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Memories of two great Norwich characters

PUBLISHED: 13:38 03 November 2010

EN Cadillacs.jpg

EN Cadillacs.jpg

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Derek James pays tribute to Frank Zagni and Norman Guest.

This faded old picture taken at a rock concert in Norfolk of half a century ago is a reminder of two great city characters no longer with us.

On stage at the King’s Lynn Corn Exchange in 1959/60 are the city-based Cadillacs with drummer Frank Zagni and sitting in the little juke box to the side is promoter Norman Guest.

Both died earlier this year leaving a host of memories and last month some of Norman’s memorablia went under the auctioneer’s hammer.

Stormin’ Norman was a colourful character whose name was linked to all kinds of activities and I first met him many years ago when I was writing about cycle speedway.

He told me: “I served as a Lancaster bomber pilot during the Second World War and when I left the service I found cycle speedway teams established all over Norwich.”

He became ‘Mr Cycle Speedway’, forming the Earlham Arrows and becoming county chairman, national press officer, chairman of the rules committee and manager of the North of England team.

Norman was the founder of the Norwich Jazz Cellar Club, which met in the Orford Cellar before it turned to rock.

He was the manager and promotor of many of the bands which reformed for the Golden Years. He loved his music and the boys in the bands loved him.

And then there was petanque.

For more than 30 years he was the man who helped to develop the game in this neck of the woods and beyond and now it is estimated that more than 2,000 people love playing it in the region.

He was secretary of the Norwich Petanque Club and held a number of other leading positions. He was awarded life membership of the English Petanque Association and then the same honour with the Anglia Petanque Association.

Members of the petanque community loved Norman with a passion and they have asked me to pay a special tribute to him on their behalf. He will be missed by all. He was 89.

Frank Zagni was a member of a famous Norwich family and was at the beating heart of the birth of the beat boom.

He and his brothers Ivan and John were members of The Jailbirds, one of the first skiffle bands in the city who reached for the stars – and almost grabbed them.

With the likes of Larry Pye, Dave Pennington and Mike Lorenz in their ranks they were the East Anglian winners of a big band competition, went to London for the finals and came second, appearing on television.

After meeting up with Stewy McIntosh at Butlins in Skegness, Frank and his brothers formed The Cadillacs with Micky Woodcock, put on their Teddy Boy outfits and went on the road with Norman Guest.

“That was in the summer of 1959 and it marked the start of an amazing four years. We had such a great time,” said Stewy. He and Frank remained friends. He died recently aged 71.

Frank has brothers spread around the world. John in Tasmania, Geno in Melbourne, Ivan in New Zealand, Philip in Adelaide and Colin running the family roofing business in Norwich. Sister Maria also lives in Norfolk.

He also leaves five children and four stepchildren.

Frank lost his first wife many years ago and spent the last ten years with the love of his life Jane. They married two years ago.

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