Godfather of Prog Rock goes to the great gig in the sky

Obituary 25-02-2018 Leonard (Lenny) Sharples

The death of Lenny Sharples, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist with 1970s progressive rock band, The Topographic Sentinel, was announced on the band’s website last night. He was 78 and still going strong right up to last month when the band played The O2 in London.

The main creative force within the group, he is widely recognised as having single-handedly created the 10-volume concept album when he penned the seminal work, Faber est suae Quisque Fortunae (Every Man is the Artisan of his own Fortune) in 1970.

Born, Leonard Sharp-Phipps, in Virginia Water Surrey, the only son of a multi-millionaire business magnate, he became interested in music at Harrow School, where along with some chums he formed what would ultimately become the first line-up of ‘Sentinel’.

Their drummer, Gav Wheatcroft, speaking to Mark Radcliffe on BBC 6 Music recalled, “Len was an amazing guy. I’ll never forget the gig in Earls Court when we were touring our album, A Biblical Travesty, in ’78 and dear old Len, bless him, nearly got simultaneously drowned and electrocuted when the Red Sea malfunctioned and flooded the whole stage. What a night! Like… Whoosh! We made the bloody BBC main news, man!”

Rick Wakeman longtime keyboardist with prog royalty, Yes, recalls: ‘Sentinel were once supporting us in Melbourne and it ended up that we never went on that night after Len launched into one of his trademark solos. He kinda got caught up in the moment, either that or it was maybe the three LSD tabs he’d dropped backstage, but anyway, he lost track of time and went on for six hours. The rest of Sentinel left him to it and we all went out for a curry instead. When we came back he was still up there in full flow. The crowd had gone home and the road crew had started to dismantle the set around him as we had to get to Tokyo for the next night. But that was Len for you. A real one-off and an amazing guy.’

The Lenocaster MK1

He was regarded as true innovator and leaves behind the legacy of prog’s now ubiquitous Lenocaster, the first quintuple-neck guitar to incorporate six-string electric and acoustic, twelve sting, five string bass and banjo necks.

He is survived by his 10th wife, Chantal, and their two-year-old son, Gandalf Frodo Baggins Sharples.

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