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35) Jimmy 
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Saturday, 18 July 2009 09:37 Host: Write a comment

I met Matthew in Newcastle upon Tyne in the late 1970's; he was busking on Northumberland Street in the midst of a heavy downfall of snow. Freezing, it was. We invited him to our local and he came along. I've never seen a man put pints away so quickly.

Over the next few years Matthew would just turn up in the city and busk. He occasionally joined me and my band on Sunday mornings. They were wild times, and he seemed to be enjoying himself. He used to give me Sunday morning sax lessons in return for bed and board.

In the early 1980's my work took me to London and I didn't see Matthew again until around '87, by which time he was unwell, though I didn't know it and he never mentioned it. We met in a pub in Primrose Hill, and Matthew was with his wife. It was a strange old evening, as my life had changed entirely and I'd also stopped drinking.

I learned of his passing totally by accident; stuck on a long train journey I bought a Telegraph (the only paper available) and his obituary was in there. It was only then I learned of his other life as a jazz virtuoso. He'd never once mentioned it.

I still have the picture of him and the copper he sent us one Christmas.

Matthew was a lovely man with a huge appetite for life. Our world's diminished by his not being here still. Isn't it about time someone organized a decent documentary about his life?
34) JNC 
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Friday, 2 January 2009 20:05 IP: Write a comment

I have just spent a nostalgic 3 hours on New Year's Day morning reading and listening to the content on your site about my old friend Matthew Coe. This brought back some fantastic memories but I knew Matthew as a caver - and sometime speleological anarchist - before he drifted off to become a justly famous musician. I could tell you all sorts of stories about Matthew's early life (and I could no doubt find many other old friends who could elaborate). Here are a few snippets which you may or may not be aware of.

The "Slingsby" part of Matthew's pseudonym was inspired by another Yorkshireman William Cecil Slingsby (pictured left), who died in 1929 and had also been brought up near Skipton. WCS was most famous as a mountaineer but was also a caver. He was one of the earliest members of the prestigeous Yorkshire Ramblers Club and as such was one of the early "gentleman potholers". The Yorkshire Ramblers Club Journal has been published for well over a Century and remains a classic of British speleological literature. It contains marvellous accounts of the first descents of major yorkshire potholes, often accompanied by photographs of these pioneers dressed in the clothing of the time. Matthew's own caving attire was often based on photographs of gentleman potholers like Slingsby but usually assembled after rummaging through skips for assorted rags. WCS and "Xero Slingsby" really represented the two extremes of the English social spectrum, yet the latter had huge respect for the former. It is said that Cecil Slingsby's dying words (after watching a cricket match from his death bed) were "Well played, well played, my boy!". I'm sure that if Cecil had ever heard Xero's skill with the saxophone he'd have said exactly the same thing.

Even in Matthew's caving days he showed great musical talent. He had the reputation of being able to pick up any instrument, fiddle with it for a few minutes, then play it like a virtuoso. It is said that, despite having no formal entry qualifications, he got into musical college solely on the strength of playing his tin whistle at interview.

I once remember being in a small crowd of potholers which gathered outside Matthew's "tent" (actually an old cast off lorry tarpaulin held up with sticks). Matthew had a bit of a reputaion for unusual culinary techniques but that day we were to be treated to something a bit special. He had a huge old brown enamel pan (recovered from a skip, obviously) on his paraffin stove and was "building" a curry. Preparation was simple - the onion was "chopped" by bashing it with a piton hammer on a flat stone. The resulting slurry (complete with onion skin) went straight into the pan. The carrot was simply broken in half. The whole contents of a tub of curry powder went in next, followed by a large quantity of chillies (also "chopped" with the piton hammer) - and so it went on. After stirring the pan with his tin whistle he then calmly picked up a guitar and give everyone his version of a Hendrix classic, inspired by the curry and completely made up on the spot, along the lines of "Wild thing . . . . you make my ring sting!"

We still miss him.


33) Corona Smith
The North
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Wednesday, 26 March 2008 10:54 Host: adsl-213-249-237-190.karoo.KCOM.COM Write a comment Send E-mail

Hello, as promised here is a story told to me by my Dad in Armley this weekend...

Warning: Contains references to drug taking.

One night many moons ago my Dad was in the Royal park pub, tripping. Mathew approached him and enquired wether he had any LSD. As it happens he did, Matthew took one and my Dad took another for good measure. Half an hour later and as the pub was kicking out, the LSD was kicking in. "I'm off into town, are you coming?" says Matthew. "Okay".

Strolling into town, the LSD coming on strong, the two trippers amble their way, as they approach the University they notice a Police car approaching, slowly, deliberately. "Uh oh!", gotta try and keep a straight face, act normal, etc.

Sure enough, and with uncanny inevitability, the Police car pulls up beside them. "Alright Xero?" asks one of the scuffers, "Where you off to?".

"Just into town." Matthew responds, my Dad is finding it very difficult to act normal under the circumstances and unease sets in.

"Jump in Lads, we'll give you a lift." Say the police. Who could resist such an invitation? The two trippers climb into the back seat.

The police car accelerates away at breakneck speed, the police switch on the lights, sirens, and hurtle round the inner ring road like the clappers, swerving through traffic. Eventually delivering the two dazed trippers to their desired location.

"There you go lads, have a good night".

As the police sped on their merry way, I am sure the phrase "Fuckinell!" was utilised.
32) gary Don
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Saturday, 6 October 2007 02:25 Host: Write a comment Send E-mail

Mathew will always be remembered by every one who ever met him at Vivas Wine Bar. The music lives on
31) Denis Dalby
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Saturday, 18 August 2007 19:09 Host: Write a comment Send E-mail

OK, this is them, in relaxed mood.
30) Els Van Eeckhaut
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Thursday, 19 July 2007 04:24 Host: Write a comment Send E-mail

And no, the humble city of Gent is not about to forget Xero Slingsby. Well..not as long as I am around. Thank you, Solomon, for keeping the spirit alive. For intresting, special, unusual things about Gent, you can visit
I edit on this great weblog under the name of "eve".

Thanks again (the pic, that's me and my kid)
29) solomon robson
somewhere over the rainbow
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Monday, 25 June 2007 22:31 Host: Write a comment Send E-mail

here's a photo of a very young matthew down a pothole, courtesy carol
28) Carol Whalley
Meanwood, Leeds.UK
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Thursday, 24 May 2007 21:46 Host: Write a comment Send E-mail

Matthew almost lived in our tiny flat in the Mid 70's.
He was only about 19 yrs old then, but quite mad.
My present husband has known Matthew since birth: we used to go sailing on his Dad's yacht. You wouldn't expect his Dad to have a yacht would you? It was a large catamaran and we sailed it off Kirkcudbright in Scotland.
He used to call me and my X husband 'Teddy and Dolly' or sometimes 'The Tringhams'.
We had a sort of roving Folk Band: David (Teddy) would hire a van and we would chuck an old mattress in the back, fling in the instruments, fill it full of pals and end up God knows where.
We never stopped laughing:I can still see Matthew's demonic leer. He played the boran and penny whistle in those days, this was before he went to the Music College that he disliked so much. His music came from within. Everything he touched he could play. I remember him wanting to play my husbands double bass. He was like a natural, even though he had never played one before.
Carol Whalley.
27) Ralf Menken
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Friday, 20 April 2007 05:31 Host: Write a comment Send E-mail

Hey you,

what is it all about, back your pardon, my English isn't very well.
I did't hear about Xero for a long time, I met him, Louis aund Gene nearly 20 years ago, when they played in an pub in Oberammergau, I have seen them three or four times and it was a grat moment in my career as one of the audience, and I've seen a lot of bands.
Now I was searching for the CD, cause I've only this album on venyl and now I found this side, so what ist your story?

Greartings Ralf
26) Solomon Robson
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Tuesday, 26 December 2006 00:00 IP: Write a comment Send E-mail

i'd forgotten this one till seeing an entry on the leeds jazz forum about hecklers....
when we booked xero slingsby and the works to play the leeds uni bar, it was a regular wednesday night gig...only trouble being that there were always circles of drunk rugby players on the piss after that arvo's game.
inevitably, they would fail to grasp the complexities of xero's tunes and as the night wore on they would become louder and ever more insulting. after copping it for a while eventually xero put down his saxophone on it's stand, mid-tune and while louis and gene kept playing, he walked over to the table of twenty or so drunk rugby players and offered the lot of em outside if they couldn't shut the fuck up....of course we ushered him back on stage and the gig continued - though the hecklers discovered a newfound respect for someone who actually had the temerity to stand up to them.
a few weeks later and they were recognising the tunes and having a great time....xero was having a piss in the interval one night and heard a slurred voice beside him at the urinal.
" you know you're fucking amazing mate " and xero was amazed to see the main culprit from that first week - the big beefy guy with whom he had very nearly come to blows.
" you know you're pissing on your shoes " replied xero, quick as a flash, as always.
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