A familiar face will be missed when the Monterey Ukulele group takes to the municipal hall lawn June 30 for its Canada Day celebration concert.
In past performances, drummer Charlie Bedford would have kept rhythm as his fellow musicians plucked away at the strings.
It was the same during the spring performance of the Monterey Note-ables, who dedicated their production to Bedford, and Monterey’s weekly Sing-a-Long Club.
Bedford passed away March 25 at the age of 93, but many Monterey members hadn’t heard about his death and wondered where the affable musician was, says friend and fellow musician Cecil Shaw.
At times playing in up to six different groups, among Bedford’s other musical ventures was the band Charlie and the Angels, and the same day Bedford passed, the group’s pianist, Derek Howe, also died. “The scuttlebutt is the good Lord wanted a new band,” Shaw says with a smile.
A plumber by trade, Bedford had retired to Oak Bay from James Bay in 2002, and immediately struck up a host of friendships at Monterey, where he played four or five times a week with various groups, says Shaw, who would help his friend transport and set up his drums. “The music is what connected us – I became the world’s oldest roadie,” Shaw laughs.
Bedford was born in England on Aug. 18, 1922. First picking up the sticks as a child, Bedford’s father crafted him a pair to keep him occupied while the family played games Bedford didn’t enjoy, he told the Oak Bay News last year. Teaching himself to drum, a skill and passion he carried with him for decades, his first gigs came at age 14, when he joined three friends to play area dances.
“He lived for his music and his drums. He was playing a week or two before his passing,” Shaw says.
A familiar fixture along the Avenue as well, Bedford enjoyed a daily walk from his home near St. Patrick Street to Foul Bay Road and back, until his COPD made it too challenging. With music in his soul, ballroom dancing was another passion; he was also a popular participant in Monterey’s Sunday open mic event – but on the harmonica rather than drums. “He was very much his own individual,” Shaw remembers.
Like many of his generation, Bedford served in the Second World War, fighting with the 53rd Welsh Division.
“When he talked about the war, he would go quickly over the bad memories and laugh about the good times,” Shaw says. “He would just start laughing and it would crack me up.”
Bedford published a book of his experiences in 2002, Me and World War II. “I felt I ought to do something to remember those days,” he told the News last year. “I don’t live the war, I like to remember it. A lot of my mates got killed. I didn’t intend it (to be a book). It satisfied me. I had to get it out of my system.”
After his death, friends also discovered a collection of short stories Bedford had written, including one he had read on BBC radio about a soldier’s experiences in Germany. “He was very good as a writer – easily readable.”
While Bedford had been married twice, the friends he had made through Monterey Centre and his other musical ventures became like family.
“He had so many friends in the community and he contributed so much to the community. He’s continually missed,” Shaw says.
“Everybody loved him.”