Jazzman Jim started the Hogmanay party

James Young has died at the age of 84
James Young has died at the age of 84
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Tributes have been paid to jazz musician and businessman James Young following his death at the age of 64.

When Jim Young and his New Orleans-style marching band swaggered up Edinburgh’s High Street one New Year’s Eve, he inadvertently set off a chain of events that would lead to the world’s greatest Hogmanay celebrations.

They had just finished a gig and the night was yet young but at the time they attracted little attention, save for a policeman who the exuberant musicians feared was about to arrest them. Instead he held up his hand to stop the traffic and waved them over the North Bridge to the Trongate, the traditional gathering spot for those seeing in the New Year. After the Bells, the players led by Young, spontaneously marched down a deserted Princes Street.

That was in 1966 and the following year Young’s Auld Reekie Parade Band returned and did the same, this time to a smattering of friends. Undeterred, various musicians repeated the performance in subsequent years, gradually gathering more support from locals until the issue of the lack of a “proper” Scottish Hogmanay, complete with traditional pipes and drums, was raised.

The local authority became involved and the event became official, gaining momentum until it snowballed into the New Year extravaganza that attracts the eyes of the world annually.

Jim Young was always happy to take the credit as the catalyst for the phenomenon but it was just a snapshot in the life of a musician and businessman who, despite his Scots roots, began playing in a silver band in Canada.

The son of police sergeant David Young and his wife Jayne, he was born in Edinburgh and educated at James Gillespie’s Primary and Trinity Academy until the family emigrated to Canada in the 1940s. By the time he was a teenage schoolboy in Canada he was playing tuba and sousaphone and he continued playing when he joined the RAF after returning to Edinburgh for his national service.

He met banjo player Mike Hart who introduced him to the Edinburgh jazz scene and who would later create the Edinburgh International Jazz and Blues festival.

After completing his national service Young returned to the Capital and took up the string bass, playing in various bands including the Crescent City and Climax Jazz Bands.

Some years later he became part of Edinburgh’s New Orleans marching band tradition when he founded the Auld Reekie Parade Band. During the 1960s Young turned professional jazz player and founded his own business, Castle Catering Equipment, to supply and service catering equipment and in which he would eventually be joined by his son David.

Though the smoky atmosphere of Edinburgh pubs, coupled with an arthritic problem in his hands, had brought his playing days to a halt in the 1990s, his love of music endured and he continued to follow jazz, singing the odd jazz number whenever he got the chance.

He is survived by his wife Josephine, whom he married in 1988, his children David and Alison and five grandchildren.