Memories of Bandmaster James Williams MBE

Garry AmbroseNews

Bandmaster James Williams MBE

Below are a selection of messages received from former bandsman and a wide range of people whose lives have been impacted and influenced by Bandmaster James Williams MBE.

This Christian Gentleman had a huge influence on my life and certainly played a key role in encouraging two teenage Northern boys AKA Woody and Nobby (Rob Gill) when we first “hit the London banding scene” in the ’80s. He demanded the best for the highest and this had a ripple effect on all who had the privilege of meeting him or playing under his baton. To play under this man was never daunting (though he could strike fear!) but always an honour. So many cherished memories….I will forever remember his calm and guiding influence as he conducted my premiere recording of “Flourish for Trombone” written for myself and the Egon band following the birth of my son. Another when I had the honour of being soloist with ECB at their annual Spring Festival when I played “The Eternal Quest”. I can testify that God spoke to me during that performance as the musicality of this great man played a huge part in shaping the message I wanted to share – I can still recall how the hairs stood up on the back of my neck as he directed ECB playing “Jesus is looking for thee”. So many memories but more important today I thank God for the Christian influence he had and will continue to have on my life.

Thank you for everything Bandmaster. RIP

Paul Wodward

So saddened to hear the passing of Bandmaster Williams.

Trying to reflect on the impact he had on me over so many years. From starting in London as a raw young lad from Leeds at 18, he also really stuck his neck out for me to tour America with the fantastic ECB in 1990 with a “still” broken leg…fibbing to the airline to make sure I made it.

He made such an impression on me and friends like Paul Woodward through playing under him at ECB and Egon.

He was tough but fair and looked after us all and what a cornet bench I was privileged to play in under him.

Thank you Bandmaster.

Rob Gill

A three band Festival at Regent Hall (L-R, Tottenham, Birmingham Sparkhill & Regent Hall). Photo courtesy of Julian Bright.

R.I.P. Jim, you are irreplaceable. I joined TCB in 1956 on 2nd Trombone and joined the Grenadier Guards Band in 1957. We were on duty for the Changing of the Guard on Christmas Day and Boxing Day that year. Realising that I lived in Wellington Barracks Jim said that he would pick me up after we finished. He took me to his parent’s home in Finchley where his parents, his wife, Elsie and a few other family members were present. We had a wonderful Christmas Lunch and then played games until quite late in the evening  and then Jim took me back to Wellington Barracks. The same thing happened the next day. It turned out to be one of my most memorable Christmases. I have never forgotten his kindness.

His Brother, Wesley, was Principal Euphonium in the Grenadiers Band whilst I was a member from 1957 to 1965.

Dudley Dickens

We played Easter Glory with the ASB in Milton Keynes and Mr. Williams was sitting in the hall listening to our performance. After our festival he came on the platform to my section, which was the percussion, and told us: “Gentlemen, your interpretation of Easter Glory was excellent. Thank you for that. ” did not say anything else and walked away, leaving us speechless.

My friend Andrew Justice told me that this was a rare moment, a compliment from the master himself…….. I still treasure this moment.

Gerard Klaucke

Bandmaster James Williams leading the band in the open air

I was putting away photo albums and opened one and found this staring back at me.

I only met him once, on a Sunday morning at Enfield. While I was talking with him, one of the young boys from the corps, about 8 or 9 came up to tell him about a recent music exam. I’ll never forget the interest that he showed him and young friends. He new each one by name and checked to make sure they were all practicing.

Jeff Al

Never in my life have is seen such an outpouring of appreciation, affection and kind words said about someone who has passed away like I have for BM James Williams MBE.  Not even for a celebrity.  Videos and memories in such quantity.  It truly shows how influential, supportive and respected he was to his very last day.  Verena King it goes without saying you must be overwhelmed but also so proud.  His ex bandsmen must be cowering up in heaven now he has joined them baton in hand.  We must also think and pray for Enfield Salvation Army and the band especially at this time.  They have lost a true ambassador not just of the Corp and the band but more importantly of Christ.

Jeremy Owen

Bandmaster James Williams received an MBE for his services to the brass band movement and the Salvation Army.

One of the most influential people I’ve ever met. I could never call him Jim. ALWAYS Bandmaster!

Paul Young


I, like many others, felt very sad to hear of the passing of Retired Bandmaster James Williams MBE yesterday. I have been pondering what on Earth I could put on here to say what I really feel, so many others have expressed so many sentiments I would echo, and have been far more eloquent than I could ever hope to be.

I have known Jim for close on 50 years. Looking back, he was a mentor for about 12 of those years, and a dear friend for the rest of the time. One of the most inspirational

Richard Martin with BM James Williams – Stockton October 2012

musicians I have ever met. Mad keen on the highest standards….I remember seeing him leaping to his feet applauding in the third or fourth row of the Royal Festival Hall as a young Alan Vizzutti finished wowing us with his Firedance with the Woody Herman Band. I owe my collection of Big Band CD’s down to his influence. There is so much I could say and still leave much unsaid. Although I am saddened at the Promotion to Glory of this Salvation Army Legend, Musician and Christian gent, I am left with a feeling of gratitude to have counted him as a friend which I cannot express too strongly. He has earned his reward, and to any cornet players in the Celestial Band….mind how you go!!!

Richard Martin

What a man, he’ll be sadly missed. I remember the band visiting Falkirk around 2001 and David Daws and Derick Kane (guesting with the band) staying at our house. Over the lunch table we discussed how Derick would be playing ‘The Better World’ in the afternoon festival. In particular to watch how fast Bandmaster Jim would take the first variation (he didn’t like Bearcroft solos)…….sure enough the guys were right!! David gave me a little smile and Derick one of his nods and grins. Great weekend and memories. Highlights??? Meeting the Bandmaster for the first time. The hymn tune playing on Sunday morning, wow! ‘The Eternal Presence’ Sunday afternoon was spine tingling. And the BM let me conduct too. Thank you BM.

Dave Roddan

JW was my role model when I was a young bandmaster. I learnt a lot from him and will always cherish his kind words of encouragement. I am grateful to Bandmaster James Williams for the several opportunities he gave me to play with ECB; those were unforgettable experiences.

Alan Gibson

So sad to hear of the Promotion to Glory of Bandmaster James Williams. Jim was a wonderful encourager and was a great support to my writing. We will miss him. TGBG

Barrie Gott

I am SO sorry to hear this news. What an inspiration. For the whole of our lives James Williams has been around whether playing or conducting. I doubt whether we’ll ever see the likes of him again.
My condolences go out to Verena and the rest of the family. A giant of a bandmaster and Salvationist. Well done good and faithful servant……. !

Eric Tebbitt

Many a young bandsman and woman has benefited from his guidance, advice and occasional chewing off! We’re stronger people for it.

Gari Spearpoint

What sad news. He was such an inspiration to us as young players. Alas I didn’t have the privilege of playing in his band but I remember sharing much with him when I first joined the ISB and he was filling in on solo cornet. What a man and what a musician. God bless you James.

Wes Warren

Gave me ‘unheralded’ personal time when I was a young man in Enfield. Supported me as a candidate for Officership, even though by then I had moved away from the Corps. Always been grateful that I met this Christian gentleman.

Ray Brown

Former bandsman Martyn Evans with Bandmaster James Williams.

Words are just inadequate for such a great man. He touched so many people, led by example and …. to a young lad like I was once, he was larger than life. Well done Uncle Jim (Bandmaster).

Martyn Evans

So sorry to hear this sad news. A master of his craft be it cornet playing or conducting. I will remember him fondly for all his help and encouragement.

Brian Deans

One of my memories of James was TCB visit to Bath City. In the ‘Wind Up ‘ on Sunday evening the band played Just Like John with Deryck Diffey’s high ‘g’. When they finished James turned round and asked the congregation ‘Do you want it again?’
And they played it again.

Tony Brewer

Sorry to hear these bad news. James Williams has been hero to me since I, as a young bandsman, heard Tottenham in Sweden 1962 and year after with my band Stockholm 7 visited Tottenham C in Easter and so on…God bless B/M and cornet soloist James Williams.

Lars Beijer

So very sad. Only a few weeks ago it was that he remembered me in my student days at Trinity College on my visits to the Corps. A well earned ‘promotion to glory’.

Cyril Payne

I was invited to a weekend at Ipswich (now my home) in the early seventies & I was so inspired by all that James did with the band that I became a “bando” & follower of ECB which still exists today.

Thank you sir for some wonderful memories RIP

Roger Herbert

I had contact with Jim on a number of occasions but never played under his baton. I did, however, sit immediately behind him when for a brief period in the 1970s he played in the solo cornet section of the ISB (I was on flugelhorn). His conducting style was unforgettable and able to produce sheer excitement – he certainly knew how to whip up spectacular endings. In his later years I sensed a greater sensitivity in his interpretation of the music he chose. His ECB recording of my simple arrangement “Lord, with my all I part” is beautifully felt and phrased – I could hope for no better. He also recorded an excellent interpretation of my “Hope Variations”. On one occasion, he graciously invited me to an ECB rehearsal to work on my “Day of the Spiritual”. Enfield Band’s 1984 Chandos recording named Kaleidoscope represents one of the high points in quality music-making and his leadership. I thank God for Bandmaster James Williams and the legacy he has left.

Brian Bowen

I would be really pleased if you could pass on my condolences to family members.

Bandmaster Williams gave me good attention during my years at Enfield, and I have always appreciated having been part of the privileged group of people who can say they have served under Bandmaster William’s leadership.

Ray Brown

(DC-Central South Division)