‘Verni’: Some Photos

Last week, I published a guest post written by my father about his brother, the guitarist David Vernon ‘Verni’ Liddle. My father had spent a lot of time going through all of his brother’s recordings to try and track down each song he’d played, and then, since we needed to embellish the post with some visuals, we tried looking for photographs as well. Other than a handful of photos—nearly all of which I’d used before in other posts about my uncle—there was nothing.

Then, just as I was about to publish The Guitar That Sang, my father phoned to tell me that he had acquired some photos. My cousin, Verni’s son, had found some. I decided we’d have a look at the photos and put them in a separate post.

So here they are. They are really just a handful, and none of these feature any known names, as far as I can tell, but some of them are interesting and may have potential.

To start with, Verni with his wife Sheila. Sheila used to sometimes accompany him and his band on the guitar.

Verni with his wife, Sheila.

And here are the band (they called themselves Delhi Orchestra) performing. They were called upon to perform at concerts, parties, weddings and more.

Delhi Orchestra, performing.

Here is the band again, this time with a crooner singing along. The man on the accordion is Khurana.

A performance by Delhi Orchestra. Playing the accordion is Khurana.

Another photograph of a performance. Verni is half-hidden behind the singer. The man with the Spanish guitar is Alfred Shah.

Verni performs onstage; Alfred Shah plays the Spanish guitar.

And here is where things start getting interesting. I have no idea who these gentlemen are, especially the Sikh sitting next to Verni. Is there a possibility that that’s Hazara Singh? Yes, a long shot, but if someone can tell whether that’s him or not, I’d be grateful. The only photos of the famous electric guitarist I’ve come across are from his early days, and I can’t tell if it’s him or not.

Verni with others – but who?

Another group sitting on a sofa, with Verni one of them. Instead of a candid shot, this one’s a posed shot. I did mention to my father that the man sitting on Verni’s right looks a little like C Ramachandra, but both of us agreed that his resemblance (which is fleeting) is to a very young C Ramachandra—not at all the way C Ramachandra looked by the 60s, which is probably when this photo was taken.

A group photo with Verni.

The last photo, and the one which intrigued me the most. This is the same bunch of men from the previous photo, but here they’re outside—and undoubtedly in Bombay. The man in the middle is obviously some sort of celebrity (at least relatively speaking), given all those garlands he’s festooned with and the bouquet he carries. But who?

By the sea in Bombay.

If anybody out there has any input to offer about this, please help. We’d love it if you could identify somebody here.


20 thoughts on “‘Verni’: Some Photos

  1. That’s a wonderful culmination to a great post. I cannot add anything by way of information as it is your and other connected blogs I derive information from. In connection with which- could you enlighten me on who Mr. Hazara Singh is?

    On another note: Since this is the time of Ganesh Festival and related community celebrations I would like to add that your blog and all the others as well have helped me become a “Mohalla Celebrity” of sorts during the Antakshari or like events organised during this festive season for the past couple of years. I would therefore again like to thank you for all the information you provide here. I just wish that I had become aware of this “khazana” much earlier.


    • Heh. I think it’s sweet that your frequenting these blogs has helped turned you into an antakshari pro! :-)

      As for Hazara Singh, like my uncle, he too was a guitarist, and (again like my uncle) used to play the Hawaiian guitar. He played a good bit for OP Nayyar – and in lots of iconic songs, including Mera naam Chin Chin Choo, Badan pe sitaare lapete hue, Jinhe naaz hai Hind par, etc.


      • Thanks for the information on Hazara Singh. You know these days when the songs are manufactured in studios, thinking about the old days when a complete team put together there efforts to bring to us such melodies, it’s overwhelming.

        And about the antakshari: (I beg your pardon if I sound like talking too much about myself) I won 5 prizes last night itself in a qus-ans round. The reason I couldn’t win the rest was that, one answer I didn’t know (the qus being about Lata Mangeshkar’s actual birth name) and for the rest the anchor forbade me to speak.


  2. What an intriguing – and frustrating – post! Not knowing who’s in these snaps…

    In your fifth photo, I would wager that that is Hazara Singh, from the images I’ve seen of him before. I hope someone else can identify the others.


    • Yes, it’s so frustrating not knowing who these people are. Especially that man who’s covered with garlands etc – it’s very likely to be someone whose name wouldn’t be totally unfamiliar (unless he’s a wannabe whose career never took off, Peace Kanwal-like).

      I’m glad you think that’s Hazara Singh too. Very likely, no? Considering they were contemporaries, and even played the same instrument.


  3. Great to see pictures! Trying to understand the people, the mindset and the surroundings and environments they worked in.

    This has been one of my issues with our movie/music industry. They completely lack the documentation aspect of the work that is done to date. Documentation is a great way to understand and appreciate the work (and involved people) and unfortunately it is left for their families of these artists to document or have journalists/author interview them and draw up with the details.. I hope with new technology there is better documentation going forward though I am not really much crazy about the new work..


    • I agree with you completely re: the sad way in which the cinema industry preserves its past in India. Just the sheer fact that landmark films like Aalam Aara have been allowed to vanish off the face of the Earth is criminal.

      And yes, I am not crazy about the new work either. :-( Digital music may be very clear and all, but the heart and the emotion that came from real people playing the music is gone, especially in songs that are otherwise fairly run of the mill. It still comes through in the rare song now and then, but that is often despite the digital music, not because of it.


      • Thanks for yet another enjoyable post!
        About the preservation of India’s film heritage, or rather the lack of it: I don’t want tp sound patronizing, but as an outsider from a country that does a lot to cherish it’s cinematic treasures (I’m from Germany), I think that there is absolutely no excuse for this. Lost films are one thing, but there are also important films that do still exist but are unavailable to most film lovers. I hear for example that the NFII has an excellent copy of the cinemascope version of “Kaagaz Ke Phool” and some happy few have actually seen it there, but there is no dvd or bluray of it. And nobody seems to know why not! SIGH…
        And another thing: what you were saying here about digital music: you mentioned Jinhe Naaz Hai Hind Par in one of your above answers, and this song is such a good example for the difference between digital music and traditional instruments. Because no computer program could ever convey this sense of joylessness of the real instruments played by real musicians who knew what they were doing and why. See, the instruments don’t even sound SAD, because sadness is, after all, a powerful feeling. No, they sound half dead, as if life was slowly dripping out of them.I haven’t found anything like that in modern films.


        • It’s such a shame, too, considering India’s long-standing status as the country which churns out the most movies every year! While on the topic, it’s a pity that so few early movies are available. I remember, some years ago, I read a mini biography of Ruby Myers (Sulochana) and was intrigued, because she seemed to have acted in so many extremely feisty roles during the 30s. But not one movie seems to exist. Barring some of the really big movies or the very popular ones, very little is freely available from the 20s or 30s for watchers of vintage Hindi cinema (that said, we have to thank the German filmmakers of some Indian movies for having preserved their work!)

          I agree 100% with your comment about Jinhe naaz hai Hind par – that’s a fine example of ‘real’ music against which digital music has no chance. The songs where the singer’s voice holds centrestage and where lyrics are given prominence, are, I think especially good examples of the difference between digital music and ‘real’ music.


          • So sorry for the typo: it’s NFAI of course.
            I’d love to watch an early Ruby Myers film! Who knows, given the connection of some German filmmakers with Indian cinema in the early days, there is still a chance of finding some films in archives over here. Some years ago there was a beautiful dvd edition of “A Throw of Dice”, a 1920s film directed by Franz Osten.


            • I came across a mention – several years back – of a Ruby Myers film called Bambai ki Billi in which she seems to have played a somewhat Robin Hood-esque female character (or more like Zorro, perhaps), putting on a disguise to loot the wealthy at night, and being the ‘good girl’ during the day, or something like that. It sounded very interesting! I do hope German archives have something more than A Throw of Dice (which I’ve been meaning to see for some time now) and another film (I’ve forgotten what the name was; perhaps you recall) based on the life of the Buddha.


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