Len Williams ~ Guitarist
With the opening of the Spanish Guitar Centre in 1952, Len Williams established not only a legitimate School for Classic Guitar Tuition, but a Mecca for all London and visiting Guitarists as well”. and so it proves to be – there is always something going on at the Centre – Guitar enthusiasts from around the world dropping in on their way through London. Players like David Russell, Hucky Eichelmann, Ben Verdery & John Mills are often to be seen. It is a great tribute to Len Williams whose foresight in creating the Centre some 70 years ago has been thoroughly justified.
John Wilson Duarte published a Guitar Composition in the New York quarterly Guitar Review and thus already had a considerable reputation when, during a visit to a Music Shop, he met Len Williams, who was already established as a leading Teacher of the Guitar. Williams, returning from Australia in the early 1950s and seeking to enlarge the musical education of his talented young son John, persuaded Duarte to give up his career in Science and move to London, which he did in the early 1950s. Duarte taught at the Spanish Guitar Centre, which Len Williams had founded. his son John Williams, already hailed as a young virtuoso of outstanding talent, acknowledged the early influence of Duarte by including his transcriptions of Bach (2 of the Cello Suites) in his 1st Recordings, along with Variations on a Catalan Folk Song Op 25, one of the most enduring and most recorded of Duarte’s Compositions.
29th March 1948 : Empire Theatre, Wood Green QHCF Engaged for a week.
It transpires that Louis Gallo and friend, Len Williams (father of Classical Guitar Giant, John) were set to interview the great Gypsy backstage after the Hot Club’s Performance at the Wood Green Empire, London in the 1940s for a review. (Len is seen here without his later beard. John is a close likeness). Len was Editor of the Guitar Periodical Modern Guitar and later Fretted Harmony Magazine. However, as was the tendency in those days, whilst the Performers were receiving their Tumultuous Applause at the end of a fantastic display of Virtuosity, Audience members would start to leave the Theatre in order to ensure they caught the bus home! Transport was very different in those days. Django, who was used to a level of adulation normally afforded a Prince, noticed that certain Audience members were leaving the Theatre before he had left the Stage, becoming incensed! How dare they! He was not amused and took this ‘insult’ very personally indeed. Our 2 Intrepid Reporters, having noticed this from their Seats eagerly but nervously made their way to the Master’s Dressing Room, aware to some extent of Django’s displeasure. Len as Magazine Editor went on ahead. Django was in no mood to be interviewed, full stop. The tantalising piece here though is that Louis Gallo could closely see his Hero through the open Dressing Room Door, almost within touching distance, but would never meet him! A memory of regretful proportions!
Denny Wright’s 1st Guitar was an Epiphone at age 8, sold to him by Len Williams father of John Williams.
Leonard’s Monkey Sanctuary
In the 1950s Leonard Williams, who had for some time been a keen visitor to zoos, had his first meeting with a woolly monkey, which left a deep and lasting impression on him. Some years later, in the midst of a busy life as a musician and head of the Spanish Guitar School in London, Len and his wife, June, began to keep woolly monkeys as pets in their home in Chislehurst, after being bequeathed one in a will. Len’s approach to understanding the monkeys was instinctive and he quickly realised that the key to the monkeys’ welfare was to allow them the space and freedom to develop their natural social behaviour. He watched and related to them with sensitivity and respect, learned their language and gestures, and treated each one as an individual. The original five monkeys (Liz, Samba, Lulu, Jimmy and Pepi) lived in large outdoor enclosures connected to an indoor monkey room. They had human stimulation and care but most importantly, they had the social life of a group.
The move to Murrayton
By 1964 the needs of the Colony had grown and the Williams Family & Keeper, Sue Rickard, abandoned London for the Cornish Countryside. At Murrayton House, Looe, Cornwall, large indoor rooms were converted for monkeys and an outdoor enclosure built, connected to 2 magnificent beech trees by a tower & ropes. The monkeys still enjoyed sharing the human areas, but socially they were becoming less reliant on humans. Len began to appeal to pet owners and zoos to give their monkeys to the Sanctuary in order to let them have a chance of a more fulfilled life, and thus a number of ex-pet & zoo monkeys joined the group in the early years.