Obituary: Jim Baikie, the life and soul of the Edinburgh dance band scene

Jim Baikie, bandleader
Jim Baikie, bandleader
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James Robert Baikie, lecturer, entertainer and bandleader. Born: 30 November 1933 in Ajmer, India. Died: 20 December, 2017, in Edinburgh, aged 84.

The death of Jim ­Baikie, just before Christmas, also marked the passing of what, for many of the older generation, was the golden age of Edinburgh’s dance bands.

Long the leader of one of the city’s best known and best loved bands, Jim Baikie, along with the late Cam ­Robbie, dominated the local dance band and party scene. Many a reader, even yet, will recollect youthful occasions with the Baikie band (and the dancers) in full cry.

Jim and his bands successfully bridged the gap between the formal requirements of the ballroom and the need to add zip and a modern touch to the various dances. His bands could and did play all kinds of music from Scottish country dances to swing and (mild) rock’n roll. And the dancers would clamour for more!

Jim (James Robert) was born in November 1933 to Scots missionary parents in Ajmer, India and his early years were spent absorbing the sights and sounds of the subcontinent.

In 1944, he was sent back to Edinburgh to continue his education at George Watson’s College. While there, he caused his first musical ­sensation at a school concert, by singing “I’m just a lonely ­little petunia in an onion patch” accompanying himself on a home-made cigar box guitar. This was not the solemn scholastic stuff of the late 1940s! Nonetheless he did receive a sound musical grounding as a violinist in the school orchestra.

Jim’s musical heroes were Fats Waller, Django Reinhardt, Eddie Condon and Billie Holiday. Leaving school he was quick to form a compatible band which could cater both for the formal dance requirements of the day and the swinging, jazzy dance music preferred by the younger set.

His bands soon became popular, not only at university functions but at the bigger affairs in the Assembly Rooms, at Hunt Balls, weddings and the many function suites that abounded in the city in those days. He also played residences at the ­Covenanters’ Inn, Aberfoyle, and The Edinburgh Sports Club. His expert guitar playing and singing enlivened all.

But music and band leading were only two facets of Jim’s life. He was a highly intelligent, funny and articulate man of great charm. He could be unpredictable and occasionally exasperating, but was always forgiven by his friends and admirers. He was a family man.

His son, Pete, himself achieved eminence in showbusiness with his appearances in the TV show Absolutely. He now works as a London-based psychotherapist with a keen ongoing interest in music.

Jim’s daughter, Julie, now lives in Brisbane, but both she and Pete made it their business to be available when their parents needed them. Jim was married twice: first to Rae from whom he ­separated in 1981. He then got together with Fiona in 1984. Jim and Fiona married in 1987 and celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary a week before Jim died.

Professionally, Jim was a qualified teacher working at Ainslie Park School, and ­latterly as a senior lecturer in modern studies at Telford ­College, where Fiona was a ­colleague.

His communication skills are said to have inspired many a reluctant student. On retirement, Jim continued to sing and play, most recently with a jazz sextet at the Starbank Inn, Newhaven, attracting an enthusiastic crowd. He and Fiona were able to travel widely – including a memorable return trip to India.

Latterly, the years started to take their toll and Fiona had to cope with the gradual onset of dementia on Jim’s health. In his final days he was looked after in Queensbay Lodge, a caring Church of Scotland Home. But, even with the pernicious effect of that disease, Jim never lost his politeness and charm. He passed away in the presence of his family, accompanied by his musical heroes on his bedside iPod.

Jim was always ‘Going to Kansas City’. We imagine he will be very welcome if and when he gets there!

ROGER CRAIK