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Wednesday, August 31, 2022


(Above: Will Wallace. Pic by Harry Lock)

Well-known Durban musician Richard Haslop pays tribute to a special friend and colleague:

One of my favourite memories of the various Durban blues festivals I attended was seeing the looks of surprise on the faces of a number of hot shot guitarists from Johannesburg, Cape Town and sometimes even further afield when they first saw Will Wallace play. They reminded me of my own initial reaction to the considerable ability of an unassuming, even self-effacing man who would become one of my closest friends.

In 1986, Robert van der Linde and I were playing at the recently revived Durban Folk Club when Robert suggested to me that we should form another band and that we should get Will, whom I had not met, to play guitar.

“Will Wallace?”, I asked. “You mean the guy who sings that high harmony Crosby, Stills & Nash stuff with Fiona Tozer and Dave Atkinson?” I knew that Will also played neat little guitar fills in Odyssey, and that they were pretty good at what they did, but that really wasn’t the kind of band I had in mind and, having already played in a few aggregations with Robert for about a decade, I was surprised that it could be what he was thinking of. “Don’t worry,” he said. “He can really play.”

Robert had organised us a gig at Pieces of Eight in Overport City with Vic Schulze on bass and said he’d ask Will to come along. Will told me years later that he understood Robert to mean that he should come along and play along on a few unrehearsed tunes, so he arrived when we were already playing, joined in for a bit and, at the end of the first set, he unplugged his guitar and was about to leave when Robert asked him where he was going … we still had a couple more sets to play.

(Left: Will Wallace. Pic by Harry Lock)

And so Bobby & the Dynamites was born, eventually morphing from a country-rock orientated bar band into a blues group, which was where Will truly came into his own, in time becoming a fixture at Zack’s on Wilson’s Wharf and at blues festivals, keeping the band going long after the other three original members had left, and even running another outfit, Will’s Blues Band, alongside for a while where he would exercise his own compositions and vocal chops that were impressive enough for him to have been, for a short time, one of Syd Kitchen’s Kitchenettes.

Having quickly shed every vestige of my original doubt, I continued to play with Will on a regular basis, sometimes in our acoustic blues band Formerly Slim but often just as a duo, for the next 36 years – right up until his death, in fact - and his ability to play exactly the right thing in exactly the right place, all with the very minimum of flourish or fuss, continued to influence and inspire my own playing to the end.

For several years, Will managed a stage at the Splashy Fen festival that was always interesting despite its limited budget, but it was as the musical heart of the committee of the Durban International Blues Festival that his organisational skills blossomed as, in addition to South Africa’s blues best, Durban audiences were treated, annually for a decade and a half, to the internationally acclaimed likes of Phillip Walker, Jimmy D Lane, Toronzo Cannon, Fiona Boyes, Liz Mandeville, Vasti Jackson and many others, and, playing with many of them at some point in the festivals, Will would always hold his own.

During what now still seems impossible to have been the last few months of his life Will would come round on a weekly basis, usually on a Thursday evening, and we would play for a couple of hours before settling down to tea and coffee and whatever was on TV’s cricket channel.

Although Will could never have safely been described as a fan, he did indulge this obsession of mine and it may not be generally known that he once took Stephen Stills and Graham Nash to a cricket match at Kingsmead. While he soaked up the delights of the IPL, the Blast or whatever was going on in the West Indies, we chatted. For hours. About guitars for sure, but he also told me, in his quiet, understated and often very funny way, about his Zimbabwean upbringing, his earliest bands, his ongoing passion for fishing – this despite the fact that a rogue wave had recently overturned his boat, causing him to swim to shore – his travels in India, Sri Lanka and Madagascar as an expert spice-buyer, and the difficulties of living with a deteriorating renal condition.

Will was a wonderful cook and, since I was on my way to Italy soon for a couple of weeks’ holiday, he wanted me to take photos of the menus to give him some culinary ideas. He was horrified, but not exactly surprised, to hear that I’d probably be mostly eating fast food.

In the Lombardy countryside, I heard from his beloved partner Philippa that he was gravely ill. We talked about the difference between wishing and hoping for a positive outcome. I was doing both. Praying, too. We all were. When I arrived in Milan, I received the devastating news that he had just died.

I don’t know if praying ever does any good to anyone but the prayer and, when asked by his Facebook page for his views on religion, Will once wrote that he could see a particular church from his house, but I do know one thing for certain, and that’s that people like Will Wallace don’t cross our paths often enough.

Richard Haslop


There will be a memorial concert in memory of Will Wallace from 11h00 to 16h00 on Sunday, September 11, 2022, at Platzz Gastro Pub, 40 Old Main Road, Hillcrest (behind the shopping centre)