Remembering John Cobley

GUS pay tribute to a band legend.

03 May 2019

The GUS Band are sad to report the passing of one of the GUS greats, tenor horn legend John Cobley. John passed away peacefully on the 12th of April after a hard fought battle with dementia. He was never without the love and care of his two daughters Lynda and Maxine and the sound of his GUS records to help raise his spirits!

Growing up in Swannington near Coalville in Leicestershire, John found his love of the trumpet at a young age, having the opportunity to play with the Leicester Youth Band and winning many trophies in his youth. Not long afterwards, he transitioned from trumpet to tenor horn which he practised at every opportunity. This certainly paid off and his standard of playing became high enough for the brass band champions GUS Footwear to hunt him down and offer him paid work at their factory so that he would join their band.

So at the tender age of sixteen John packed his bags and left his home in north-west Leicestershire to move the 37 miles south-east to the shoe-making Mecca that was Kettering. He took up the day job that was offered which was in the pattern room of the GUS factory where he would sketch and design new shoes But the main reason for his move was of course so that he could take up a horn seat in the GUS band.

At the age of nineteen John was thrust into the limelight when due to illness he was asked to step up from first horn and play solo horn. He played the Horn Cadenza in Gilbert Vinter’s ‘Variations on a Ninth’ at the 1964 National Finals at the Royal Albert Hall, a contest which the band went on to win by a three point margin, helped of course by the band’s stand out soloists, including John.

Along with fellow bandsmen, John Berryman, David Read, and Trevor Groom, John Cobley was a member of the famous GUS (Footwear) Band Quartet where he would be re- acquainted with the composing skills of Gilbert Vinter. The group went on to be crowned Quartet Champions for three years running in 1966,1967 and 1968 and their album ‘Quartets for Brass’ was released a year later in 1969 by Columbia Records.

John travelled with the GUS Band to perform in Switzerland, Holland and Canada but it was through the band’s concerts closer to home that that he met his wife-to-be Sylvia Berryman (sister of John Berryman) and they had two daughters, Maxine and Lynda.

It wasn’t long afterwards that John’s lifelong drive, determination and ambition led him to opening a music shop on Montagu Street, Kettering, the market town in which the family had made their home. The shop was called “Studio Instruments” and offered everything and anything musical from Xylophones to Kazoos, Beatles busking books to drum kits, and all sorts of wind, string and of course brass instruments. The shop became a great success and supplied musical instruments to schools all over Northamptonshire, as well as some in Leicestershire and also supplied instruments to brass bands all over the country.

Later in his life it was becoming apparent to his family that sadly John was starting to show signs of dementia. During the early stages John made the trip with his family to once again hear the GUS band in concert which brought him great joy and in spite of his slow deterioration his memory of brass bands and their music never failed him.

John’s funeral took place in Coalville on Friday the 3rd of May and the service featured recordings of Deep Harmony, Dear Lord and Father of Mankind and Abide With Me all recorded by the GUS band in the 1960’s. In their concert the next day at Rothwell Church, near Kettering, the current GUS band paid their tribute to John by playing two verses of Deep Harmony dedicated to John’s memory.

The GUS Band would like to thank John’s daughters Lynda and Maxine for providing the photos and information relating to John’s life.