Pioneer musician Jap Chong of The Quests dies of heart attack

Guitarist and founder of The Quests Jap Chong (extreme right) is pictured with bandmates (from left) bassist Sam Toh, drummer Lim Wee Guan, singer Vernon Cornelius, and lead guitarist Raymond Leong. Chong, one of Singapore's pioneer musicians, d
Guitarist and founder of The Quests Jap Chong (extreme right) is pictured with bandmates (from left) bassist Sam Toh, drummer Lim Wee Guan, singer Vernon Cornelius, and lead guitarist Raymond Leong. Chong, one of Singapore's pioneer musicians, died on Sunday afternoon from a heart attack. -- ST FILE PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

ONE of Singapore's pioneer musicians, Jap Chong of The Quests, died on Sunday afternoon from a heart attack.

Fellow band member, singer Vernon Cornelius, said Mr Chong, 71, had been suffering from heart disease and kidney failure for several years now. His heart for instance, was working at less than 30 per cent capacity.

Mr Chong was admitted to Singapore General Hospital on Saturday afternoon.

The late Mr Chong was the founder of wildly popular 1960s band The Quests, which once toppled The Beatles off Singapore and Malaysia's Hit Parade Charts with its original song, Shanty.

Mr Cornelius, who declined to give his age, likened Mr Chong's death to The Beatles losing John Lennon. "He was charming, handsome and had a powerful personality on stage.

"I'm pretty shocked. Losing a friend is always devastating and it's going to take a while for us to come to terms with his death," he said.

Ever the showman, an ailing Mr Chong last took the stage at My Queenstown's 60th anniversary celebrations in September last year.

A rhythm guitarist, he formed the band in 1961 with singer-guitarist Raymond Leong for a talent competition in Queenstown Secondary Technical School. He was joined by Henry Chua and Lim Wee Guan. The later line-ups included guitarist Reggie Verghese and Mr Cornelius.

His wake is being held at Singapore Casket's Ruby Room and his funeral will take place on Tuesday. The oldest of five siblings, Mr Chong, who is twice divorced, leaves behind a daughter and a two-year-old grandson who are based in the United States.

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