Task master who also encouraged and praised

Reggie Verghese
Reggie VerghesePHOTO: ST FILE

Reggie Verghese, former guitarist of The Quests and music producer, died yesterday of heart failure

Musician and music producer Reggie Verghese, best known as guitarist for popular local 1960s band The Quests, died at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital yesterday afternoon. He was 68.

According to his wife, Mrs Virginia Verghese, he died of heart failure.

His former bandmate, The Quests' singer Vernon Cornelius, said Verghese had been in ill health and had heart and liver problems in the past few years.

Said Cornelius: "There have been many guitarists in Singapore but none who could play as well or last as long (on the scene) as Reggie."

Prior to joining The Quests while he was still in secondary school in 1963, Verghese played with another band from that era, The Checkmates.

Thanks to their lively shows and songs, The Quests were a top draw in the music scene. In 1964, their instrumental song Shanty became the first local tune to top the charts here, displacing The Beatles' I Should Have Known Better. It stayed on top for three months.

In 1966, the band again made history when they became the first band singing in English to release a full album, Questing.

The band, whose line-up changed over the years, were also popular in the region, and regularly played shows in Malaysia and Hong Kong.

After releasing four albums, six EPs and seven singles, The Quests disbanded in the early 1970s. Founder and rhythm guitarist Jap Chong died of a heart attack last year at age 71.

Verghese went on to be well regarded in the local music industry as a veteran producer.

Jazz musician, composer and Cultural Medallion recipient Jeremy Monteiro remembers working with him in the late 1970s.

Verghese was then the executive producer at music label EMI's now- defunct studio in MacDonald House, while Monteiro, then a teenager, was a session pianist. Together, they worked on recordings by popular regional acts such as Matthew & The Mandarins, Anita Sarawak and Sudirman Arshad.

Monteiro recalls: "He was a task master, he used tough love and he would scold and shout, but he would also encourage and praise. I wouldn't be the music producer I am today if not for him."

dinohadi@sph.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 18, 2015, with the headline 'Task master who also encouraged and praised'. Print Edition | Subscribe