Memories of Keith Emerson: "He looked to his Leslie speakers to throw his knives - this guy’s eyes opened wide when he saw the knives fly in his direction. The guy was Jimi Hendrix"

Keith Emerson
(Image credit: Chris Walter/WireImage)

Join us for our traditional look back at the stories and features that hit the spot in 2022

Best of 2022: Keith Emerson died on 11 March 2016, bringing down the curtain on a career that saw him recognised as one of the greatest keyboard/synth players of all time.

In the days after his death, Keyboard Magazine's Jerry Kovarsky assembled a collection of tributes to the great man - memories from friends, family, colleagues and musicians. Six years on, we bring a selection of them to you below...

The impact that Keith Emerson had on musicians and fans around the world is immeasurable. It could be argued that Keyboard magazine would have had a hard time launching and surviving had Keith not brought keyboards to the forefront of the band. He graced our cover eight times and was reported on many more times as well.

We felt the best way to honour his memory was to hear from many of the musicians and people who worked closely with him and knew him the best. To them he was Emo, Fingers, Keith... but mostly he was a dear friend. 

Thanks to them all for sharing, and to Ellie Schwartz and Jack Hotop for helping to coordinate our talks.

Keith: may your music and influence continue to be heard and felt for generations to come. Thank you for sharing your humble brilliance with us all. 

Carl Palmer (ELP, Asia, The Carl Palmer Band/ELP Legacy Band)

"I first met Keith in 1967; I was playing at Battersea Park College with Fleetwood Mac, depping for Mick Fleetwood. Top of the bill was The Nice. I had heard of them but never saw the band live, and I got to say hi to Keith after the show.

"He was a phenomenal player and I became an instant fan. So, when I was contacted a few years later to audition for a new band he was forming I had to go, although I was doing very well with Atomic Rooster at the time.

"There were very few keyboard players of that calibre: he was incredibly inventive and his musical direction playing classical adaptations was pretty much what I always wanted to do. So there was an immediate synergy. You all know the rest of the story…

"Keith was the greatest musician I’ve ever played with. We had a total of 16 years together making music and it was a fantastic experience. Keith was an individual who took his music seriously, and tried to push everything he did to new heights."

Carl Palmer and Keith Emerson

Carl Palmer and Keith Emerson. (Image credit: 2013 Pilato)

Brian Auger (Trinity, Oblivion Express)

“I first heard Keith and the Nice play at a show we both did in Croydon. He played America”and I thought he was just unbelievable.

"Our paths didn’t cross much back then, but years later he told me that he saw me playing at the Marquee Club and I was playing Rock Candy, by Jack McDuff, which was one of his favourite tunes. We shared a love for pianists like Hampton Hawes, Dave Brubeck, and Oscar Peterson as well. So we both had many of the same influences, but took them into different directions. His technique was unbelievable, and his sense of orchestration within a rock context was something to behold.

"Fast-forward a few decades and we find out we’re living only a few miles from each other in California. We hit it off fabulously and became tight friends. I liked his gentle sense of humour, and we shared so much in common, being of the same vintage.

"He was such a huge star around the world, but had no real sense of ego. We would call each other and go to dinner, and especially go out to hear music. I will miss those evenings and his company very much.”

Jeff “Skunk” Baxter (Guitarist - The Best, Steely Dan, Doobie Bros)

"I first met Keith at the China Club in LA back in the ‘90’s. I was in the house band, and Keith would come in and play all the time. The band would include John Entwistle on bass, and various guitar players, like Joe Walsh - lots of studio guys. We had great fun seriously playing, not just jamming.

"One night John and I were talking and thinking, 'this is too good, we should do something more serious'. A well-known publicist, Michael Jensen, offered to arrange a couple of shows in Japan so we solidified the band: Keith, John, Joe, Simon Phillips, and a singer buddy of mine Rick Livingstone. We didn’t know what to call ourselves, and being such shy wallflowers, we decided on The Best [laughs]. 

"We started rehearsing, and the great thing was that everyone was a fan of each other’s work, and did their homework to make it sound right. Everyone brought their unique style to the band, and you might not think it would work, but it did.

"As an example of what Keith brought to the project, we were covering one of John’s tunes, Boris The Spider. It’s not very complicated, but while we were playing, for fun, I started playing a bit of the music cue from Jaws and Keith jumps right on it, with the right French horn sound and everything.

"I look over at John, who was a classically trained French horn player, and start playing the intro to Mussorgsky’s Night On Bald Mountain. He knew it, and again Keith was right on it. From there we started quoting Stravinsky’s Rite Of Spring and Keith could cover it all. When we got to Japan and whipped out that arrangement the audience was dumbfounded - they had no idea this group of people could go to those places.

"I took my parents on that trip; my Dad was a historian, and was in WWII, and Keith was into those things so they really hit it off. We were making good money for the gigs so I asked Michael if he could find a bunch of kids from an orphanage and we’d take them to Disneyland, Tokyo, to give something back.

"I have two favourite images from that day. One was the 'Ox', John Entwistle, standing there with six kids crawling all over him, and loving it. And the same about Keith: he really spent time with the kids and you could see how much he was into making them happy.

"After that tour Keith and I would hang out, and we did some recording. He did a brilliant arrangement of People Are Strange for a Doors tribute CD, that he had me play some Django-ish guitar on. I really loved the man: he was unique: a tremendous talent, with a lot of emotional depth. He was constantly thinking about music, and I think composing in his mind. I remember looking at him one day and saying, 'man your brain is loud today!' And Keith just smiled back and said, 'yeah, I know'."

Marc Andre Berthiaume (tour tech, stage manager):

"We first met in 1978. I was in the nosebleed section of the Olympic Stadium concert, not toking, but still getting a contact high from the 58,000+ fans in attendance. Later, I would tell Keith I was at that show, 5th from left, seat 503 - remember me? And he’d respond, 'Of course, I even looked straight at you,' the same line he gave everyone that would ask that same question.

"Flash-forward to 1997. ELP is gearing up for another world tour. Through a series of events, I ended up being the monitor engineer. Hundreds of shows with him, and he never lost it. You gave him his mix, and that was pretty much it, with a few tweaks here and there.

"In 2005, I get a call: 'Hey, it’s Keith Emerson. Want to be my keyboard tech?' I gratefully accepted. 'Hey Keith, remember me? I was the guy in seat 503 at the Olympic Stadium.' 'Of course I do, you were wearing that thing,' came the reply.

"I worked with Keith from 2005 to the 2012 final ELP show at the High Voltage festival in London. A fitting end to ELP. I suggested he throw knives at the stack of Marshalls: he liked that idea, but was worried because Carl may be too close. And he told me the story of how they were on tour with the Jimi Hendrix Experience. As he looked to his Leslies to throw his knives, he spotted a guy crouched down and filming with a Super 8 camera. And how this guy’s eyes opened wide when he saw the knives fly in his direction. The guy was Hendrix.

Keith Emerson

(Image credit: Tony Ortiz)

"I became the band tech on the Keith Emerson Band tours. Some great shows, and a few transcendental ones. I’d sit stage right, handling patch changes making white wine spritzers, and watch this genius work.

"My favourite memories are whenever there was an acoustic piano around: Keith would gravitate to it, and really play. Mostly blues and jazz. He was in the moment. 

"Now I am left here looking back at fond memories of the Keith NOT on stage. That smile and the quick puns. And his great laugh. Sitting on his terraced deck, watching the sunset over a couple of glasses of Pinot Grigio. We’d talk of life, women, music, women, new keyboard equipment, women, Robert Moog, and… women. I’m sitting here writing this, looking up at a limited edition LP of the first Keith Emerson Band album, with his inscription: 'To Kirky, a man who dares go where no man has gone before.'

Well, I did, and I enjoyed the ride. I’m going to miss you, my brother.

Marc Bonilla (Guitarist, Producer - Keith Emerson Band)

"My first encounter with Keith was in 1973 at the Oakland Civic Center during ELP’s Brain Salad Surgery tour. He leapt off the stage with his Moog ribbon controller during Tarkus and landed right in front of me. He gave me this curious look and smiled as if to say, 'See you in 16 years, mate, maybe we’ll do something.'

"In 1989 I was playing at a pub in San Jose, CA when in comes this person who proceeds to study us. I thought, 'That guy looks like Keith Emerson', but I quickly shrugged it off, finished the tune and took a break.

"As he’s walking up to me, I said to myself, 'That IS Keith Emerson!' He introduces himself and asks me the name of the last tune we played, and if we were planning on recording it. I said yes. He says, 'Do you mind if I play piano on it?' All I could think to say in my state of shock and bewilderment was, 'Well, what have you done?' And without a flinch he starts to calmly list his resume, starting with The Nice and moving into ELP before I could stop him and confess that it was just a joke.

"We began touring in 1998 with The Boys Club (with Glenn Hughes and Ronnie Montrose) and then as The Keith Emerson Band in 2006. He enjoyed reworking ELP tunes to exploit guitar, and was always open to whatever ideas came down the creative pike. He was also very keen on improvisation during the show and would pick up stakes and turn left at a moment’s notice, which kept us all on our toes, and would give the audience something special and unique.

"When Keith suggested I produce the Keith Emerson Band album, I was honoured and a bit apprehensive at the prospect. Here was a hero of mine and I was going to tell HIM what to do and how to play? It was a difficult hurdle to get past, but once we did, it was well worth the effort.

"The first time this occurred was during the Hammond solo in Marche Train. Keith had shaved off a handful of passes and I could tell he was getting a little frustrated at not giving me what this 'producer' wanted. Then he says, 'Right, run it again'. And he carved off five or six amazing takes,of keyboard gymnastics! After that, we knew that there was a hump we needed to get over before all the ideas accelerated into ‘flow mode’, and we always found ourselves with an embarrassment of riches.

"Keith’s ambition always was to conduct his own compositions. The opportunity presented itself with Maestro Terje Mikkelsen in 2010. We went to Munich, Germany, to record the Three Fates Project, which was a pinnacle for Keith as well as the rest of us. We had re-orchestrated some of his ELP compositions and when heard in that context, you realise that he was a composer of the highest stature.

"When the orchestra was in rehearsals, Keith was at the back of the hall, sitting by himself. I walked back to see him and he had tears in his eyes. He said that this was a dream come true for him - finally having Tarkus performed the way he had always heard it.

"The last concert we played together was at Barbican Hall in London with the BBC Orchestra in July of 2015. It was the first time much of this music had been heard. Keith was in high spirits and performed flawlessly. He was finally in his element. It seemed befitting and proper that his last gig was his best gig. I have no doubt he will take his place among the musical greats that this world has gifted us with. As it should be.

Al Goff (Hammond organ technician)

"My first encounter with Keith was in 1972: I was working for my Dad in his Hammond organ dealership in Hartford, CT, unboxing and prepping new organs and Leslie speakers. He asked me to prepare a new L-100 for a show rental.

"A few days later we delivered it to the ELP show at the Coliseum. I watched ELP play from side-stage directly across from Keith and realised this band was unlike anything I had ever seen or heard before. 

"Late in the show, Keith slid the L-100 toward the audience, and began rocking it back and forth so the reverberation springs crashed loudly. He removed a large knife from his belt, showed it to the audience, and stabbed the upper keyboard, wedging two playing keys down. Keith stabbed the upper manual again with a second knife and turned the L-100 off-and-on several times in succession, which produced a sound as if the organ was screaming for help.

"My Dad heard the wailing from back stage, saw the knives in the organ, and was as angry as I had ever seen him. One of the crew told him not to worry, this was part of the show, and that the organ would be OK.

"Keith broke a dozen or so keys with his knives and threw them into to the audience, who went absolutely wild, and so did my Dad! He called the Hammond Organ Company the next day to complain. Keith told me years later that Hammond sent him a letter telling him they did not want to sell him L-100’s but, in reality, the factory sales manager told me they knew this was a huge marketing plus for them, as L-100 sales increased significantly. I never realised that would be the start of a long series of Emerson encounters through the next 40 years. 

Keith Emerson Hammond

(Image credit: Al Goff)

"As with so many pro Hammond players, Keith became a friend as well as a client, and we talked over the years about his life and upcoming events. We always reached out when one of the players we knew died. I remember talking to him when Billy Preston, Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff, Jack McDuff, and Charles Earland died, as well as Jon Lord and Ray Manzarek.

"I also called Keith as soon as I heard Bob Moog died, and again when Lemmy died, and in both cases, he was particularly upset. We talked about the difficulty of losing our friends and he would always say something positive like 'yet, we keep moving on', or 'tomorrow is another day'. Keith called me when my daughter died suddenly, and talked to me for two hours. He told me life wasn’t going to be the same, but to always think about the good times as they get us through the bad. I thought about that particular conversation right after Keith died.

"Whenever anyone asked me about Keith Emerson, I always said he was the gentleman Statesman of the industry. He constantly encouraged others to play music that makes them happy. He was an amazing individual who never had a bad word to say about anyone, was the first to make a joke, and never really accepted the fact he was the best of the best.

"I will miss Keith as the world lost a truly gifted musician, who was a compassionate and caring man. Some of us lost an amazing friend who cannot be replaced."

Dave Kilminster (Guitarist - Keith Emerson Band, Roger Waters)

"My times playing with The Keith Emerson Band are undoubtedly some of my favourite moments, musical or otherwise. Sometimes during a gig (for example after singing the Stones of Years part of Tarkus) I would just lay out, and listen to the incredible interplay going on. Keith was totally fearless on stage, never afraid to take chances, and his improvisational skills were second to none. Sometimes he’d just stretch out and take a piece of music in a totally different direction, or start re-harmonising the chord progression: he was always creating, and constantly trying new ideas. I think he knew that wherever he took the music we’d be right there with him, and that confidence freed him up to be as crazy as he wanted to be.

"He also loved our little musical 'battles': those Jeff Beck/Jan Hammer type exchanges we had were some of my highlights of the live shows. Occasionally we’d just abandon musical phrases and have silly conversations by trying to sound like the The Clangers [a British children’s TV series in the '70s], or just resort to making stupid noises at each other. He had such a wonderful sense of humour. 

"The last time Keith and I played together was in 2009. Keith called me up out of the blue, and told me that his Mother had just passed away. He asked me to play with him at her funeral, so the two of us (along with a string quartet) played a new piece that Keith had written. Even though it was a very sad occasion, it was such a joy to play together again.

Keith last called me in January 2016, and I so wish we could still do that. Apart from being a musical genius, Keith had such a warm spirit and a beautiful soul, and I’ll miss him more than I can ever express in words."

Dominic Milano (Technical Editor, Editor - Keyboard Magazine)

"Keith’s long relationship with Keyboard started in 1977. Works Vol. 1 had just come out and (pinch me) I was invited to spend a week with Keith in Montreal. ELP were prepping for a tour complete with a full orchestra. When I got there, the orchestra hadn’t joined the band for rehearsals, so I got to stand a few feet from Keith while my favourite trio ran through Fanfare, Pirates, Tarkus... 

"During breaks, Keith would sit at the Steinway in a flimsy plastic chair - the kind you find in cafeterias - and play barrelhouse blues and jazz. He wasn’t practising and he wasn’t showing off. He was just playing for the sheer joy of it.

"I was surprised at how low he sat relative to the keyboard. Not quite as low as, say, Glen Gould would’ve sat, but Keith sat much lower than I expected.

"Another aspect of his technique that struck me was how Keith held his elbows out and away from his body, so he was playing from his fingers - a position he admitted was causing him trouble. Repetitive stress injury trouble. That was my first brush with such injuries. Alas, it wouldn’t be the last. We did a feature story some time later on carpal tunnel and other ills that can befall a keyboardist. The story was inspired in large part by Keith’s experiences.

"I don’t remember how much tape we burned through doing that first Keyboard interview, but I remember talking during nearly every moment he was free. For example, when we were riding in the back seat of a car on the way to the hockey rink where ELP was rehearsing, walking around his keyboard rig, sitting someplace quiet, flying to NYC together while he picked out a Steinway for the Works tour.

"ELP were one of the most popular bands in the world at the time, so it wasn’t surprising one of the guards at the border crossing recognised the name on Keith’s passport. 'Keith… as in Emerson, Lake & Palmer?' Keith nodded shyly and graciously thanked the guy, taking his fame in stride, but not wearing it on his sleeve.

"I took for granted how willing Keith was to talk about anything I asked, and I asked everything I’d been wondering about since I first heard him with the Nice in the late '60s: Drawbar settings, what and who inspired him, why he jettisoned his massive Leslie/Hiwatt setup in favour of a single, mic’d 122 and a DI feed, and a zillion other questions. When I wondered if The Three Fates, like The Barbarian”and Knife Edge, was an adaptation of something classical, the look on his face made me think of a kid who’d been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He answered earnestly, 'No.' Paused to think, and then asked, 'Why? Does it remind you of something?'

"In late February 2016, I was sitting at my computer when the phone rang. 'Dominic. It’s Keith … as in Emerson.' Ever the gentleman, he called because he’d spent the day doing interviews, but the next one was about something he’d heard I was researching. He didn’t want to help anyone who was competing with me. Flattered by the unexpected loyalty, I thanked him and said him he should do the interview, which was about his relationship with a mutual friend. Bob Moog.

Three weeks later, my favourite organist was gone. His impact on my life and the lives of so many keyboard players is immeasurable. He left us too soon, but he left us with so much.

Tony Ortiz (friend, archivist for ELP)

"One time after a show, I brought my motorcycle back to the hotel. I had it on the kickstand running, and Keith sat on it so I could take a photo. Then I sat behind him for a photo, and he took off for a quick ride around the parking lot with me on the back.

"The next day backstage Greg [Lake] gave me a 15-minute lecture on how the tour could have been canceled lf he had gotten hurt. I walked out of his room and Keith was standing there with a huge grin on his face.

"To explain what type of person Keith was is easy. He sent me a gift on his birthday. When I told Keith I had ALS he said, 'You have to go to Switzerland - they have great doctors.' I told him there is no cure and it’s terminal. I could see on his face he was very concerned. He would call me ever so often to see how I was. One time I told him I was nervous about how I was going to die and he told me something that still helps me till this day. 'Fuck it, man - life itself is a terminal illness!'

"The best time I ever had was at ELP’s last show at the High Voltage Festival in London on July 25, 2010. A friend of mine and I got them a cake with figures of them playing their instruments. They loved it. All four of us stood behind the cake for a photo, which would become the last photo of them all together. I knew they would never play again, and my eyes got a little watery. Thank you Keith for raising the bar to an untouchable level."

CJ Vanston

"It was backstage at Royal Albert Hall in 1992. We [Spinal Tap] were all getting spandexed up for our show when the manager came in and said, 'Some keyboard player wants to sit in'. I asked if she had gotten their name. 'Ummm... Keith something.' I froze. 'K... Keith Em… Emerson?' I asked warily. 'Yeah, that’s it,' the manager replied unknowingly. I braced myself, and five minutes later in walked THE MAN, looking like James f*&^ing Bond. Little did I know, but that was the beginning of what would become a long friendship.

"His almost childlike sense of wacky humour jibed with my Dennis the Menace-like attitude. Somehow I discovered that Keith was into airplanes. Well, I’ve been an aviation buff since I was a kid. We started talking about planes, and the stories of the brave pilots that flew the Spitfires and P-51s, and I saw another side of Keith.

"It got deeper. One time I visited him at a studio and I started playing Strange Meadowlark by Dave Brubeck. Suddenly he came sprinting around the corner yelling 'THAT’S BRUBECK!' Yep, both huge fans. We also loved the songs and the stories of Jimmy Van Heusen. Jimmy was secretly a test pilot for Lockheed, by the way. I used to leave Keith messages late at night, playing different Van Heusen songs like Darn That Dream. He loved that stuff.

"We even shared a little fetish for writing pencils and erasers. We both carried pencil boxes with different drafting and drawing pencils for writing charts/scores/notes. One of his erasers was in the shape of an ear. It was his EAR-ASER. Says it all. 

"The kicker for me was reading his book, Pictures of an Exhibitionist. This amazing man, on top of being the god of the keyboards and one of the greatest composers of the last 100 years, could write his ASS off! His book has a beautiful arc to it, like a great composition. I called and told him 'I read your book…and I HATE YOU! You’re good at EVERYTHING!' 

"The juxtaposition of the most fearsome keyboard player and showman ever to strike the keys, combined with the incredible thousand-year-old yet futuristic (and underrated) composer that he was was perfectly balanced by his impish sense of humour and love of laughter. That’s who Keith was to me. And I think that balance is a huge part of why he was one of the most incredible musicians who ever lived. He LIVED life. As he wrote to me on his 66th birthday: “66… er… 99… 66… 99… still on the spinning piano of life...”

Aaron Emerson (son)

"Keith Emerson, my dad, was a talented composer. He loved jazz, classical and contemporary music, and music would always be played around the house, be it in Chiddingly or elsewhere over the years. Here are a couple of my favourite childhood memories:

"The first time I ever heard the John Williams track from Jaws was when Dad took me into the middle of the ocean to teach me to water ski. As I bobbed up and down, head just above the waves, he decided to play the theme music off the back of the boat! '****,' I screamed! But Dad had already slammed the boat into gear and we were off!

"The earliest memory I have of ELP is from the Olympic Stadium in Montreal. I must have been around seven years old. As we were leaving the concert in what I remember was quite a big car, from out of nowhere strange faces ran towards us and started banging on the car windows and screaming. My first thoughts were, 'Dad - you really must’ve sucked tonight!' to which he replied, 'No, Aaron, everything is OK, this is how they are showing their appreciation!'

"It’s a funny thing to see at seven years old; I wish I was a little older then, or could go back in time to live it how he lived it. Carl, Greg and my Dad had a magical bond. They are, and always will be, my extended family.”

Jeffrey Biegel (pianist, composer)

"As a classically trained pianist, it took me until my 40th birthday to be exposed to Keith’s piano concerto in 2001, and I fell in love with it instantly. Keith inspired me to go ‘out of the box’ and fearlessly offer it to orchestras, pairing his concerto with works by Liszt and Chopin.

"Seeing him in the audiences for my performances was a gift. Those concerts surely gave him a sense of approval from classical orchestras, conductors and audiences, who rewarded him with tremendous ovations for his contributions to music. I miss my friend, and will keep his piano concerto out there for audiences to enjoy and remember him by.

"The one time I spent with him alone was at the piano in the hotel lobby in Kentucky, and when he asked me how I avoid tension in the hands and loose playing, I showed him the stretching exercises I do for the fingers and the loose and supple wrists to accomplish this void of tension. He was able to do them, and liked doing them. Of course, this came far too late in his life as a player, but he did enjoy that time with me. Here I was, showing the great Keith Emerson technical exercises. But it meant so much to me that he wanted to always learn more about his craft."

Ken Dashow (Radio personality, playwright)

"I am a keyboard player, and Keith and ELP opened my eyes and ears to so much. I saw them every time they came to New York. I’ve spent 35 years in rock radio so I had plenty of opportunity to play their music and to support the band. When I would meet him backstage I was surprised that he was so self-effacing and shy. I remember thanking him for the music and he replied, 'Was it OK; did you like it?' I’ve met so many rock stars and no one ever replied with such innocence and honesty. He would visit me at the radio station, or we’d dine together and he always wanted to know what I was listening to, and we’d discuss classical, rock, jazz… he loved and lived music. He was never really into the music business, only the music.”

Geoff Downes (The Buggles, Asia, Yes)

"Keith was the main influence in getting me started playing keyboards in a rock/prog context. I saw the Isle Of Wight festival in 1969 and I was just blown away. Not just his musicality but his showmanship as well. There’s never been another like him since then. 

"I first got to meet him in 1989 when a bunch of musicians got together to help raise money for the victims of the Armenian earthquake. We did a remake of Smoke On The Water with Roger Taylor on drums, Chris Squire on bass, Keith and I on keyboards, and a whole host of guitar players (Ritchie Blackmore, Tony Iommi, David Gilmour, Brian May, Alex Lifeson), and vocalists (Ian Gillian, Bryan Adams, Bruce Dickinson, and Paul Rodgers). I was co-producer on the session, and it did quite well, raising a lot of money to support the victims. We got along quite well and had some fun during the breaks. Somewhere there’s a video clip of Keith and I jamming, four hands on one piano - that was a lot of fun.

"Keyboard players rarely get to share the stage with each other, so we didn’t get to work together much beyond that. Obviously, I worked a lot with his mates; with Carl Palmer in Asia and I did a record with Greg Lake. I would see Keith often whenever one of my tours with Asia or Yes came to LA, and he would always show up, and he had more people around him than anyone in the band did! 

I went to his funeral; Rick Wakeman was there and said to me, 'Why don’t we celebrate people’s lives when they’re still alive?' Indeed, why don’t we?"

Keith Wechsler (Producer/engineer/programmer - ELP and Keith Emerson Band)

"Late one night, after a very gruelling series of KEB shows, I remember dragging my butt to our hotel where I was hoping to get maybe three hours of sleep before travelling to the next gig. It was a particularly nice hotel in a great part of Italy. As I crossed the tiled courtyard toward the magnificent hotel entrance, I heard my name called and looked up in time to see Emo’s naked backside hanging out of a second floor window!

"When we were recording the Ocean Born Mary Suite, Keith had a great name for a part of the Finale where the ascending chord progression naturally circles back before repeating. The part (about one minute into the song) is called the 'Escher' bit.

"Emo’s insistence on pushing the envelope until the rollercoaster wheels are nearly coming off the rails made his music exhilarating, and his silly humour kept us doubled up almost to tears. I miss my friend!"

David Woodford (childhood friend, documentary producer)

"Keith and I went to what you would call elementary school together. He came from humble beginnings; his family never had much money. His father worked for the post office as a telephone engineer. His Mom worked some part-time jobs; I remember she was a cook at a local school. Lovely lady. She and Keith were very close. I remember Keith used to bring his first Hammond back home after a gig, and she would polish it up before he took it out again.

"When we were at school we had a music master, a Welshman, I think his name was Morton. He used to teach music classes, exposing us to classical music, which we weren’t very fond of. He got to hear Keith play and he used to give Keith 10-15 minutes to play for the class. Keith would entertain us playing some boogie-woogie and things like that. Now we knew what he was really up to: he used to keep a flask in his hip pocket, and he would sneak off to have a few drinks while Keith played!"