & might have a better chance donning your detective cap!

        What about the guitarist from Australia, Roy Cooper? Hopefully I got that name right?
        He was with them in Vancouver too.
        Please keep me updated if you come across anymore information regarding the Vancouver & Lake Tahoe years?

        Also, say hello to Sharon for me & I will try to look her up on facebook.
        She always travelled with her special pudding bowl so she could cook for Lonnie – they usually had suites with kitchenettes in them!!



  2. Dear Mark,

    The funeral is at Middlesborough Crematorium at 10.30 on Saturday 11th February followed by reception at the Redcar Golf Club.

    All will be most welcome but Peter will have said ‘no flowers please’, just a nice card for Mom to keep and perhaps a small donation to the local dogs home or animal charity. Peter was an real animal lover.

    I would be most interested to see copies of Les’ letters to you because as you know I didn’t get to spend much time with him and when we did have regular contact when my boys were little, he then passed away at aged 55 when I had turned 30.

    So two amazing Dad’s I have been lucky enough to love are now gone.

    By now I like to imagine they have ‘met up again’ and will be reminiscing over their youthful antics!

    Peter had such a positive outlook and always said he had been fortunate to have an amazing life, thanks to his musical talent.

    I think it was because HE was amazing. He had a wonderful mind and very big heart.

    Julie x


  3. Sorry about the passing of Pete, Mark.

    And to Julie: I am very sorry.

    Thank you Mark, for keeping us up to date & informed about the legendary artists, such as Pete.


  4. Dear Mark,
    Thank you for writing such a touching obituary for my dear step-dad Pete.
    He was dearly loved and I will miss his cheery shout of ‘hello daughter’ each time I rang home to speak to him and Mom.
    His two grandsons, my boys Jack aged 23 and Tom aged 21 are both musicians thanks to Pete’s wonderful support and guidance and both boys are University students of Music and both intend to follow in their Grandad’s footsteps as teachers.Tom on drums and Jack on guitar.
    Pete was an amazing person to spend time with and to hear some of his wonderful stories of his life on stage and the people he worked with will stay with me forever.
    We love you Dearest Dad and it breaks my heart to have to lose you. Rest in Peace xxx


    1. Hi Julie
      It was my pleasure (if that is the right phrase), but he was very important to me personally because of his reputation both in the Donegan band and in the business at large. I had watched him so many times with Lonnie never ever thinking that I would have the opportunity to follow him. I have some great memories of him and Nick Nicholls both coming to the Fiesta Club in Sheffield to see the show. I didn’t know they were in. We opened the show and within about 5 minutes I spotted them both ringside, you can imagine how I felt I was 26!
      After the show ended they both came back stage and made a point of seeking me out to congratulate me on doing such a good job. I was over the moon, I had been listening to these guys play since I was 13 or 14. So, as you can imagine Pete, although only 13 years older than me, played a very important part in my musical education and early successes. Plus, the stories that Les and Lon told me were amazing and hilarious.
      Peter really was, so well respected amongst his fellow musicians and real gentleman and the last of a very famous and important band.
      On a slightly brighter note, I have so many memories of your dad, we shared rooms together all over the world. And we laughed together so hard that we peed ourselves. I still have some letters that he would write to me, no matter where I was I would get a letter from him. England, Australia…wherever, they are so funny. I did promise your mum I would send them to her when I had time, I will do it this year.
      Finally, if you let me know when the funeral arrangements are made I will pass them on to all those who may be interested in attending.
      lol. x


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