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October 7, 2009

Always Remembered, Never Forgotten

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Last Sunday, friends and family from all over the country gathered at the New Windsor fire company social hall to pay their last respects to Guy Babylon, Elton John’s keyboardist for 21 years. Guy Babylon, 52, died at his Los Angles home on September 2.


He was born December 20, 1956, in New Windsor, the son of Graham and Mary Babylon, owners of the Babylon Vault Company, a Carroll County business that has manufactured burial vaults since 1930.


Mr. Babylon was remembered as a gifted athlete, who as a young man was known to be a national level swimmer. Ironically he died of an apparent heart attack while swimming.


Over 250 attended the memorial service which was conducted by Dan Hartzler, who noted that the entertainment world may claim Mr. Babylon, but he will always be remembered as belonging to Frederick and Carroll counties.


One of the early speakers, his childhood friend Gary Edwards, helped Mr. Hartzler set the stage for the memorial service, by remarking that “the story of Guy Babylon is an extraordinarily amazing story and it (all started) right here in New Windsor.”


In addition to being an accomplished swimmer and his musical genius, Mr. Babylon also excelled at football, basketball, and track and field. So much so that John Seaman, a 40-year veteran of Carroll County Public Schools and the current Francis Scott Key High School principal, noted that he will nominate Mr. Babylon for the Francis Scott Key and Carroll County “Sports Hall of Fame.”


However, it is not only his athletic accomplishments for which Mr. Seaman feels makes Mr. Babylon eligible. It is also his “sense of community and gracious way in which he lived his life…”


Friends, family and community leaders spoke at the memorial service on various ways in which Mr. Babylon touched their lives. Consistent in all their memories was that although Mr. Babylon stayed on the cutting edge of the worldwide rock and roll and Hollywood scene, he always remained a humble family oriented role model who was a good son and brother, who never forgot his friends or his New Windsor roots.


Mr. Babylon’s sister, Donna, lovingly shared a number of humorous stories about her brother in a testimony to how much Mr. Babylon stayed grounded and devoted to his family.


Dick Krantz, who was Mr. Babylon’s swimming coach at the Frederick YMCA from 1964 to 1970, said that “Guy really had quite a Frederick connection,” that Mr. Babylon never forgot.


Coach Krantz spoke glowingly about not only his athletic abilities but also that “Guy was fantastic … inspiring to be around. He had goals and he worked hard to achieve his goals.”


In the years he coached Mr. Babylon and three of his gifted athlete friends, Mark Keener, Tim and Pam Phillips; Coach Krantz beamed with pride about the talent of the foursome and that “Guy had every record in the free style, butterfly, and individual medley.”


Mr. Keener reminisced after the service about how much he enjoyed spending so many of his childhood years with Mr. Babylon and closely followed his musical success.


Mr. Phillips, who traveled from Boston to attend the service, noted that he was “… three grades behind Guy in school. I have always seen Guy through a little brother’s eyes… I joined the Frederick YMCA swimming team where Guy had already been winning races and had set a national record in the 25 freestyle…


“When Guy was 16,” Mr. Phillips continued, “he began to drive us to swimming practice. When I would arrive at the Babylon’s, Guy would be at the piano in the family room playing ferocious rock and roll acoustic piano… “Johnny B Goode” into “Great Balls of Fire,” his fingers flying with that same physical grace and purpose up and down the keyboard…


“The music in his head transferred to his fingers and feet, melodies, notes, and sounds sequenced and performed with true genius, challenging himself with visions that few can fathom much less turn into something so wonderful and joyous, such great music.”


Mr. Babylon’s first grade teacher, Regina Roop, shared several humorous anecdotes in testimony as to her memories of Guy, the first grader, who even then was a generous, sharing, and kind child.


Gary Charles Twaddle, a music producer who first met Mr. Babylon in California early in his career, spoke eloquently about his talent and how easy it was to work with him. Mr. Twaddle shared fondly how they remained friends long after Mr. Babylon had achieved worldwide fame.


After Mr. Babylon graduated from Francis Scott Key High School, he went to the University of South Florida on a swimming scholarship and earned his degree in music composition.


In 1980, six months after graduation, he moved to California, where he established himself as an accomplished keyboardist and composer and respected session musician.


Many remarked that he could have stayed and taken over the family business, but that he choose instead “to go to California to make it big in the music business.”


Elton John said on his official web site: “I am devastated and heartbroken at the death of Guy Babylon. Guy played over 1000 shows with me, and we worked together on The Road to El Dorado, Aida, Billy Elliot, Lestat and Gnomeo and Juliet, as well as on countless albums.


“He was one of the most brilliant musicians I ever knew, a true genius, a gentle angel – and I loved him so much...”


Carroll and Frederick counties also loved him. The world will miss his musical talents. Our local community will miss a kind-hearted, generous family man and good friend, who just happened to play keyboard for some “madman across the water” named Elton John.


Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. E-mail him at


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