Honorary Graduates 2011 no.8 - Jon Lord
The city of Leicester has a long history of great popular music. Kasabian! Showaddywaddy! Erm... Engelbert Humperdick! And a local lad who grew up to become one of rock’s top keyboard musicians.
Jon Lord was born in Leicester in 1941 and was educated at Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys (now Wyggeston and Queen Elizabeth I College) right next door to the University. Moving to London at 19, he started performing with jazz bands and rhythm and blues groups, acquiring his first electric organ in 1963.
He was a member of the Artwoods, a very popular live act, and served with several other top beat combos before co-founding Deep Purple in 1968. During his eight years with the band, Lord’s Hammond organ riffs underpinned many great songs including the classic ‘Smoke on the Water’.
He also took the band in a classical direction by composing a major work, ‘Concerto for Group and Orchestra’, first performed in 1969 with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Malcolm Arnold (who received an Honorary Degree from the University of Leicester in 1984).
After a brief spell as one third of Paice, Ashton and Lord, he played with Whitesnake between 1978 and 1984 then rejoined a new line-up of Deep Purple where he stayed until retiring in 2002 to concentrate on solo work. Throughout his career in rock, Jon Lord has continued a parallel career in classical music, recording and performing his own compositions. He recently turned 70 and has been working on the first ever studio recording of ‘Concerto for Group and Orchestra’.
The last time Jon Lord visited the University of Leicester was 41 years ago when Deep Purple played at the Students’ Union on 7 February 1970.