Eric Smith

ERIC John Smith, who has died aged 65, was the only pupil of his year in the old West Riding educational authority to win a scholarship to the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.

His father, Charlie, one day came home with a strangely-shaped package wrapped in brown paper and tied with string for Eric, the younger of his two boys. Unwrapping it, Eric found himself the owner of a Selmer trumpet, and that was the beginning of a life-long passion.

Born in Wakefield, Eric was brought up in Rothwell, and after leaving the RNCM, he continued to play the trumpet, but not to earn his living.

For a regular income he worked in the day time as a steel trader for British Steel, and in the evenings he did what he really wanted to do – he played the trumpet.

Although a part-timer, he joined the full-time professional musicians on the Mecca circuit, backing all the big stars of the day, including Tommy Steele, Shirley Bassey, PJ Proby, Freddie Starr, Morecambe and Wise, Les Dawson and Little and Large.

Around 15 years ago he left British Steel and set up his own steel trading business, All Metal Ltd, of Ilkley, where he had now made his home. But music remained central to his life.

He joined the Gordon Tetley Big Band, and when Gordon stepped down because of ill health, Eric took over as leader.

The GT Big Band, as it is better known, plays all-year round on Monday nights to a loyal following at the Dubrovnik Hotel in Bradford.

In June, Eric was diagnosed with bowel cancer, but remained true to his life's motto "why walk when you can run?"

He continued to make plans for the future as though nothing had happened, and last played with Cabaret, an eight-piece function band, on November 13 for the Airdale Beagles hunt ball at the Cavendish Pavilion, Bolton Abbey.

Eric Smith is survived by his fourth wife, Michaela, and by her daughter and by five of his children from previous marriages.

His funeral will be held at 12.20 on Monday, December 20, at Rawdon Crematorium.