Born just 60 years ago in Horley, Surrey, just down the road from the international Gatwick Airport England, Dick was a unique human being.......and that's not just my opinion, believe me!. Dick had been suffering from spinal cancer for about 7 years prior to his passing. I am, for my sins, a "Small works General Builder"- with a passion for great Jazz. Dick, in so many ways, provided me with the greatest pleasure, both as a player and as a friend.
It was about fifteen or so years ago, that I first saw Dick playing live. The venue was the Jersey Jazz Festival....Channel Islands (not Jersey USA.) Well..... talk about Blowing up a storm!. His duets with guitarist Martin Taylor and vibes player Alan Randall were incredible. The basement room of the "Pomme D'or" Hotel in St Hellier was the jazz venue to be at..... IN THE WORLD. Unbelievable music. It was a large room.... packed solid...wall to wall stuff. The electricity in that room would make lightning look tame! Louder cheers than the cup finals at Wembley were normal when Dick played.
An additional pleasure for me, personally, was having Dick eat at my table in the Hotel. (Four days of GREAT conversations). I remember thinking, "What a fantastic bloke, completely natural". He was GENUINELY interested in YOU. The "Big Time" attitude had never entered Dick's world and never would despite the fact that he was, without a doubt a world-class player.
From the conversations, it turned out that, as a kid, Dick used to cycle through our small village of Tatsfield on his way to look at airplanes take off and land at the war famous "Biggin Hill" airport, Kent. (Just 2 miles from Tatsfield - say 15 from Horley).
To do proper justice to Dick - a 500 page book to fully document him wouldn't be enough. (Maybe I will attempt one in old age).
I play a bit of Jazz on Chromatic Harmonica and once had the pleasure of making a three track demo with bassist Len Skeat, pianist Ian Wright , drummer Ralph Salmins with special guest Dick on tenor saxophone! What an unforgettable experience! I had to follow a solo by Dick on an up-tempo "I got Rhythm". I was thinking that it was like being in a cage with a roaring Lion. Talk about being lit up. (No electricity needed there... I was glowing like a light bulb!.) A TOTAL moment of pure joy.
Dick would stay over at our house occasionally and I would join him on a walk around the village. Dick had never driven a car in his life. My brother Tony has the local garage in Tatsfield and I took Dick around there to meet him. "I know NOTHING AT ALL about all this" he said. He didn't need to. (Motor cars - Who is the wise one 'eh!) He loved birds, animals, scenery, and in fact anything to do with nature. Once, in the early hours of a star studded morning, returning from a gig at Tunbridge Wells, Kent, Dick and I were close to "Chartwell".... formally the Home of Sir Winston Churchill. Waddling along, on the opposite side of the road, going in our direction was a big-old Badger. "Whats that" said Dick, coming awake. "A Badger" says I. "I've NEVER SEEN A BADGER" says an excited Dick Morrissey. For his pleasure, I slowed the car to a crawl in first gear, put the headlights on full and followed the Badger for about 50 yards before it found a gap in the hedge. Dick was OVER THE MOON.... like a little kid. I was in awe of a legendary Jazzer, Dick was in awe of the Badger!
Getting back to Jazz, Dick was greatly admired by fans, friends and family alike. The "Morrissey Mullen" band were legendary. Together with guitarist Jim Mullen, Dick toured America, made four albums during the early 70's and took America by storm. They were based in Sweden for a while and made parts of Europe totally theirs at that time. They just went down a bomb, wherever they performed. (I have those four albums and would NEVER part with them.... for any price)
We all wish Dick's sister Liz and Brother Chris, plus Dick's four children our deepest condolences for their loss. The support that Liz and Chris gave Dick throughout his long illness was so touching to see. During that time, in a wheelchair, Dick would summon up enough strength to play locally in Deal near Dover, raising money for various charities in the process. What a Man! Up until the last days he was brilliant. When he was too ill to play anymore... he quietly slipped away. On behalf of thousands of his fans, family and friends.... "We will miss you Dick!"