Passings: Roger LaVern of the Tornadoes (1938 - 2013)

Roger LaVern, the keyboard player for the Tornadoes of Telstar fame, died on Saturday, June 15 (some reports are saying Monday, June 17) from cancer. He was 74.

LaVern, who was born Roger Jackson, was not the first keyboardist for the Tornadoes. That honor would go to Norman Hale followed by Jimmy O'Brien; however, O'Brien left in 1962 and LaVern was brought in as a replacement. At the time, the Tornadoes were the backing band for British icon Billy Fury along with occasionally recording on the side. On July 10, 1962, the communications satellite known as Telstar was launched into orbit and the Tornadoes capitalized on the worldwide publicity by releasing an instrumental of the same name.

Telstar was written and produced by Joe Meek but it was LaVern's playing on the clavioline, an early version of a synthesizer that produced a distinct electronic sounding note, that gave the record its unique quality.

The record went to number 1 in both the U.S. and Britain, winning producer and writer Meek the Ivor Novello Award for Best Selling A-Side of 1962.

The also made a video for the song known as a Scopitone, which was intended for use in video jukeboxes, as they also did for their single Robot, which went to number 19 in the U.K. In between those hits, they had their only other top ten hit with Globetrotter (1963 / #5 U.K.).

Unfortunately for the group, the British invastion and the associated Mercy Beat was the end of the rock instrumental era and, by 1965, the original group was gone including LaVern.

Post the Tornadoes, LaVern lived Mexico where he starred in both television and films.

In 1975, LaVern and two other members of the group formed the Original Tornadoes to release a new version of Telstar.

LaVern, who was married eight times, is survived by his wife Maria and his children Sebastian and Trinia.

2 comments

Unknown said...

Roger was my first Husband. I adored him but it was not reciprocated!!!!
Unfortunately we only lasted for a few months but to this day, he was the love of my life.
RIP in Peace Roger, I was shocked to hear of your passing.
We had a lot of fun while it lasted!
God Bless You.
Nicki

Melinda M said...

He was certainly easy on the eyes. Love the song and I just fell for him watching the video for the umpteenth time. Only discovered all the background stuff about Meek and so forth just recently. Such an incredible story. It would be great to be close to such a man, even if for only a short time. Such is often the fate of those who fall in love with musicians (especially the devastatingly handsome ones) so you have to walk into it with open eyes. And when you're young, it's easier to move forward after it's all over, because you have so many years ahead of you. Nicki <3

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