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'Father of Crawley's music scene' Jim Pitts dies at the age of 70

By Crawley News  |  Posted: May 21, 2012

MAESTRO: Jim Pitts at his 70th birthday party Photo by Mac Davies

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A LEGEND of the blues music scene has died suddenly, less than two weeks after performing at his 70th birthday.

Jim Pitts, who lived in Northgate, was a member of cult band Brett Marvin and the Thunderbolts.

In their heyday the band toured with Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones.

The group was formed by students of Thomas Bennett School in Tilgate in 1968.

Jim was asked to join when he performed on the same bill at a gig in East Grinstead shortly after the Thunderbolts' formation.

He had recently suffered a heart attack but friends and family thought he was on the mend.

Jim left hospital in time to celebrate his 70th birthday on April 22 and was well enough to play and sing at his party.

However, he died on May 4.

Friends have remembered him as a "musical giant".

Lochy Randall, from Three Bridges, who has acted as the Thunderbolts' roadie since the 1970s, said: "We thought he would be back up and on the road straight away.

"He was a big guy who had a big presence on stage. He toured all over the world with the band.

"Everyone liked him. He was just an amazing guy."

Jim played many instruments including the guitar, piano and harmonica, as well as being a singer.

But his skills did not stop at music – and he was a talented artist, sculpture and poet.

Lochy recalled an occasion when legendary Beatle Paul McCartney asked Jim to make him a sculpture – but Jim never finished it.

"Jim didn't care about fame and money," he explained.

"Money was never an issue for him. If he didn't want to do something, he didn't do it.

"I remember he was called by Fleetwood Mac asking him to tour with them and he said 'oh no, I don't want to do all that travelling'.

"He never wanted to be a big star. He was a fantastic bloke who had a fantastic life."

Jim was part of the band when, in 1972 under the pseudonym Terry Dactyl and the Dinosaurs, their hit Seaside Shuffle reached number two in the charts and they performed on Top of the Pops.

The Thunderbolts were also supported by the up-and-coming Sex Pistols and toured with the Clash.

Jim's friend, Ken Birch, from Northgate, said: "He was the father of Crawley music and created the 12 Bar workshop, which meets at Northgate Community Centre.

"He taught hundreds of people. I took over the workshops about a year ago as Jim was struggling. I'm never going to be able to do what he did.

"He was a very talented, very generous, very gentle man."

Lochy has created a tribute page on Facebook for friends across the world to leave memories of Jim.

He told how other members of the Thunderbolts moved away from Crawley as the band became more successful – but Jim refused to leave because he had grown up in the town and loved living here.

Lochy added: "He was my best mate. I'm going to miss him like mad."

Jim leaves his wife, Jenny. A funeral service will be held at Surrey and Sussex Crematorium tomorrow (Thursday) at 4.30pm followed by a wake at Goffs Park Social Club.

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