POPULAR bandsman and entertainments agency founder Derek Wells has died at the age of 80.

Derek, who died on December 14, was born in 1940 to Stan and Phylis Wells in Moreton in Marsh before the family moved to Evesham.

He attended Bengeworth Junior School and on passing his 11 plus exam in 1951, moved to Prince Henry’s Grammar School. Derek’s lifelong interest in music was already evident, as he sang in the church choir at St Peter’s in Bengeworth, while money left by great-grandmother Fanny Hopkins was used to buy his first saxophone.

Derek was taught to play the instrument by George Hands, a member of the Music Makers Band.

While at St Henry’s, Derek joined the air cadet band and at the same time formed his first dance band.

The was frowned upon by the headmaster at the time, Mr Miller, who told Derek he could not use his surname in the band’s title.Undeterred, Derek used the name of the family’s pet Labrador, Bruce, with his own, and the Derek Bruce Band was born.

Ever-willing to support his son, Stan used to load the band’s equipment in his trailer, ferry them to the gig and then return to load everything up again at the end of the night.

Around this time Derek also joined the Evesham Sea Cadets and became bandmaster to the bugle and drum marching corps.

He also learned to play the trumpet and joint the Bretforton Silver Band as a cornet player.

On leaving school, Derek’s first job was at a dispensing chemist at Edwards Pharmacy in Port Street until 1963, when the lure of the entertainment industry saw him become entertainments manager at the newly opened Marine Ballroom in Evesham, managing to land Bob Monkhouse as star guest on opening night.

By now Derek was running his own entertainments agency and soon after married Jill Bearcroft, the marriage taking place at St Peter’s Church and the reception at the Marine Ballroom.

The couple lived in Hampton and two became three when daughter Sarah arrived in January 1967.

The Derek Bruce Band had become very popular around the Midlands and was eventually offered resident band contracts at Cheltenham Town Hall and Malvern Winter Gardens.

Derek’s entertainment agency continued to go from strength to strength and in 1985 he and several others formed the Central Entertainments Council.

Seven years later came a merger with a southern-based council and the arrival of the National Entertainments Agents Council.

Derek’s passion for music continued unabated and he formed the Celebration Reed And Brass Band with fellow former Evesham Sea Cadets.

The band went on to perform at many fetes and concerts, regularly playing in local parks during the summer, as well as playing at the annual Remembrance and Armistice parades.

In 2000, Derek was asked by Evesham Town Council to take on the job of booking all bands for the summer season at Evesham’s Abbey Park, and such was his success, he also ended up booking bands for another 11 parks around the south Midlands.

The ever-obliging Derek also managed to find the time to pass on his love of music to the next generation, coaching many youngsters through their various grade exams on a number of instruments.

In his latter years, Derek suffered from ill-health and was lovingly cared for at home by daughter Sarah. He never let his illness affect his passion for making music and his determination to keep things running smoothly.

He will be sadly missed by all his family, including sister Audrey, granddaughter Atlanta, her father Andrew, and all who knew him.

Derek’s funeral will take place on what would have been his birthday, January 5, at St Peter’s Church, Evesham, at 1pm. Under current Covid restrictions, the ceremony is limited to 30 people. For those wishing to stand in respect to Derek, the funeral cortege will travel up Port Street at about 12.45pm en route to St Peter’s Church.

It is hoped to arrange a memorial concert at a later date when restrictions allow.