Roy Carr 1945 – 2018


Doyen of the music press for half a century and a highly-valued and much-loved writer for Jazzwise for the past 14 years, Roy Carr died from a heart attack in hospital in the early hours of 1 July 2018 aged 73. Born in Blackpool in 1945, Roy's father Tony Carr was a musician with connections to the big-band scene and wrote the hit big-band instrumental 'March of the Mods' for the Joe Loss Orchestra in 1964. The tune was also used as a TV theme and covered by Roy's R&B group, The Executives, who released a number of singles for both EMI/Columbia and CBS between 1964 and 1969, including the highly collectable 'Tracy Took A Trip', banned by BBC Radio One in 1968.

An ardent jazz fan, Roy had started writing reviews for Jazz News in the early 1960s and continued freelance writing again in the late 1960s for the NME, joining as a staff writer in 1970. He built a reputation as a clued-up scribe whose insider knowledge of the music business as a gigging musician gave him a certain edge as the paper became the go-to music weekly. He was part of the core team that relaunched NME in 1972 as a serious music weekly under the editorship of Alan Smith and subsequently Nick Logan to reflect the counter-cultural driven change in music and the influence of the more in-depth Melody Maker, Sounds and the then UK underground press, such as IT and Friends. It was a giant leap away from NME's previous lightweight pop panderings and soon it was selling over 200,000 copies a week with a readership of a million and top line writers such as Nick Kent, Charles Shaar Murray and Ian MacDonald.

As Carr's reputation as an incisive writer with a dry, mischievous sense of humour rose he landed a gossip column, Hello Sailor, as well as big name interviews with names such as John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and David Bowie. Roy compiled NME's flexi-discs and compilation tapes that were hugely popular with its readership, and, in addition to becoming a prolific album liner-note writer across jazz, rock and soundtracks, he authored books on The Beatles and Rolling Stones in The Illustrated Record Series, as well as acclaimed jazz titles, The Hip: Hipsters, Jazz and The Beat Generation and A Century of Jazz. Roy was eventually moved upstairs to become executive editor at IPC of NME, Melody Maker and Vox, the forerunner to Uncut.

Roy was one of the longest serving staff on what is now known as the 'golden days' of the UK music press from 1963 until the late 1990s, when its huge influence and reach stretched worldwide. With NME's weekly sales now a shadow of its former self and MM and Sounds closed, he viewed the way it had cheapened its approach, ditching editorial depth and credibility for pop frivolity, with a mix of sadness and anger. He retired from IPC in the mid-2000s aged 65 and took up my offer as a freelance reviewer on Jazzwise in September 2004, where he returned to his first love, jazz writing, with a discographer's eye for detail and sharp recall of decades of interviews and barroom chats with everyone from Miles Davis and Chet Baker to Art Blakey and Jimi Hendrix.

I'd known Roy since I worked on Sounds music paper and last spoke to him four days before he died. He was in hospital awaiting an angioplasty following a minor heart attack a day earlier. "I'm alright", he said with a wry chuckle in his voice. "They'll probably fit a stent and I'll be out in a few days. Send me the next batch of album reviews, but no Chet Baker releases." A reference to the sheer avalanche of Baker reissues and inferior compilations rather than 'Mis'Tah Chet' himself, who Roy absolutely loved.

Our thoughts are with Roy's wife and family. We shall miss him madly.

Jon Newey