Farewell to Sheffield’s music champion Martin Lilleker

diwed'Martin Lilleker with his new pop book
diwed'Martin Lilleker with his new pop book

Tributes have been paid to writer Martin Lilleker, who chronicled, encouraged and supported the Sheffield music scene for many years.

Martin, who died aged 62 on New Year’s Eve after living for five years with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease, gave the first publicity to several acts who were to become big names and also wrote books detailing the highs and lows of the scene over three decades.

There are now plans for a charity tribute album featuring tracks from some of his favourite Sheffield acts - and his own band, The Wealthy Texans.

Described as a ‘beautiful man’ by solo star Richard Hawley, Martin, who has one son, Thomas, was born in Rotherham and spent almost his entire career working locally, much of it for the Sheffield Telegraph and The Star.

Richard said Martin, who had supported his career since the mid-1980s, was: “A hardcore and uncompromising supporter of Sheffield bands and artists and deserves to be remembered with great respect and much fondness.”

Nick Banks from Pulp added: “Martin was an unsung hero of Sheffield music. Local music needs champions, to bang the drum, to man the barricades. Martin was such. Without these lighthouses shining their lights into the dim and distant corners of gloomy rehearsal rooms or sparsely-attended gigs then no-one stands any chance of breaking out.”

He wrote two books, the first, Not Like A Proper Job (The Story Of Pop Music In Sheffield 1955-1975), with co-author John Firminger, who called him a ‘gentle and friendly person’. The follow-up, Beats Working For A Living (The Story Of Pop Music In Sheffield 1973-1984), came out in 2005.

The album - also to be called Beats Working For A Living - is the brainchild of Klive Humberstone from In The Nursery, who described Martin as ‘like our very own John Peel’ for the help given to up-and-coming acts. He says he has already been inundated with possible contributors.

After Martin’s diagnosis in 2010 his wife Annie left her job to care for him, however, in 2014 he went into Hurlfield Respite Centre, Gleadless and then Woodland View Nursing Home, Norton, where according to Annie, he was happy and received ‘outstanding care and support’. She has also praised the Sheffield branch of the Alzheimer’s Society for their help. “He was listening to his favourite music right up to the end,’’ she added.

Outside of music, Martin loved travelling and walking, often going on exploratory trips without maps. As Nick Banks added: “Martin once unexpectedly turned up at my family’s pottery works in Catcliffe, he’d been out on a walk discovering the River Rother. This about sums Martin up: discoverer.”

Martin’s funeral is at 3.30pm next Friday, January 15, at Grenoside Crematorium.