Douglas Reeve, 1918-1999
Following the onset of a serious illness earlier in 1999, Douglas Reeve known as Mr. Brighton to many, has died.
Douglas was born in The Lanes in Brighton and was 'discovered' in 1932 at the tender age of 14 by the then BBC staff organist, Reginald Foort. Douglas was quickly engaged to play in cinemas, and gave his first public performance at the Regent, Brighton, where he was billed as the 'Wonder Boy Organist', having taken lessons from Terance Casey. At 16, Douglas became resident at the Regal and Orpheum cinemas in Golder's Green. He was organist at the Regal and played for variety shows at the Orpheum. He gave his first broadcast in 1937 from the BBC Compton. During the second world war, he was invalided out of the army and went on to play the Hill, Norman & Beard dual purpose concert organ, at The Dome, Brighton. This was also the venue for his 'Tuesday Night at the Dome shows, which ran for over 1600 performances, which earned them a place in the Guiness Book of Records.
Douglas was instantly recognisable by his signature tune 'Pack Up Your Troubles', which he started using during the War with great effect to cheer up the masses. He even continued to play at the Dome during air raids, and was once known to continue his concert after a bomb landed on the lawns of the nearby Pavilion.
Douglas eventually became manager of the Dome building, after which he became Brighton Borough Council's Assistant Resort Director in 1977 and retired in 1979. He continued to play at the Dome until the organ finally fell into general disuse, and he then went on to play concerts for clubs/societies around the country. He was also a past master at after dinner speaking, and regularly gave talks to local Rotary and other clubs. One of his sayings at concerts was "I am now going to play the organ, which I have been associated with for the past 140 years!" which always raised a titter, and in later years he would ask the audience to join in, stating that it would "make an old man very happy - if only I could find an old man!" Douglas was also President of the Cinema Organ Society for many years.
He described himself as an entertainer, and made many recordings both during and after the War. His repertoire was vast, but always with that light fingered orchestral touch, for which he was renowned. He lived in Woodingdean for many years, where he also had a WurliTzer electronic organ and a piano. He will be sadly missed, but remembered with fondness.
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