The BrumBeat community lost a major player recently with the sad passing of talented guitarist Roger Hill. A veteran of the West Midlands music scene, Roger will be remembered by many as one of the un-sung heroes who played alongside some well-known names.
Roger Hill started playing guitar in the early 1960s, becoming a member of the Birmingham group 'The Plazents' who caught the first wave of the 'beat boom' when they were signed to Decca Records in 1964 and re-named The Brumbeats. Fronted by dynamic vocalist Bobby Ash, The Brumbeats had a single released titled 'I Don't Understand' as well as recording an album of Beatles songs under the name 'The Mersey Boys'. In 1966, Roger joined well-known vocalist Steve Gibbons in the legendary Uglys line-up along with Dave Pegg (future bassist of Fairport Convention/Jethro Tull). Dave credits Roger as his main influence in deciding to switch over to the bass guitar after realizing he would never be as good a player as Roger!
By the early part of 1967, Roger Hill had left The Uglys and along with Dave Pegg, hooked up with his former band-mate from The Brumbeats drummer Alan "Bugsy" Eastwood to form the pop/rock group The Exception. While the Exception were well-known locally, toured Europe, and recorded an album along with several innovative singles for the President Records label, they were unable to attain the level of success worthy of the collective talents within the band.
In 1970, Roger Hill was hired by former Move front-man Carl Wayne to join his new backing-band. This line-up became known as Mongrel but instead of backing Carl Wayne, most of the band was snapped up by Roy Wood to form the basis of his new group 'Wizzard'. Roger Hill (who reportedly turned down a position in ELO), went on to join his friend Dave Pegg for a stint in the acclaimed folk/rock group Fairport Convention before deciding eventually on a career as jazz guitarist to which his talent was well-suited. Roger was to play for years with jazz greats Chris Barber and Ottilie Patterson.
In more recent times, Roger Hill stayed closer to Birmingham, performing locally with his own 'Roger Hill Band' as well as playing in a line-up called 'The Old Horns' featuring former Wizzard members. Roger always commanded the highest respect from his fellow musicians, preferring to let his demonstrated playing skills on the guitar do the talking. Roger Hill was 66 years old when he passed away in November 2011.