Popular Liverpool musician and actor Kristian Ealey dies aged 38, Getintothis’ Jamie Bowman pays tribute to a man who brought joy and made a difference to a lot of people’s lives.
This year has been a sad one for losing musicians. In this age of social media we’ve all been paying tribute to the likes of David Bowie and Prince and expressing what the music of both these iconic artists meant to us. Sometimes though, the person who transforms your musical word doesn’t have to be a million-selling star or a name that everyone knows. It could be the friend who presses that record you’ve never heard into your hand or books the first gig for your band or simply tells you the song you’ve been writing “sounds boss”.
These thoughts crossed my mind when news filtered through on Monday evening of the sad death of musician and actor Kristian Ealey who passed away at the tragically early age of 38 while working in Italy. Kris wasn’t exactly famous (although fans of Brookside and Hollyoaks might disagree) but reading the pages of tributes on Facebook he was clearly someone who mattered, who shook things up and made a difference to people’s lives. Lots of people’s lives.
I first mate Kris in around 1999 when he was dating a girl I knew. As a student it was impossible not to feel like an outsider when you were invited into the sometimes strangely surreal Scouse world that seemed to populate a certain corner of the club we all went to on a Saturday night – Le Bateau. But Kris was different – full of smiles and jokes, if he could tell you loved your music you were OK and from then on he wouldn’t stop talking to you about it. Psych, soul, jazz, gospel – Kris had great taste and the knowledge to prove it.
When I found out he was also into acting and appearing as loveable stoner-type Matt Musgrove in Brookside it seemed almost crazy that he was also appearing on the nation’s TV sets, spouting the same kind of psycho-babble we’d hear back in someone’s flat. But it also made perfect sense – of course he was basically playing himself but as he showed when he starred as Ringo Starr in a US biopic of The Beatles, he could really act. If I’m honest it just made him seem that much cooler and I think he remains the only actor to have played the same character in two different UK soaps.
Then there was the band he sang with. Tramp Attack’s gigs at that time were wonderful – hilarious meetings of minds where this gang of mates picked up the baton of The Stairs and The La’s and ran with it all the way down Smithdown Road before stopping off at the 24 Hr garage for some Rizlas. Kris was their bandy-legged front man but despite his comical demeanour here was a man who was serious about his art. In one early review I accused him of dancing like Freddie Garrity of Freddie and the Dreamers and he stormed into Le Bateau to confront me about the unfairness of it all. To be honest I think it was the only time I ever saw him pissed off and it was all soon forgotten about.
Kris was the same age as me and like it is for everyone, life often overtakes the good times but I have fond memories of that period when Liverpool was back on the musical map and Kris was always there supporting his friends and former band-mates who were beginning to find fame at The Bandwagon. There was an epic trip to Glastonbury too but I’ll leave out the details of that one. But they’re good.
I think I last saw Kris a few months ago in Sound Food & Drink and I enjoyed catching up with him, talking about our kids and his latest adventures. I’d been unaware of the impact he’d made on a whole new generation of bands through Cahoots and it was clear that his love for music remained undimmed. Out of the blue he asked me to help write his CV for a job application for a bar job he was going for. I was happy to oblige but remember thinking what a waste that was for someone so talented and enthusiastic as Kris – he should have had his own show on BBC Radio Merseyside, picking over the latest soul reissues. I’d have listened.
In truth, Kris was the kind of guy who didn’t need a CV – everyone could tell what he was like from his face or by listening to that laugh. His honesty and sheer boundless enthusiasm for music shone through and sometimes that’s what really matters.
UPDATED: The funeral service for Kristian will be on Friday May 20, at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs at 12 noon. There will be a gathering afterwards at Constellations, 37-39 Greenland St, Liverpool, Merseyside L1 0BS.