Arthur Jerrom obituary

Other lives: Steel guitar player who toured with the great country singer Slim Whitman

My father-in-law, Arthur Jerrom, who has died aged 86, was Slim Whitman's favourite steel guitarist and played with the American country singer during the 1960s under the stage name Jerry West. Whitman sought Jerry's services as he could closely replicate on the steel the singer's voice and three-octave range. He toured with Whitman in Australia and New Zealand.

Jerry was in much demand from other performers as a country steel guitar player, backing such musical greats as Willie Nelson and Hank Locklin, as well as establishing his own successful band, Spinning Wheel. In the 50s and 60s he toured US airbases in Britain, developing a loyal following in Suffolk, where he played to packed audiences of homesick servicemen.

He was born in Shoreditch, east London, the youngest of six children of Henry Jerrom, a glass-blower, and Elizabeth Bradbury. At the outbreak of the second world war, Jerry was evacuated to Cornwall where he remained until, at 17, he joined the Royal Navy as a stoker, and was posted to a minesweeper based at Portsmouth. It was there he met his wife to be, Sylvie Childs. They married in 1951, after which Jerry returned to his naval duties. During a 12-month absence, Jerry witnessed the first British atomic test at Monte Bello island, from which, doctors later suggested, he developed skin cancer. He was awarded nominal compensation in 2011.

While at sea, Jerry practised on a lap steel guitar and discovered he had a talent for the instrument. On his discharge, Jerry joined the Tumbleweeds, whose bass player, Dave Peacock, was later to form one half of the duo Chas and Dave. He then began gigging with Rod Clarke and Terry Edwards, with whom he formed the band Spinning Wheel.

Sylvie and Jerry settled in London where Jerry supplemented his income by becoming a London cabbie. They had three children, Susan, Robert and Gaye, who proudly remember their father's performance at the London Palladium with Whitman in 1974. Throughout his life Jerry cherished his earliest steel guitar, which was eventually held together by elastic bands, paper clips and bits of string.

Jerry was an irrepressible practical joker who would go to great lengths to pull off an elaborate trick. Game for anything, even in his 60s he was willing to try hang-gliding, skiing and white water rafting, activities which generally ended in disaster but which had the family in fits of laughter.

He is survived by Sylvie and their children, seven grandchildren and a great-grandson.

Pete Wilkinson

The GuardianTramp

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