A KIDDERMINSTER musician who reached the top of the US music charts before The Beatles has died.

Roger LaVern, born Roger Jackson, played keyboard for The Tornados in the 1962 instrumental hit Telstar.

He died last Saturday aged 75 after a two-year battle with prostate cancer.

His wife Maria Jackson said: “We, his wife, his children Sebastian and Trinia and his extended family give thanks to the Lord for his life and will always love him and miss him.

“He will always carry on living in our hearts and in our minds. He was a lovely, kind, caring person.”

Last year marked 50 years since Telstar, written by music producer Joe Meek, topped the US and British charts.

Telstar was a communications satellite launched into orbit on July 10, 1962 and the track was written to appeal to the public’s fascination with space travel.

Mr LaVern spoke to The Shuttle in September last year to mark the anniversary. He said: “Quite frankly, I thought it sounded like Mickey Mouse music. But when the fame started, I got to like it. It went to number one all over the world.”

Mr LaVern grew up in Kidderminster and had a life of privilege until his father shot and killed an actress in 1948.

His father, George Jackson, owned a chocolate factory in Birmingham and dabbled in showbusiness at Birmingham Hippodrome, where he met many stars of the day.

By the age of nine, Mr LaVern had eaten dinner with Hollywood legends Laurel and Hardy and comedy actor and singer George Formby had stayed at his house.

He left Kidderminster to attend a boarding school in London, which he hated. He claimed his father’s crime ruined his childhood.

After a time in the Elite Household Cavalry Regiment and at William Hill Carpets in Kidderminster, Mr LaVern moved to London in 1961 to seek fame and fortune.

He met Joe Meek in May 1962 and enjoyed success in The Tornados but left due to not being paid for his work. He later moved to Mexico and starred in films and television.

Despite battling his own health problems including two bouts of cancer, Mr LaVern raised thousands of pounds for charity and was given a lifetime achievement award by the Star Foundation for 46 years of fund-raising.

He told The Shuttle last year: “I’ve been a good boy and a bad boy.

“I pride myself on never having taken a drug. I had girls, scotch and cognac instead.”

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