'Gary Pickford Hopkins deserved so much more recognition - he was great singer'
PROG rock giant Rick Wakeman has shared his memories of his time on the road with Neath-born singer Gary Pickford Hopkins, who died yesterday, aged 65.
While another of Gary's long-term musical partners, Ray 'Taff' Williams, has said "I feel like I've lost a brother."
Gary's scorching R&B voice has been a fixture on the local scene for decades and it gave him an in into swinging 60s London, with the Melody Maker magazine favourites Eyes Of Blue.
He went on to work with Rick Wakeman on his groundbreaking albums Journey to the Centre of The Earth and The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table.
Rick says they kept in close touch over the decades and he is pleased to have so many joyful memories of Gary to keep close.
"It is very sad news. I knew he was ill, but still, you don't expect it do you?
"I spotted Gary when he was singing with Wild Turkey when they were supporting Yes in the US.
"I had been looking for a second voice for Journey and as soon as I heard him, I knew that was the voice I wanted.
"Gary was such a great singer and he had lovely control and feeling in his voice.
"I always felt he deserved a lot more recognition than he got as a singer, though he had that recognition from his peers and his contemporaries.
"Gary had great sense of humour, which you need if you are going to be on the road with someone for a long time.
"I remember he was very keen photographer.
"He used to carry around this Super 8 camera, which was the bees knees in those days.
"And a few years ago the surviving members of the Journey tour got together and Gary brought out these films of us all together, with the long hair. I don't think any of us recognised ourselves. We spent the night rolling around laughing.
"It was drug free band but we made up for it with drinking and we did like to party, so I have a lot of happy memories of being on the road with Gary."
In Swansea and Neath Gary will be remembered for his partnerships with guitarists Ray 'Taff' Williams, Steve Jenkins and others.
Ray says he's struggling to believe Gary is gone, though his jaw cancer put him through the mill.
"He was so positive throughout the cancer. He did worry that the operations would affect his singing but after he had the first op he told me he used to drive up in to the mountains and sing at the top of his voice, to get everything working.
"We were working together just before he got ill, and we were making plans to do more gigs.
"We travelled the world together with music and we were like brothers.
"Like all brothers we used to bicker. I worried about his drinking and smoking, he worried about me eating too much chocolate.
"He used to say to me 'you can't be a fat rock star'.
"But I loved him and he loved me."
Gary, who lived in Garnant in his last years, leaves behind a wife, Sian, two sons and stepchildren.