Reginald "Reg" William Webb
Reginald "Reg" William Webb (17 May 1947 - 28 January 2018) was a British jazz pianist and vocalist who achieved success not only with his own band Fusion, later The Reg Webb Band (featuring then unknown Nik Kershaw) but also touring with Lenny Kravitz, The Outfield, Suzi Quatro, Vanessa Paradis and others.Born in Chelmsford, Essex to working class parents, William Webb and Doreen Cox, Reg Webb became blind at the age of one after being diagnosed with retinal cancer and following surgery to remove both of his eyes. (1) He was sent to a boarding school for the blind at the age of 4 and was eventually schooled at the Worcester College for the Blind. This school would be his formal introduction to the world of music. His father William was a tinkering guitarist and music appreciator, who helped Reg develop a wide range of listening tastes, although he encouraged him to other more "lucrative" pursuits while at university.
While in school Webb developed his natural talent for music, first playing the guitar, drums, and then moving on to piano lessons. It wasn't until he was in college at Birmingham University studying for a Social Work degree that he found that he could help more people by playing the music he loved and by entertaining the public. More and more people were asking for his services at various musical functions. This allowed him to give up on Social Work and concentrate on music full-time. At first he concentrated on jazz drumming, but more bands needed his piano skills. While at university he was featured on Opportunity Knocks, a program similar to X Factor, and obtained a record deal with EMI. EMI promptly changed his name to James Webley and recorded his first album, Lucy J (2). While at university during holidays Webb formed Fusion, later known as The Reg Webb Band. Band members were Reg Webb, Alan Clarke, Ken Elson, and Nik Kershaw. (3) Kershaw would get his start in Fusion before moving on to his own successful solo career in the UK. The band produced one album "I Ain't Signin' Nothin'" later re-titled Till I Hear From You. which is still sought after by Webb and Kershaw fans and is available now on CD through AngelAir Records.
In the meantime, major success seemed elusive for Webb whose wide-ranging talent saw him doing session work and touring with some of the 80s and 90s biggest acts. Webb toured the United States with The Outfield, (4) promoting their very successful Play Deep album. Seen in the Outfield video Your Love, Webb was probably at the height of his career at this point. He had hit the big time, being seen with the band on American Bandstand. (5) Webb played keyboards and sang on Lenny Kravitz' 1991 tour of the album Mama Said, and also appeared in Kravitz' video of the song "It Ain't Over til It's Over". While on this tour Webb met Vanessa Paradis, thus providing keyboards and vocals on her tours in Europe as well as her live performances for television. The last tour Webb performed was with Suzi Quatro on her 1995 Oldie Night performance and was featured on her CDs Back to the Drive and What Goes Around. (6) He provided keyboards and writing credits on many artists' albums including Brian Spence and Robin Trower. Reg has performed live with artists such as Linda Lewis, Steve Harley, Jimmy Witherspoon, Art Farmer, and Joe Pass.
Webb's first love has always been jazz and in the late 80s he formed a trio with his Essex mates Andrew Dowding (drums) and the late Lincoln Anderson (bass guitar). They became The Three Bs after naming themselves Blind, Black, and Breathless; "a humorous take on their various "conditions". They have continued to play around East Anglia. Webb's versatility and wide ranging music ability has meant that he slides from jazz to pop to soul and Motown quite easily, making his career interesting if not wildly financially successful. He has, however, been making a living from music since his early days.
In 1993 Reg created Short People which quickly became East Anglia's go-to act for Motown, Pop, and Disco hits. He found success with Short People using a series of female singers, but the driving force had always been his talent on the keys and his singing voice. He continues to play jazz with other local jazz artists at The Soundhouse at The Bull in Colchester and The Bassment in Chelmsford, the Writtle Jazz Festival, and others. He can be seen occasionally at the 606 Club in London with his trio or 6-piece jazz/soul/funk band, Reg and the Readers, or in various pubs in Essex.
His other projects included a weekly radio program on The Ride Radio, programming his own backing tracks, and offering the occasional piano lesson.
Update: Reginald William Webb died on January 28, 2018 from metastasized bladder cancer, a common occurrence in victims of retinoblastoma. Reg would love donations in his memory go to St. Helena Hospice of Colchester and Colchester General Cancer Campaign http://www.cohoc.org.uk/cancer-centre-campaign/. Any donations to Cancer Research would be appreciated.
He is survived by his wife, Angela Webb, his son Paul Webb, daughter-in-law Kate Simpson Webb, and grandson, Billy. He is also survived by several cousins.
1) Clow, Stephen. "Reg Plays on Leaving Sexy James Behind" http://www.thisistotalessex.co.uk/Reg-plays-leaving-sexy-James/story-16482279-detail/story.html Essex Chronicle. accessed 25 October 2013
2) James Webley. Online Music entry: http://www.discogs.com/James-Webley-Lucy-J/release/3068668, accessed 25 October 2013
3) The Reg Webb Band. Online Music entry: http://www.discogs.com/Reg-Webb-Band-I-Aint-Signing-Nothin/release/4156136 accessed 25 October 2013
4) The Outfield Backstage Pass. Online blog. http://www.theoutfield.com/backstagepass.html accessed 25 October 2013
5) "Dick Clark Interviews The Outfield" Youtube video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d09FLl93yrI accessed 25 October 2013
6) Suzi Quatro Oldie Night 1995 Youtube video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eX3XA_4TDNs accessed 25 October 2013
Keyboards, Vocals, Songwriting Credits
- 1971 Mr. Reject (Reg Webb)
- 1973 Lucy J (as James Webley)
- 1973 The Tower (James Webley)
- 1977 Ready or Not (Ray Russell)
- 1980 Till I Hear From You (Fusion)
- 1984 Nobody's Fool (Martyn Joseph)
- 1985 Play Deep (The Outfield)
- 1987 Passion (Robin Trower)
- 1988 Reputation (Brian Spence)
- 1988 Take What You Need (Robin Trower)
- 1992 Rockeye (The Outfield)
- 1995 Anthology (Nik Kershaw)
- 1995 Second Nature (Linda Lewis)
- 1998 Whatever (Linda Lewis)
- 1999 Kiss of Life (Linda Lewis)
- 2003 Keep the Faith (Jane)
- 2003 What Goes Around (Suzi Quatro)
- 2004 Open All Hours (The Hamsters)
- 2009 Jump (The Truth)
- 2010 Guide Cats for the Blind (Les Barker and Cat Nav)
- 1991 Lenny Kravitz Live in Zurich
- 1991 Lenny Kravitz Mama Said tour
- 1993 Vanessa Paradis Live Lonely Rainbows TV, Montreal
- 1993 Vanessa Paradis "Natural High" tour
- 1995 Oldies Night with Suzi Quatro
- 1996 Born Performer: Live in Japan with Linda Lewis
- 2006 Live in Old Smokey at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club with Linda Lewis
- Newspaper Clipping. "Young Reggie, who's blind gave them rock 'n roll. Chelmsford. Family archives.
- "The Blind Guitarist" Colchester Evening Gazette. 12 November 1970. Family archives.
- Newspaper Clipping. "Blind Pianist on TV Show". Family archives.
- Newspaper Clipping. "Moving Premiere of Blind Composer's 'Rock' Cantata. 21 December 1973. Family archives
- Brown, Alan. "Music Man is always in Demand" Colchester Evening Gazette. 22 August 1994. Family archives
- Who's Who of British Jazz. John Chilton, Ed. 1970. "Robin Michael Aspland". pg. 12. Available Google books.
More Links for Reg Webb
Thanks to Christopher Thompson Photography for the photo of Reg at the Colchester Free Festival, 2012