Ronnie Verrell

Ronnie Verrell, born Ronald Thomas Verrell on February 21, 1926 in Rochester, Kent, England, was an English jazz drummer best known for his drumming for The Muppet Show's Animal. Verrell played in two of the UK's most famous big bands; The Ted Heath Orchestra (1951-1964) and The Syd Lawrence Orchestra. He also worked extensively in television, playing drums for Jack Parnell's ATV Orchestra, Sunday Night at the London Palladium, and was a "Skinnerette" on The Frank Skinner Show.

Verrell was essentially a self-taught drummer having taken only one drum lesson.

In 1940, the 14-year-old Verrel made his first public appearances drumming with local bands in the Porthcawl in South Wales area after the outbreak of World War II. At the age of 17 he returned to Kent and worked professionally (for a short time) with the Claude Giddins band before being enlisted to work as a Bevin Boy in the coal mines throughout the remainder of the war.

After the war, Verrell began performing with Scottish saxophonist, Tommy Whittle, and Belgian trumpeter, Johnny Claes. He also played with several big bands from 1947 to 1951 — bands led by Carl Barriteau and Cyril Stapleton. In September 1951, Verrell joined the leading British big band of the day, The Ted Heath Orchestra, taking over the drum chair for Jack Parnell who left for other musical pursuits. The band was the first British big band to break into the US big band arena, touring the USA in 1956. Verrell played on many Ted Heath hits, including "The Champ", "Hot Toddy" and "Swingin' Shepherd Blues". One of his best known drum solos with the orchestra was the "Hawaiian War Chant". Verrell remained with Heath until the bandleader's retirement in 1964.

After leaving Heath's band Verrell begain focusing on session work, backing such artists as Winifred Atwell, Tony Bennett, Jack Jones, Tom Jones and Strawbs. Verrell went on to play drums with Jack Parnell’s house band at ATV (Associated Television) for ten years, and in 1980, joined Syd Lawrence's band where he remained for almost 20 years.

Ronnie Verrell died on February 22, 2002 in Kingston-upon-Thames in England, one day after his 76th birthday.

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