Musicians turn out in honour of Wakefield band leader

Wakefield Orchestra leader Graham Warner, whose band was hugely popular through the early 1960s and 1970s at the Wakefield Mecca Locarno Ballroom on Southgate, has died aged 81.

Thursday, 30th January 2020, 2:42 pm

Wakefield Crematorium was filled to capacity last Friday for his funeral where mourners were greeted by former Wakefield Theatre Club band leader Willie Hirst playing clarinet with Marc Wightman on keyboard - Willie was a saxophonist in Graham’s original orchestra.

Graham married Wakefield singing star Patti Brook in 1966 after she’d given up her glamorous showbiz lifestyle and was invited to sing with the The Graham Warner Orchestra.

After their marriage they moved to Graham’s home town of Rochdale where they would commute almost daily to the Bradford Mecca ballroom where the band was then based.

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Their daughter Sarah was born in Rochdale in 1974 and now lives in Newton Hill with husband Mark and their two sons Jack and Max.

After leaving Mecca in the 1970s Graham went on to manage large cabaret venues in the Greater Manchester area where he booked many big star names such as Buddy Greco, Danny La Rue, Neil Sedaka, Helen Shapiro, Georgie Fame, Cannon Ball and Tommy Cooper, who was his favourite.

He loved joking and chatting with Tommy while cooking a late night snack of chips for him in the club kitchen after everyone had gone home.

Patti and Graham eventually moved back to Wakefield where Graham managed Rooftop Gardens nightclub on Westgate for a while, again booking big star names such as Del Shannon, Bobby Vee and PJ Proby, to name but a few.

During the 1990s he and Patti ran the Horse and Jockey in Altofts providing great food and live entertainment before retiring to live in Stanley.

Terry Webster, Graham’s brother-in-law, said: “Graham was a great character, he will be sadly missed by so many.”