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Kenneth J. Alford

Frederick Joseph Ricketts (21 February 1881 – 15 May 1945) was an English composer of marches for band. Under the pen name Kenneth J. Alford, he composed marches which are considered to be great examples of the art. He was a Bandmaster in the British Army, and Royal Marines Director of Music. Conductor Sir Vivian Dunn called Ricketts "The British March King." Ricketts’ frequent use of the saxophone contributed to its permanent inclusion in military bands.

Ricketts was born on 21 February 1881, the 4th child of Robert and Louisa (née Alford) Ricketts in the Thameside hamlet of Ratcliff, within the parish of Shadwell in London's East End. Born within the sound of Bow Bells (the Church of St. Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside), Ricketts had Cockney birthright. His London ancestry can be traced back to the early 18th century: his father was a coal merchant in Ratcliff on the north side of the Thames near Limehouse. On 9 December 1884, a 5th child, Randolph Robjent, was born to the Ricketts family, who, like his elder brother, was to become well known in military musical circles, under the pseudonym Leo Stanley. Ricketts' father died when he was seven and his mother when he was fourteen. His early musical training had been on playing the piano and organ and working as a church chorister in the parish church of St. Paul's, which still stands today. As a boy living in London’s East End he would often hear street musicians and bands, including German bands and early Salvation Army bands. Fascinated by the sound of instruments, the orphaned Ricketts determined that the best course for his future would be to join an army band. Throughout his life, family and friends alike called the future composer "Joe".

Ricketts retired from the Royal Marines on 1 June 1944 because of ill health and died at his home in Reigate, Surrey, on 15 May 1945, after an operation for cancer. He had given almost 50 years of distinguished service to the Crown. From 1907 until 1930 Ricketts had never spent more than two years in one place, and this made his 14-year-stay in Plymouth all the more pleasant. He became well-known and well-liked as leader of the Band of the Royal Marines.


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