Prog rock legend Keith Emerson remembered as ‘kind, gentle’ man

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A former Worthing man who famously played keyboard for progressive rock super-band Emerson Lake and Palmer (ELP) has died age 71.

Keith Emerson more recently lived in Santa Monica where police confirmed the shocking news on Saturday, March 12, that the music legend had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Although born in Yorkshire, Keith was not a stranger to Sussex. He has been known to have grown up in Melville Way, Worthing, before moving to Lancing and later Stonehill House, near Chiddingly.

His children attended Bede’s Preparatory School in Eastbourne.

In 2005, Keith opened Ivy Arch Studios, a music recording facility in Worthing. The team of managers and engineers at the studio said they had been left ‘shocked and gutted’ by his sudden death.

A spokesman said: “All of us at Ivy Arch Studios are so sad to hear of Keith’s departure from this earthly realm. Our thoughts and condolences go to his family. Apart from his huge musical talents, Keith was a humanitarian and was magnanimous as a person – he’ll be greatly missed. He was always at ease, with a jovial, genial outlook.”

Keith rehearsed and recorded songs at the studio for six weeks before embarking on a world tour.

“Keith was passionate about Worthing – not just because he grew up and went to school here and first recorded here in 1963, but also because his mum lived here and it was his base in England,” he said.

When the Wurlitzer at Worthing Assembly Hall was threatened with removal, Keith came straight to Worthing to meet with councillor Alan Rice and presented a donation to help save Reginald Dixon’s organ.

The generous donation was a framed copy of the Brain Salad Surgery album cover signed by himself, and fellow band members Carl Palmer and Greg Lake.

He also offered to re­assemble his former ’60s band, T­Bone, for a gig in support of the cause at the hall.

“I once found his notes on a Toccata he was writing in our Studio 1. Rather than take them and thank me, he returned them with thanks and autographed each sheet. A genuine and selfless act,” he added.

A woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, worked with Keith at Lloyds Bank in Worthing around 1962/3 ‘because his mum told him to get a real job’.

She said: “I got the impression it was his first job there.

“He was quiet and a gentle man. He used to have a short haircut and wear a nice suit.

“He’d changed so much since then but he was a lovely chap. And he was mad about the music.”

Before ELP, Keith was a member of Worthing band The Black Aces in the ’60s with lead guitarist Lyle Milner from Findon and bass player Paddy Lovelock from Ferring. Lyle said he was ‘devastated’ to hear the news.

He said: “I’ve known him for so long and as they say he was a very kind, gentle man.

“I first met him when he was about 18 and he came to my house with a friend. We had a piano there and the first thing Keith did was get on the piano. At that time he was doing piano for the Worthing School of Dancing for their examinations.

“It was three months before the end of 1964 that he joined our band. We did a gig in aid of a swimming pool for a school in Findon.

“He was with us for no more than three months.

“Keith actually asked me to go to London with him and at that stage I was playing the bass. I said I can’t because I’d decided to give up playing and concentrate on my business.”

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