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Memorable Manitobans: William Charles “Diz” Disley (1931-2010)

Musician, artist, eccentric.

Born at Winnipeg on 27 May 1931 of Welsh immigrant parents, his family returned to Great Britain where they lived successively in Wales and Yorkshire. He attended the Leeds College of Art where he also became active in the local music community, playing the trumpet, saxophone, and banjo. He moved to London in 1953 where he became known for his “built-in anti-success mechanism” and “his conversational directness and delight in the idiosyncrasies of others.” During the 1960s and 1970, he became a popular performer at British folk music shows. He hosted a weekly radio program called “Guitar Club” and introduced The Beatles at their first London concert. He had a parallel career as an illustrator and cartoonist, producing album covers, posters, and music ads, with his work appearing in such publications as The Spectator, Radio Times, and Melody Maker. He ran a bar and jazz club in Spain during the late 1980s then returned to Britain and continued to tour until a heart attack and progressive dementia led him to stop. As folk clubs declined in the 1980s, he made fewer public performances but recorded an album in 1999. Disley was famed for always having a bottle of brandy with him, explaining that “I always carry brandy in case I am bitten by a snake ... which I also carry.” He died, unmarried, on 22 March 2010.

Sources:

Obituary, The Guardian, 15 April 2010.

We thank Keith Jones for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 3 June 2014

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society.

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