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Remembering Dave Ball

Daniel Phillips, from New Zealand

Daniel Phillips writes (11 April 2015)

It is great to read how deeply Dave touched so many people, all throughout the world. I thought I would write a little about my experiences with him in New Zealand where he lived on and off for many years and frequently visited family. I first became aware Dave was in NZ by randomly seeing him on local TV jamming with local blues legend Midge Marsden. Dave's playing completely shook me up and I thought "I have to see this guy!"

A few months passed and finally I got my chance. A local Blues promoter and musician called Dean Morris had met Dave and (amazingly for us) got him semi-regular gigs and guest spots. He even had the masterstroke idea to get Dave on the Corporate Circuit – Dave and his guitar, talking about his life and experiences at business functions etc! Tony Robbins eat your heart out!  I can't think of a better motivational speaker than Dave!

I saw him play for the first time on 12 May 2006 at the Dogs Bollix in Auckland; the place has now been completely refurbished but he played a blistering performance with Stan Malcolm in between the sets of a new blues band called 'The Hitmen' featuring an up-and-coming Danny McCrum. I was blown away by Dave's blistering performance (naturally),  and hoped I might be able to say 'hello' and maybe have a few words with this Guitar God (haha!). To my complete surprise, this "Guitar God" was one of the nicest, humblest and most down to earth people I have ever met. Not only did I get a few moments with the man, he talked to me for at least twenty minutes and endeared me with copious Procol Harum, Long John Baldry, and Bedlam/Cozy stories (I should say he spoke very affectionately about Cozy and said he was like a brother). As others have commented, he was unrivalled as a storyteller and for his wit.

It would be another couple of years before I got to see him perform again: this time it was with one of NZ's leading Blues Guitarists, Billy TK Jnr, just over the road at The Thirsty Dog in an Afternoon show (31 August 2008). Dave had just landed in the country but was on fire that afternoon. To my surprise he remembered me by name (photographic memory?) and very kindly signed some PH vinyl for me, including the infamous Grand Hotel which despite not receiving the credit for, he did play on!

After such a long time 'between drinks', thankfully the next gig was only a short four days later (Thursday 4 Sept 2008) at The Broadway in Newmarket (long now closed). This time playing with a hot young band called Los Diablos – fantastic duelling between Dave and singer/guitarist Phil Roberts. Again I got to talk to Dave for twenty to thirty minutes and by this time he felt more like a friend, such was his warmth and friendliness. He had absolutely zero pretentiousness and no ego about him, despite being one of the most gifted and talented guitarists in the world...

I'd next rub shoulders with 'the Big Man' at two of the very best gigs I'd ever seen. This time a double bill with fellow Brummie (and now ex-pat) guitar legend Tony Painting and his band The Power. Both of these gigs were at The Naval and Family Hotel (Est 1896) the first in August 2009. It was a real treat to see these two Birmingham virtuosos  – very different styles, but somehow perfectly complimenting each other right here on K' Rd in little ol' New Zealand!

The very last time I saw Dave play was at the same venue on 4 January 2009 (another afternoon/early evening show). Dave was quite late to arrive as I believe he was picking up his daughter who he brought along to the gig and was very proud of. Once he did arrive he was ready for business and as amiable as ever. I remember we talked a lot about Jeff Beck and Hank Marvin ('You have to go see him!' Dave told me! I did...) The Naval and Family? (est 1896) It's now a Strip Club!

Dave was now based in Germany and then later the UK and sadly I never got the chance to see him play gain. We did exchange emails in 2013: I was delighted by his excellent and long-overdue 2012 solo album Don't Forget Your Alligator, his online books and his hilarious website, videos and huge trove of demos/songs:

I am so pleased Dave took the time to retire from his 'day job' and really devote his final years to music – the results of which we now have forever. He was in great spirits and typically friendly: "I will definitely organise some gigs for when I get back. I am actually really enjoying playing at the moment – maybe even got a bit of my 'mojo' back! Great to hear from you, Daniel."

The more tributes I read from the fans, the more I realise he was like this with EVERYONE! He always had time for people, no matter who you were, with a beaming smile on his face and a hearty laugh. He was one of the funniest people I have ever met. I was only in my twenties at the time, but it felt like I was hanging out with an eternally young spirit and someone my own age (though far more knowledgeable, and way cooler than anyone my age).

The news came as quite a shock, Dave was such a fun, larger-than-life spirit and I feel the world is a profoundly more boring place without him. I am so grateful and feel so blessed our paths got to cross, several times and that I got to know him, even just a little. He truly enriched my life and for that I will be Eternally Grateful. Even more than his vast, incomparable talent I was touched by his immense kindness and his unrivalled generosity of spirit.

He was a Giant – in every sense of the word, and although he'd never say it – in fact he would actually deny it – Yes! He was a Guitar God!

To borrow a few lines from Stardust Maginty (Song for Mum): (From Don't Forget your Alligator, 2012)

"Your star shone quietly, Up in the sky
I hope I'll have your courage
When it's my time to die"

Dave, I will never forget you.
Daniel Phillips
(Auckland, NZ)

"I only hope The Aliens get here soon!"

Dave Ball's page at BtP  


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