HUGELY respected New Orleans jazz musician Roy Kirby has died aged 68 following an illness.

The Stroud-based banjo and guitar player, whose self named group The Roy Kirby Paragon Jazz Band entertained countless fans for decades, passed away at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital on Monday.

Formed in 1974 following Roy’s love of jazz, blues and skiffle music from an early age, the band plied their trade at top venues across Europe, including London’s 100 Club.

In 1989 the quartet turned professional, although Roy, who lived on Selsley Common, remained a carpenter and joiner by trade.

The group was known to have one the largest repertoires of tunes in the country and their smart appearance and exceptionally-high level of musicianship earned them billings at such events as Gatcombe horse trials, the Cheltenham Gold Cup and even Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond’s wedding.

Roy’s other great passions included wine making, fishing and motorcycles, which he used to race.

His funeral is expected to be held at Holy Trinity Church in Stroud, where he was a regular worshipper.

He is survived by his wife Sara, a son and a daughter from a previous marriage and four grandchildren.

See next week’s SNJ for a full tribute to Roy.