RIP Sheila Tracy (1934-2014)

Sheila Tracy

Both BBC News BBC News and Sheila Tracy's own website have confirmed that musician and broadcaster Sheila Tracy passed away yesterday 30th September. Marianne Windham writes in tribute to a much-admired and popular figure in British jazz:

I got to know Sheila Tracy just two years ago, when I was invited to join a big band which she ran, near her home in Kingswood, Surrey. Many in the band were her former colleagues and friends from her BBC days, including Barry Forgie, Bill Geldard, Duncan Lamont and Ronnie Hughes, and from their conversations during rehearsals it was obvious they had a long shared history together.

I found her rather intimidating to start with, after all this was THE Sheila Tracy - a member of Ivy Benson All Girls Band, the voice of Radio 2’s BBC Big Band Special, and the first woman newsreader on Radio 4. Who she hadn’t rubbed shoulders with over the years wasn’t worth mentioning.

Gradually I got to know her, however. I enjoyed talking to her and learning more about her - that she studied piano, trombone and violin (now that was a surprise!) at the Royal Academy, then joined the Ivy Benson All Girls Band, and from there formed a duo, with Phyl Brown, with whom she travelled all over the world as the Tracy Sisters.

But mostly of course she and other people talked about her time at the BBC. She once showed me round her studio – the walls were covered in photographs and press cuttings from her days at the Beeb. I remember quite a striking one with a youthful looking David Niven! But it was very much a working studio, and she was still hard at it even then, showing me the scripts she was preparing for her broadcasts that week for the US Station Pure Jazz Radio.

The Kingswood band is still going strong, and it’s a great pleasure to play with people who are also such a part of British jazz history. Sheila turned up every week until quite recently to look after us all, even somewhat reluctantly playing 4th trombone in the band when pressed! After she started getting ill, she talked to me sometimes about going back to her roots in Cornwall.

I am very sorry she’s no longer with us, but I am very grateful to have known her, even for such a short while. I know she will be very much missed by everyone in the Kingswood band, and by all the people whose lives she has been part of over the years.

Thank you, Sheila, for the huge legacy you have left us all.

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