Robin Le Mesurier obituary

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My friend Robin Le Mesurier, who has died aged 68 from cancer, was a rock guitarist best known for his work with Sir Rod Stewart and the French actor and singer Johnny Hallyday.

The son of two of Britain’s most well-known actors, John Le Mesurier and Hattie Jacques, Robin described his 1960s childhood in his birthplace of Earl’s Court, London, as “charmed, bohemian but also chaotic”. Woken up in the middle of the night by the likes of Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers, as well as various jazz musicians jamming loudly in the house, didn’t seem out of the ordinary. “To me, visitors such as Kenneth Williams, Joan Sims and Harry Secombe were just friends and colleagues of Mum and Dad,” he said.

Schooldays were not his happiest: he attended Sussex House prep school in London, where he described himself as being “completely out of place”, and then Westminster City grammar school, where he was bullied for having a famous mother.

Given his first guitar at the age of nine, he cut his first single for EMI at the age of 16, and was then offered a place at the Royal College of Music. But the lure of rock’n’roll won out over classical music. His first band, Reign, opened for bands such as Genesis and the Kinks, and for a year in the 70s he became a Womble – until a drugs bust ended his career as the furry Wellington.

Robin’s next band, Air Supply, was booked as support for Rod Stewart’s US tour in 1977, and his guitar-playing made such an impression on Stewart that in 1981 he was asked to join his band – a move that led him to settle permanently in Los Angeles. “I’ve had many wonderful and creative guitarists in my band, but Robin was always just a cut above,” said Stewart. “He was a beautiful, soulful lead, driving rhythms like a locomotive, and an unforgettable stage presence.”

From 1994 Robin worked with Hallyday, becoming his musical director until Hallyday’s death in 2017. Robin was also a founder member, with Bernie Taupin and the guitarist Jim Cregan, of the band Farm Dogs.

I got to know Robin while working with him on his autobiography, and despite a history of rock’n’roll antics in which hotel rooms were trashed and copious amounts of drugs and drink were taken, he possessed a gentle, dry wit, and remained the sweetest and politest of men.

His good manners were instilled in him from an early age by his parents, and were there with him always. I was with Robin one day when we went to see Hallyday in Los Angeles. They had known each other for 20 years and described themselves as “brothers”. Yet when we arrived ten minutes before our appointed time, Robin insisted that we stay in the car as “it would be impolite to arrive early”.

Robin is survived by his wife, Jules, whom he married in 1999.

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