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Ronnie Stephenson


Ronnie Stephenson, who died on 8th August 2002 aged 65, was a drummer who played with an extraordinarily varied number of bands and singers that spanned the whole spectrum of popular music, such were his talents and understanding of the drum role in so many contexts. His musical associations read like a Who's Who in jazz -- he performed with Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz, Wes Montgomery, Zoot Sims, Benny Golson, Paul Gonzalves, Johnny Griffin, Roland Kirk, Gerry Mulligan, Sonny Stitt, Barney Kessel, Quincy Jones, Benny Goodman, Nelson Riddle, Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Torme, Cleo Laine, Stan Tracey, Ted Heath, Jack Parnell, John Dankworth, Tubby Hayes, Victor Feldman and Ronnie Scott.
Ronnie Stephenson had a close association with Ronnie Scott and the Club, spending two years in Ronnie Scott's Quartet, and performed as a valued accompanist to visiting stars.
In addition to his prestigious jazz connections, he also played with such pop stars as Tom Jones, Englebert Humperdinck, Matt Monroe, Tony Bennett, Cilla Black and Shirley Bassey (he plays on the Bond themes Diamonds Are Forever and You Only Live Twice).
Born in Sunderland on 26th January 1937, Ronnie commenced playing drums aged 14 and gigged in elder brother Billy's band and then with the Ray Chester Sextet both based in his hometown. This local activity leading to the formation of the Em-Cee Five (with brothers trumpeter Ian and pianist Mike Carr and tenor saxophonist Gary Cox) in Newcastle, one of the few provincial jazz groups to achieve a major label signing in 1961, one title being Stephenson's Rocket, before moving to London in 1960 to firmly establish himself as a much-in-demand percussionist.

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