LARGE crowds are expected to turn up to bid farewell next week to a “great mate” and popular Leamington musician who shared his name with a rather different celebrity.
Woody Allen, who fronted the 1960s pop band Woody Allen and the Challengers, has died at the age of 67 following a heart attack.
An enthusiastic singer, Woody - whose real name was Allan Wood - was born in Leamington and lived in the south town area all his life.
Although he ran a fishing tackle business and later a printing firm with his wife Jenny, this was a man, says his friend and fellow bandmate John Zetterstrom, who “just could not stop singing”.
After arriving on the Leamington beat scene in the early 1960s, the Challengers impressed with their new twin guitar sound and soon began playing bigger venues around the country.
The group appeared on the BBC’s 625 Show and ITV’s For Teenagers Only, all the while recording music and touring with famous pop stars - including Buddy Guy, Gene Vincent, The Hollies, Wee Willie Harris, Johnny Kidd and The Pirates, The Merseybeats and Wayne Fontana.
In September 1964 they outraged and entertained crowds in Jephson Gardens in Leamington by playing a beat show in their pyjamas and nightdresses - although reports at the time suggested that most of the audience loved it.
In 1992, long after the Challengers stopped playing, Woody gathered other musicians together to re-create the band and they continued to play around the Midlands for another 11 years.
The group, who have remained close friends to this day, then re-formed in 2009 to take part in a special live radio show for the BBC’s Children In Need appeal.
Mr Zetterstrom said: “There will definitely be a big gathering of musicians fans and friends at Woody’s funeral.
“He was outgoing and had a very likeable character. He was very well known – a very smiley guy.”
Bob Saunders, who, along with Woody, Mr Zetterstrom, Ted Bean and John McLinden formed the original 1960s line-up, said: “Woody was a great mate and a gentleman. He was very jovial and didn’t let things worry him too much.”
Woody, who lived in Radford Semele in his later years and continued to sing around the Leamington area, leaves his wife Jenny. He did not have any children.
His funeral service will take place at St Nargaret’s church in Church Street, Whitnash, today (Monday) at 2pm, followed by a service at Oakley Wood crematorium in Bishops Tachbrook and a social gathering at Radford Semele social club, at which musical friends of Woody are likely to play in tribute to him.