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Bobby Wellins

Saxophonist Bobby Wellins was born in Scotland in 1936 and grew up in the Gorbals. His mother and father were both in the variety side of show business, and his father played a big part in his early musical education. He heard a lot of jazz in the family home including Jimmy Lunceford, Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman, but when his father brought home a record by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie he was bitten with the bebop bug.

He played piano, alto sax and clarinet before joining the RAF as a musician playing tenor sax. After leaving the RAF and playing in a few Scottish bands he made the inevitable move to London for an apprenticeship with the big touring bands including a trip to the USA with Vic Lewis in 1955. He played with Buddy Featherstonhaugh in 1956/7 and other name bands in the late 1950s including Eric Winstone, Johnny Dankworth and Vic Lewis.

He joined Tony Crombie's renowned, but short lived, Jazz Inc in 1959, and met Stan Tracey with whom he was soon to form a musical bond that has existed for nearly fifty years. Already in evidence were the qualities that made Wellins stand out: the keen wounded tone, the long slow vibrato, the tactical use of space - at the time when most saxophonists aspired to sound like Tubby Hayes - and his ability to play solos avoiding hackneyed cliches.

Through 1960 he was with Bert Courtley in the Jazz Committee, a quintet with Ken Wray, and the Tommy Whittle Orchestra (1960/1). In 1965 he worked briefly in the Keith Christie/Jimmy Deuchar group. Working with Tracey he began to hone his skills and felt that the pair of them were developing something different and substantial but things started to go badly wrong. Hard drugs were part and parcel of the club environment of the time and Bobby succumbed to heroin addiction in the mid 1960s.

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