Waldorf String Band for British Traditional Folk & Celtic Music.  Established 1987


BILL DEAN: Guitarist and Vocalist with Waldorf String Band
(1995 to late 2004)

Billy's tragic death in the early hours of New Year's Day 2005 will be deeply mourned by his partners in the Waldorf String Band - John Gnodde, Nippy Cripwell, Jimmy Smyth and Rael Birns ...a huge loss to music.

(Click on picture to enlarge)

From Rael Birns

I first met Billy in the 80's and a few years later had the pleasure of working alongside him in Waldorf String Band.

Billy Dean, a great musician and performer, was not a Saint – but he was a good man, an honourable man … and one with strong views which he was never afraid to express.

Billy held very strong and emotive views and this he applied to his music. He never once held back on his opinion, even though it might have been … a little controversial…!

Most people saw Billy as ‘a laid back, easy going, good guy, a good guitarist and a good singer'… But it went so much further than that… If a musical arrangement could be improved on, he would spend hours in private, working on a particular passage or an arrangement and then at the next rehearsal, play it with an ease that often left us all at a loss for words.

Not only did he love his music, he was dedicated to performing it in the best possible way and again most people thought that this was so easy and relaxed, that they took it for granted, again not fully appreciating the amount of work he had put into his on-stage performance. There were also times during some of our recording sessions that Billy would insist on playing the same piece over and over again and again … until he felt it was just right.

We will all miss Billy immensely.

From John Gnodde

I first met Bill round about 1972 in the ‘folk scene', and got to know him better when he started coming round for guitar lessons with Di Williamson, with whom I shared a house in those days.

I was a reasonably accomplished guitarist in those days, and so was quite amused at how a contemporary of mine could be struggling with those finger challenging chord changes from A Minor to E, and then through the G's, C's and D7's to the major step-up to Bar chords.

But whereas I remained a ‘reasonably accomplished' player, Bill worked really hard at his music and progressed rapidly to become a star player with a wonderful ear and incredible versatility.

Bill was always a pleasure to work with, in addition to his flawless guitar playing, he had a great voice – soft and sensitive on the ballads, raw and ragged on the rowdier music.

It was also great working with someone who could immediately come up with a joke, and tell it really well, to fill the gap when some minor sound adjustments, or if a bit of instrument tuning was required.

I will sorely miss my ‘right hand man' in Waldorf String Band.


PO Box 652039, Benmore, 2010,  Gauteng, South Africa. Cell +27 (0)82 452 1100. wsb@waldorfstringband.co.za