Crowds party all night to celebrate Woody’s full life

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MUSICIAN friends, business colleagues, holiday mates and others close to popular Leamington singer Woody Allen joined in a cracking send-off to him.

Woody, who fronted the 1960s band Woody Allen and the Challengers, died earlier this month and, so well-loved was the 67-year-old, that both his funeral and wake brought large crowds from around the country to St Margaret’s church in Whitnash and Radford Semele sports and social club on Monday.

Leamington musician Woody Allen.

Leamington musician Woody Allen.

Jenny Wood, the wife and business partner of the singer, whose real name was Allan Wood, was taken aback by just how many people turned up.

She said: “The church was absolutely packed.

“We have a static caravan in Oxfordshire, so a lot of people who we know from there came to the funeral. Some people we know who live in Spain were planning to come, but they weren’t able to because of the snow.”

And even more people packed into the social club for Woody’s wake. Mrs Wood said: “There were so many people there – a lot more than I thought would come.

“Because of his musical connections, there were a lot of musician friends who just got up and started playing.

“It was like a big jamming session. I felt very proud.”

John Zetterstrom, who was one of the original Challengers band members, said: “It was amazing. So many who I spoke to had travelled many, many miles to get here. It was wonderful to see so many.

“The social club was packed - we were hanging from the chandeliers. It was difficult to move.

“The whole atmosphere was very much about people remembering Woody. It wasn’t sad - it was a great celebration and it was absolutely Woody.”

Among those to perform on the night were the reformed Challengers band, the JayKeys, Steve Walwyn, the Harry Rag Band, Eddie Unitt, Sootty, Martin Cure and the Hangover Blues Band – and a DVD of photos and video clips of Woody were displayed on a big screen.

JayKeys musician Keith Hancock, who had known Woody for most of his life and also played with the Challengers, said: “There were about 200 people there – it was a great session and a good send-off for Woody.

“It was great for the bands because it brought back a lot of memories.

“The Leamington and Warwick area is a big centre for musicians and Woody was responsible for setting it all up. He was the grandfather of musicians here and everybody came out to pay tribute to him.”