Bill (Wilbur) Footman RIP 5/10/20

We are staging a gig at the Hawth in the studio as a celebration of Bill's musical life on Friday 4/11/22 with Oliver Darling & the Blues and Grooves gang plus many of his musical friends, which will be our penultimate gig.

Bill Footman came into my life over 23 years ago and I immediately liked him for his warm, friendly disposition. He was a true gent or as they would say where I come from a diamond geezer. Nothing was too much trouble and he would always be there to help out in anyway he could, he was my best friend and more like an older brother, although I would introduce him as Uncle Bill.

He had a vision back in January 1998 that Crawley needed a blues club and as a working drummer a possibility of getting some gig time. He took up the initiative and made contact with Paul Jones through Jazz FM and wanted to know if there was anyone else similarly disposed to setting up a club. I responded leaving a message on his answerphone and met up with Dave & Fred. I asked if anyone had any money to put into the venture or whether anyone was looking to take anything out. The answer to both questions was no as we were all like minded and wanted to listen to live music that we otherwise pay to hear.

Our first venue was the sports and social club in Tinsley Lane and after a couple of local bands Bill through his American links, as he had a holiday home in Florida, said that a good friend Rock Bottom was coming over for a short tour. Typical of Bill he did not say that he was organising it or indeed underwriting it, however if evidence were need of his generosity and bonhomie we had it right there at the beginning. The gig was stunning and raised the bar very high, a hard act to follow.

The association with the Hawth goes back to November 2000 and in 2001 we had two milestones as part of the Crawley festival in June and the first 'Blues in the marquee' in August. Bill was resident in the states at the time but we had regular contact and he approved of the changes saying it would raise the profile of the club. By the mid noughties the weekend festivals and the marquee were annual events and we kept being asked about a blues festival. I ran these ideas by Bill as we had discussed them at length and following the Crawley festival in '06 where we had booked 25% of the artists we put on the first Crawley Blues Festival in November '06 featuring 10 acts which was a roaring success.

Bill returned to the UK and it was great to have him alongside to help organise and promote the artists and knowing that I was not a fan of social media he kept our audience informed from his Facebook page, working tirelessly in the background. In October '11 Bill pulled off a real coup as one of his bands Southern Nights were playing the blues festival and he asked if he could bring a guest along. The guest was an unknown Rory Graham aka Rag n Bone man who blew the place apart, typical gesture of Bill's generosity .

More recently we were struggling to promote a gig in May '19 and Bill offered the help of another band the Blues & Grooves gang to support Oliver Darling. What followed was a gig to stay in the memory forever as Oli was going to open solo but was marooned on the M25 and Bill and the band offered to start the show. Without rehearsal having never played together Oli stepped out of his car and onto the stage and proceeded to tear the place apart. Oli started the second set solo, however before long the newly formed band were in full swing. In Oct'19 he did a similar thing when he provided a band to support Paul Cowley, who had come over from France with not only another of his many line ups but a French guitarist of the highest quality Lionel Phillippe and a stunning sax player Mike Pappenheim. Bill was a genius is spotting complimentary artists to support musicians, which was always indicative in his sensitive & rhythmical drumming.

It is very difficult to put into words my love and admiration of Bill, but I know he touched everyone he met and I hope it makes you reflect on your own thoughts of meeting the kindest and most generous man I have ever met. Rest in peace mate.

Tony 'Wheelman' Molloy

One of very few photos taken at the railway club Three Bridges, many a happy evening, lots of great memories.

Bill sitting where he was happiest behind his favourite drum kit supporting Oli Darling.

Group shot on stage with Bill stepping into the breach again to support my good friend Paul Cowley who was on tour from France. He even found a French guitarist.

Backstage with the Elevators and Wilf Taylor on their farewell gig at the Hawth in 2017

Artists who have appeared at Crawley Blues featuring Bill Footman

Oliver Darling with Blues & Grooves band 'Shame, shame, shame'

This was intended as a solo set and my old mate and founder member of the club Bill Footman stepped in with his band and we had a blast, relive some of the highlights. 

Little did I know that this would have been one of the last times Bill had the opportunity to support our headline act. Bill was a class act with sensitive & sympathetic drumming.

Stormy Monday

The band with Oli fronting them hit their straps with the T-Bone Walker classic.  Tight rhythm section with some stunning keyboard work with Fraser Wigg.  Bill always on the beat, a joy to remember.

Rory Graham aka Rag n Bone man

Hawth Houseband 29/10/11

This was our sixth blues festival, which was intended as electro-acoustic solo and duo performances. However, breaking with tradition Bill Footman's band Southern Nights were booked to open the evening set.

Bill told me that they had a young man ask to sit in with the band and could he come to the festival. Bill was such a good judge of talent it was not a problem, fortunately it was recorded.

Thanks Bill for everything

Rory Graham solo

Sometimes lightning is caught in a bottle and in this instance Rory was being introduced to the Hawth audience for the first time. Rory had played on a number of occasions for Graham Pope, Uckfield blues, and worked with Bill to make it possible. If you look closely you can see Bill looking in from the wings.

Bill carry on looking down on us at the Hawth.