‘Gentleman’ who toured with Buddy Holly remembered

Ronnie Keenes was a celebrated saxophonist and toured with Buddy Holly. Pictures contributed by his family
Ronnie Keenes was a celebrated saxophonist and toured with Buddy Holly. Pictures contributed by his family

Tributes have been paid to a 91-year-old Worthing musician who toured with singer Buddy Holly.

Ronnie Keene was a gentleman who golfed all day and played music all night, his wife Christine, 68, said.

Ronnie Keenes (centre) on the set of These Dangerous Years

Ronnie Keenes (centre) on the set of These Dangerous Years

Christine, of Clyde Road, Worthing, added: “He was really the top saxophonist in the county when he was a young man. He was a lovely man, a gentleman.”

Ronnie was born in London in June 1926, moving to Worthing in 1939.

His parents had a grocery store in South Farm Road, but his passion was music.

Christine said: “All the kids were outside playing in the street and Ron was upstairs playing his music.”

Called up for national service in 1944, Ronnie played in the Royal Artillery Band for two years.

He got a big break in 1948, joining the Ken Mackintosh Band in Nottingham.

He married well-known singer Marrion Keene in 1951.

In 1958, he became musical director for the British Buddy Holly tour, starring alongside Buddy and Des O’Connor.

Five years later, Ronnie was asked to open ballrooms in Cardiff and Swansea and met his second wife Christine.

He had a lucky escape in 1984, when he performed at the Grand Hotel in Brighton and left 15 minutes before the famous bomb explosion.

Retiring to Worthing, he delighted in playing bowls at Worthing Pavilion Bowling Club Golf and golf at Worthing Golf Club.

Christine said: “He loved playing up the top on a sunny day at Worthing Golf Club.”

He also made friends at Offington Park Club, where many in ‘Cobweb Corner’ miss him, Christine said.

Ronnie died on July 28 from heart problems.

Members of the public are welcome at his funeral at Worthing Crematorium at 3pm on Wednesday, August 16.

Christine commented: “He had a fabulous life, I loved him to bits.”