A blue plaque marking Jon Lord’s first home has been placed on Number 120 Averil Road, Leicester. The story has been reported in the local paper, the Leicester Mercury, from which we quote (you can see more pictures by Will Johnston and the full story in their site.)
His family didn’t want a big event, so a small group including his widow Vicky, his two daughters, Sara and Amy, grandson Reggie, his brother Steve and some old friends and neighbours who knew Jon, marked the event on June 7th. Jon spent the first 20 years of his life in the house. He went to Humberstone Junior School and Wyggeston Boys School, where he passed five O-levels and two A-levels. And it was here his dad Reg, a factory worker, would play the saxophone, instilling a love of music in his elder son and his brother Steve which would last a lifetime. “He sent us both for piano lessons,” says Steve. “But it only really worked with Jon. I’m very proud that he is being recognised by his home city.”
A young Jon was regularly dragged along to classical and jazz concerts at De Montfort Hall in Leicester. But it was a Buddy Holly show in 1958 which changed everything. “That gig turned my head around,” he told the Leicester Mercury a few years ago. “It was the birth of rock and roll. I was one of the lucky ones to be in on it.”
Lord had piano lessons every week from a classical pianist in Leicester who lived in University Road. “I’d get a bus into town and walk across Victoria Park to his house. He was a troubled man but a musical genius,” Lord said. “He pushed me constantly and made me the player I am, there’s no doubt about it.”
A couple of his childhood friends, now in their seventies, were also invited. Jack Wootton, 73, grew up with Jon and was there to see the blue plaque unveiled. “Jon was a lovely lad,” he said. “I remember going to call for him one evening, we were playing cricket down the field, and he said ‘I can’t come, Jack – I’ve got piano lessons’. “‘Aw, don’t bother with that’, I remember saying. ‘Come and play cricket with us’.”
Bryan Wood, 76, was raised in Averil Road and still lives there. “I used to play with him all the time – we played football, cricket, in the brook under the bridge. I lost count of how many times we were chased off by the local bobby. “I remember, as kids, we would hammer the piano my mum had in the old front room. I didn’t know what I was doing – but Jon did.”
The house Jon grew up in now belongs to the Dhillon family. Daughter Simran, 21, had no idea about the house’s history. “We searched for Jon Lord on the internet and we could see what a good musician he was and how well-known and well-loved he was, too. We like the plaque on the house. It feels special and we feel very proud to live here.”
Some fans will want to visit to have a look, and I’m sure if they do they will respect the fact that this is a private house.
Thanks to local journalist Lee Marlow, who interviewed Jon at length some years ago, and has been pushing for this recognition for Jon for a long time, and to Tim Summers.