PETE RYDER - 1946 - 2022
Pete Ryder passed away on 22nd November 2022 in Salford Royal Hospital at the age of 76, sadly never having recovered consciousness after fall at his home five days earlier.
The appellation ‘Sit down Salford song and dance man” a line from one of his songs was at time associated with Pete in his grass roots performance heartlands of Salford, Swinton, Bolton and Eccles, but in reality, he was much more than that.
Pete was born in Salford and his education at De La Salle school, taught by an Irish English teacher, lead to inspiration in, and appreciation of, the English language. He was also good at sport and his love of football drew him regularly to nearby Old Trafford. He took up the guitar while still at school and by his mid-teens he was a regular performer at the famous MSG (Manchester Sports Guild) where he observed ‘his musical apprenticeship was served’. One of his favourite memories was the 80th birthday bash for Jesse Fuller, writer of “San Francisco Bay Blues”.
In the late 60’s – early 70’s, having briefly experienced a conventional office job while building a reputation as a guitar player in pubs and bars as part of the folk and blues revival, he started touring. This took Pete throughout England, including stewarding at the Cambridge Folk Festival and regular tours of Cornwall.
The lure of overseas performance took him to Morocco with Derek Brimstone. He was good friends with Tony Capstick, and he claims that Ralph McTell taught him how to play rag-time. However, Salford and home always called him back. He supported Cliff Aungier and Bert Jansch at the Duke of York in Eccles. He was a regular on regional TV. He said he was the first person to play McTell’s ‘Streets of London’ on TV, sitting on a dustbin!
In the early 70’s, he was working in London. A recording session at Olympic Studios, which was the studio of his manager, Ian Grant, late at night, lead him to open the door to Mike Jagger (the Stones also recorded there) who handed him a tray of coffees and ready rolled joints. Through Ian, he appeared on radio, including BBC2’s “Country meets Folk” and met the likes of Albert Lee (one of his heroes) and “Chas and Dave”. He had particularly fond memories of Dave Peacock.
Pete toured South Africa over four months in 1972, playing at least 5 gigs weekly to audiences of student, people across the ethnic range, touring not just stadiums (he played to an audience of 18,000 at Ellis Park), but touring the homelands and townships. He had a number one hit with his self-penned track ‘Cameron’. Being the era of apartheid with stringent sanctions imposed against South Africa by many nations including Britain, on his return, he found that he was ‘blacklisted’ and no longer booked nationwide.
In 1973, he was in third place being Gilbert O’Sullivan and Marc Bolan in a TV song-writing contest which led to a contract with Granada TV . One memorable occasion was when Pete played behind a recital of Walter de la Mere’s poetry by Dame Edith Evans. She invited him to dine with her in Bradford where she was in theatre and sent a car to collect him and drop him off. He claimed that this was one of his exploits of which his father was most proud.
In 1975 Pete was working in London again, and in the company of the incomparable Noel Murphy, both musically and socially. He was still travelling to more distance venues by train, and did not obtain his driving licence until well into his thirties, as a professional musician, he reported that he was unable to obtain insurance.
Having got married and with a young family, Pete decided to get a formal qualification and in 1983, he got a BA Honours degree from Manchester University, with a specialism in audiology. He took up a teaching post at Crosshall High School in Ormskirk as a specialist teacher for the hearing impaired. There his role included organising musical and drama events and he was asked to choose songs for the leaver’s assemblies. He taught many students to play the guitar, plus performing him-self.
This took him up to 1996 when he recorded “Last Chance” a CD of the songs h had composed during his performances and a four years later, he experienced a musical resurgence. A stint at the Cleckheaton Festival is encapsulated the emotions of the song “Indian Sum- mer” – the title track of a subsequent album. This describes his feeling on once again being in front of a large audience, all singing his words.
Pete’s regular Tuesday nights at the Howcroft, Bolton as “Pete Ryder..and Friends” encouraged and nurtured young talent, aided by his brother-in-law, Ron Callow. A medical condition led to his retirement from teaching 2007 and in 2011 he left Bolton to once again return home to Salford. Having been a regular performer at the White Lion, Swinton he was invited to “Pete Ryder... and Friends” on a monthly Friday basis. He would also be in demand at local fundraisers, charity and community gigs and venues such as Sandbach, Uppermill and Chorlton, more significantly at the Fleetwood Folk and Blues Festival, with Phil Hare and Charlie White.
Following his untimely demise, a celebration of his life was held at Peel Green Crematorium, Salford on 17th December 2022 where an overflowing venue reverberated in voice to the song “Forever Young” which seemed to further encapsulate his outlook on life and “younger-than-true” looks: it was the bane of his life, at 25 years of age to need ID to get an alcoholic beverage!
I’d only got to know Pete over the last 30 years, but have heard much about the previous background of this talented musician and songwriter. A generous and gregarious nature, allied to a natural vibrancy who always brought a “presence” and an atmosphere of intimacy to any performance – be it in a var, pub room or concert setting. A lively sense of humour, plenty of anecdotes of his times in America and with close friends Dai and Barbara Thomas. Aspects of a life crammed with so much adventure, challenge and experience.
Pete is survived by his second wife, Sara and her children, his stepchildren, Scott and Lauren Bradbury; his children Hannah Speakman, Alexis Ryder and Patrick Ryder. He was also very fond of his grandchildren, Bella and Jake Saunders, and his step-grandchildren, Dylan and Raiya Bradbury, and not forgetting an honorary grandson, Kyrie.