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As reported last week, an erstwhile member of Elton’s band has passed away.

Roger Pope was 66.

Just a year ago, the drummer was the subject of an Exclusive. The article appears below.

EJW: What was Elton like in the early days?

RP: He was an unassuming guy back then. He seemed to know what he wanted musically but needed some help making Empty Sky, so we pitched in. It was all new to me as well so I got a lot from working on that record.

I met Caleb Quaye with Elton for the first time around then, as well as Dave Glover, who was supposed to take part. But he didn’t, and instead Tony Murray took over on bass. Empty Sky got me working with Dave and Caleb and this marked the start of Hookfoot.

EJW: Had you always planned on going into music?

RP: I always wanted to be a musician and drums have always been a part of my life. When I left school, I wanted to play but got my first job in a men’s clothing shop, which I didn’t take seriously.

I was influenced by big band drummers but as my career progressed, I began to enjoy the music of the Stax and Tamla percussionists. You couldn’t ignore the Beatles and Stones as they hit the big time about two years before I started out. So musically, they were a huge inspiration.

EJW: What was your first group called?

RP: We were named the Countdowns. Although we were young and inexperienced, it was a lot of fun and a good grounding in the business. We were very loyal to each other so it was difficult when I was offered my first professional opportunity with the Soul Agents (who would have Rod Stewart as their first vocalist). I asked my dad what I should do, and his advice was ”move on.”

EJW: Have your musical preferences changed over the years?

RP: Yes, I even love opera! As you mature, your tastes differ, and certainly I was working with some of the best performers, and they influenced my preferences as well. They introduced me to a whole spectrum of music, and it was important as a session drummer, to stay open to the sounds.

EJW: Have you been in contact with your old EJ bandmates?

RP: I haven’t collaborated with Caleb since Hookfoot, Elton and Hall & Oates. He was – and still is – one of my oldest mates and we keep in touch. The same goes for Ray Cooper. Davey Johnstone keeps in touch but we haven’t played together since making our album with China. I’d love to collaborate with them again and with Elton, but circumstances and distance make that hard at the moment.

EJW: What projects have you been involved with recently?

RP: I’m playing drums for Georgie Cullum and working with Martyn Ford (the arranger on Elton’s Blue Moves album) on a new project called 20/20 Vision on a film soundtrack. I’m also assisting Aron Fisk, a young producer, with his record label and studio just outside Southampton. I am very keen to help youngsters in the business and Aron is a future Gus Dudgeon.

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