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1954 - 1999

William Howell was born in Wimbledon on 24th October 1954. It was at school that he acquired the nickname Hammy - a consequence of keeping hamsters.

Hammy's first inspirational introduction to music - although he had been taking piano lesions since the age of 9 - came via his French teacher who played him the first jazz records he ever heard. With the teacher's support, Hammy cultivated an interest in boogie and soon found he could play this himself.

On leaving school he went to a vocational guidance centre, having no fixed ideas as to what to do, and was directed in architectural drawing. Two weeks as architect's tea boy however, convinced him it wasn't the life for him and he turned to music. He left his architectural position, and approached Pat Grover, guitarist with Johnny Mars and the Sunflower Boogie Band, and offered his services. The result was a hectic year as pianist with the band, touring clubs at home and abroad, leaving only to do more O'levels. While still at college he was approached by the then manager of London's 100 Club and asked to back Eddie Burns. Den Hegarty was at the gig and asked Hammy to join his then two-week old band, DARTS.

After his mother's death in 1979, Hammy had the first of a series of breakdowns that were to dog him for the rest of his life. He left Darts, though he carried on with music, developing his classical technique as well as blues. He taught from time to time, worked as a session musician and joined various bands - including Hoodoo Moon and the Beacon Band, the band of Beacon Quay House in Torquay, his last home.

The musicians Hammy played with rated highly his ability to play piano. He had a talent for both frenetic solos and fitting in effortlessly with a band. He was very attached to his friends and family, but he also had a strong need to be independent. When he died on 13th January 1999 at the age of 45 (from heart failure) it became clear to all how many friends he had made in his life. He was deeply cared for and appreciated, not just for his massively entertaining skill with the piano, but for his warmth, his kindness, his humour and his big personality.