Frank Jeffes, who was the guitarist in some of Chester’s best small dance bands of the 1940s, 50s and 60s, and beyond, passed peacefully away on January 8 at the Countess of Chester Hospital , just a few weeks short of his 94th birthday, surrounded by his son and three daughters.
He was a member of the highly successful Dennis Williams Quintet, from 1948 to 1960, (apart from two years spent in Canada) the resident band at Clemences restaurant in Northgate Street. The Quintet won the Melody Maker’s National Dance Band Championships in 1949 and 1950, with Frank receiving the individual award for best guitarist in both years. The band, originally under Al Powell’s name had also featured Syd Lawrence.
In 1958, Frank Jeffes joined two other members of the Quintet, Jimmy Chadburn (piano) and Cec Davies (bass) to form the Jimmy Chadburn Trio. The group recorded a series of radio broadcasts for the BBC in Manchester under such titles as Cocktails for Three and In a Mellow Mood and appeared on Granada TV’s People and Places programme. They were later joined by Don Morris, on drums, who had replaced Harold Jones in the Williams Quintet.
Frank continued to make music well into his 80s, which included a long association, from 1982, with the Hywel Williams band.
Previous collaborations included the Brian Jones Big Band, the Deeside Dance Orchestra, led by Ron Lovelady, and the Ron Bartlett, Wilf Field and Ken Binns bands, as well as residencies at Quaintways and the Grosvenor Hotel .
Frank Sydney Jeffes was born in the Princes Park area of Liverpool on 3rd February 1922, the eldest son of Frank and Mary (Cis) Jeffes. In 1933 the family, now with brother Ron and sister, Beryl moved to Little Sutton .
In his youth, Frank was a talented swimmer and footballer, and played on the left wing for Little Sutton Juniors, alongside his lifelong friend, Derrick Williams, known as Ben. Frank later played for Chester City FC and Tranmere FC.
On completion of his education he was employed at the offices of the Shell Oil Refinery at Stanlow .
At the outbreak of the Second World War, Frank volunteered, and in 1942 joined the Royal Air Force, receiving his wings, in South Africa in 1943, having trained in Tiger Moths and Oxfords. He was also stationed in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and in Egypt, flying Blenheims, as a pilot/navigator.
Before being de-mobbed in 1946, Frank toured India as part of an ENSA troupe, playing both guitar and clarinet. Following his war service, he joined his father’s building company in Little Sutton.
In 1952, he married Mary Berney, at St Francis Church, Chester, and they were to have four children, Leigh, Sharon, Amanda and Tracy. From 1953 to 1955 Mary and Frank lived in Winnipeg, Canada.
Frank worked as an accountant for the Associated Octel Company, at Stanlow, retiring in 1987.
He was extremely active during a long retirement, and in addition to continuing his work as a musician in the Chester and North Wales area, was a member of the Grosvenor and Hoole Art Societies, regularly displaying his work at exhibitions.
Remarkably young for his advancing years, Frank was driving until the age of 91, when he suffered a broken hip, from which he made an excellent recovery. He was a voracious reader, mainly of military history and biographies of jazz musicians.
Frank Jeffes was a gentleman of exemplary and well- rounded character, creatively talented, modest and unassuming, who was a devoted husband and father. His family meant everything to him, and he to them, and he delighted in the successes and company of his children, nine grandchildren and three great grandchildren, and his three sons-in-law. His wife Mary died in 2006.