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I am never gonna stop drumming. I will drum myself into the grave.

Crissy Lee’s life as a professional female drummer has led her to juggling studio sessions, touring the country and running a jazz club, all at the age of 73.

Meet Crissy

A woman who marches to the beat of her own drum.

Regularly seen with beaded, spiky hair and a rock and roll attitude to match, Crissy’s life as a professional drummer has left her with many stories to tell.

So many in fact, publishers are chasing for her memoirs.

‘When I did a Woman’s Hour for Radio 2, Jackie Collins said to her publisher “you gotta do a story about Crissy”. But it’s not down to them, it’s down to me sitting on my backside and doing it!’

It doesn’t take long to realise this is a regular theme in Crissy’s life, as she juggles studio sessions, playing across the country and teaching students, as well as running a jazz club in her home town, Colchester. But she wouldn’t have it any other way.

‘I don’t have to prove anything anymore, which is lovely. Life is still about learning because I teach and I love the fact I have to keep up with what’s happening today, so that keeps me young. My students, of course, are much younger than me so I spend a lot of time with younger people.’

At 73, Crissy has spent her life defying social stereotypes, both as a professional female drummer, and also in life after 50.

‘I’ll never let my hair go grey. I mean, it is in there but that won’t happen. All my friends that are about my age say “God, you’re so brave Crissy. I’d like to do it but do you think I should at my age?” and I say “why not?” I will never stop colouring my hair, having beads… and I am thinking about having a tattoo!’ And it was her dogged determination which brought her success in a male-dominated industry.

‘It’s an attitude. I’ve got a very positive attitude. I won’t give in to anything and I never have and that was difficult because when I was young, there was totally no way can a girl play the drums. It was my Dad that said “yes she can and yes she will” but it was always frowned upon.’

Crissy playing drums

And her Dad turned out to be right. Crissy’s career has taken her to many corners of Europe, working with many big names in the music industry, but it was a trip to Spain in 1964 which sticks out the most.

‘The guy that took us out there was a Cuban chap living in Florida who loved female musicians. He was an amazing manager. He came in one day and said ‘right guys, you’re supporting The Beatles on their tour in Spain.’ Wow! It was amazing… quite nerve-wracking at first. We were playing in bullrings because there were no venues in Spain large enough then to hold the capacity of people – they were mega then!

‘We travelled in their private jet with them and we were treated wonderfully well. And when we came back to England nobody knew us! (laughs)’

It comes as no surprise that Crissy’s musical passion has influenced her funeral plans too, insisting she’ll be taken to her funeral in a gig van and ‘not one of these posh cars because that’s not what I’m about! I want stickers all over it, and John Miles’ ‘Music is my first love and it will be my last’ has to be played and nobody’s allowed to go out of the chapel until it’s finished (grins). Cos it’s a long track isn’t it! That’s my favourite, favourite track.’

‘I did try and slow down, but life won’t let me! So something comes along and I go ‘Yeah I’m up for that’, I’m still up for lots of things. I can’t resist new projects and new grooves to learn. There’s always places to go, musicians to meet and different styles of music to play.’

Posted on 16 December 2016

SunLife offers a range of straightforward and affordable products including over 50s life insurance, funeral plans, equity release, pet insurance, home insurance, car insurance, ISAs and Will writing services.

Here's the information that you need to know about who we are and the other companies that we work with in order to provide our products and services.

Who are SunLife?

Phoenix Life Limited trades as SunLife and is the provider of the Guaranteed Over 50 Plan, SunLife Insurance and the life insurance policy payment option for Funeral Plans. Phoenix Life Limited’s registered office is at 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 1016269). Dignity Funerals is not authorised or regulated for this activity by either the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority. Dignity Funerals Ltd is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

SunLife Limited distributes financial products and services and is a company limited by shares, registered office: 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 05460862). SunLife Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and is entered on the Financial Services Register (registration no. 769427).

You can contact us by post at SunLife, PO Box 1395, Peterborough, PE2 2TR or by phone on 0800 008 6060.

If you choose to add Funeral Benefit Option to your Guaranteed Over 50 Plan the funeral services are arranged and provided by Dignity Funerals Limited. Dignity Funerals Limited is a company registered in England and Wales No. 00041598. VAT registered No. 486 6081 14. 4 King Edwards Court, King Edwards Square, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B73 6AP. Telephone No. 0121 354 1557. Fax No. 0121 355 808. Part of Dignity plc. A British Company. Dignity is not authorised or regulated for this activity by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority but is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

Who provides the Funeral Plans?

Dignity Funerals Ltd arranges and provides the funeral services. Dignity Funerals is not authorised or regulated for this activity by either the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority. Dignity Funerals Ltd is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

The life insurance policy that pays for your funeral will be provided by Phoenix Life Limited, trading as SunLife.

Who provides My Smarter (ISA)?

My Smarter (ISA) is provided by Scottish Friendly Asset Managers Limited. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register, registration No. 188832. Member of The Investment Association. Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ.

Who provides the Will writing services?

Hugh James is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA Number:303202).

The information contained on this website is based on Hugh James' understanding of the law of intestacy in England and Wales only as at April 2014. The law in Scotland and Northern Ireland is significantly different. This is for information purposes and is not intended to be legal advice.

Who provides Family Life Insurance?

SunLife Family Life Insurance is provided by Scottish Friendly Assurance Society Limited which is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register (registration number 110002). Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ. 

Who provides SunLife Pet Insurance

SunLife Pet Insurance is arranged and administered by BDML Connect Limited. BDML Connect Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (No. 309140). Registered in England and Wales Number 02785540. Registered Office: 45 Westerham Road, Bessels Green, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN13 2QB.

Who provides SunLife Home Insurance

SunLife Home Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.

Who provides SunLife Car Insurance

SunLife Car Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.