Tributes Pour in for Bradford-on-Avon Musician Tom Rockliffe

Image by Richard Clarke (c) richardclarkephotos

Described as a “local enigma,” Bradford-on-Avon pays tribute to local legend, Tom Rockliffe today, who sadly passed away. Tom was celebrated for his rootsy blues and west country folk, delivered with humour and modesty.

Yet Tom was so much more than this, a stable presence on the local music scene, he hosted open mic nights at Bradford’s Canal Tavern and The Swan Hotel, lent his hand at a number of locally based events, including Fringe BoA, The Bradford Roots Festival and The Village Pump Folk Festival.

Long-term friend and work associate, Kev Kyte told us, “Tom Rockliffe was one of life’s true one-offs.”

“I first knew him when I was 22, and he was 47,” Kev continues, “when I started work for a family firm which built narrowboats. Tom and I were the two boatbuilders, the only other people working there being the couple who owned it.”

“Despite my youth, Tom accepted me as an equal, without question. This is rarely the case in engineering. Tom was a man who was passionate in all he did, and all he believed in. He believed in fairness and hope to all who deserved as such.”

“During the time we worked together, he often commented how the general public looked at us welder fabricators- a skilled trade, however with us often wearing scruffy, burned clothing- as ‘tramps with tape measures.’ I often smile, thinking of that wry observation.”

“Tom was hugely passionate about music, another thing that made our friendship transcend that of merely colleagues. A man who walked and hitchhiked many, many miles in the sixties and seventies to some of the most vital, well-known gigs and festivals, he was especially proud of having been at the first ‘Pilton festival’, Glastonbury as it’s now known.”

“He was in his element when recalling seeing Led Zeppelin, The Stones, Hendrix, etc. His passion was contagious. Tom became very important in the local music scene, playing extensively as a solo guitar player and singer, performing covers and his own music, such as his best-known number, ‘The Tortoise Song.’ He organised and helped organise many festivals and open mic nights, proudly championing his fellow musicians.”

“Tom played at my father’s 70th birthday,” Kev explained, “and also my wedding, as the sole performer at each. A fantastic raconteur as well as musician, he went down extremely well at both. I will miss my old friend very much, a man who truly made a difference in so many people’s lives, and always for the better.”

Ade Ibanez shared a picture from the early days of the Canal Tavern, and said of Tom, “he did more than anyone can say for local music and musicians. So much has developed from what he started.” And heartfelt tributes poured in on the Live Music in Bradford-on-Avon Facebook page, including the Swan Hotel.

Renowned local band, The Boot Hill All Stars added, “Tom – you were definitely one of the good guys. A music scene is nothing without those enthusiastic people at the grass roots getting things off the ground and giving people their first opportunities.” And band member Mick, who also runs the monthly show Sounds of the Wilderness on West Wilts Radio plans to pay tribute to Tom on the coming show.


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