George Matlock, editor of eltonjohnworld, was able to make contact last night with friends and family of departed Long John Baldry, the singer who became the inspiration for the name Elton John and also gave Elton his break into mainstream music.
Marg Love, who had known Baldry for some 25 years, and Baldry's partner Olllie, were with him at the Vancouver Hospital where he died of complications related to a chest infection after a 4-month struggle to recover.
Marg told eltonjohnworld: "He had been making good progress recently but as can happen in such situations, he apeared to contract some kind of superbug. It resulted in him suffering septic shock and we lost him."
Before his death - exactly 3 years to the day after the loss of his and George's pals Gus and Sheila Dudgeon - Baldry's hand was held by Marg and Ollie as they played one of his favourite songs, a song he made his own as a blues singer, It Ain't Easy, title track from an album from 1971 half-produced by Elton and half by another mentor of his, Rod Stewart.
Rod was reported to have taken a personal interest in helping Baldry to recover, agreeing to pay Baldry's medical fees and having him flown back to Vancouver in Canada when the 64-year star was taken ill last spring in the UK while on tour.
Baldry had become a big pal of George's. The eltonjohnworld editor in September 2002 was invited into his apartment for a 5-hour meeting, which included an incisive interview with Baldry about his career. eltonjohnworld will be releasing the entire interview in audio format exclusively on eltonjohnworld in September 2005 as a mark of tribute to Baldry.
George also met Baldry on numerous occasion as the crooner visited his UK homeland and conducted interviews for eltonjohnnworld. Baldry was also George's guest on London Jazz on www.radioheynow.com soon before Baldry was taken ill, and George also helped German TV to meet him for a special documentary about Elton John, who was invited into the German studio in 2003 (see our gallery of photos).
Baldry had suffered a few bouts of ill health in his life, with most notable in the past year was circulatory problems with his legs. He even sported a cane as part of his stage act since 2004 as a result.
George said: "I am shocked and deeply saddened. Not only was he still a young man, but he was also a friend of the fans. He left sometimes let down by people whom he had helped to launch, but he was very pleased that Rod Stewart had helped him in his last last days. He also told me how he regretted that whenever Elton was in Vancouver and wanted to meet, Long John was somewhere on tour. I shall miss him immensely. I already am."