FORMER Hollywood Rat Pack star Buddy Greco is hoping to inspire the next generation of pianists by offering free musical masterclasses.

Buddy, 85, part of the legendary Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davies Jnr gang in the Fifties, will offer lessons on secondhand pianos to disadvantaged children in Southend.

Buddy Greco’s Piano Buddies will also support children who couldn’t otherwise afford to start learning the instrument.

The American pianist and singer, now living in Westcliff, got the idea from a similar project which helped him when he was child.

He said: “The Settlement House project helped immigrant families and their children in Philadelphia settle into the American way of life and music for poor kids was one of them.

“We didn’t have a piano at home, so I went to classes twice a week and pasted a paper keyboard on to the kitchen table where I practiced.”

The majority of lessons will be provided by local music teachers, but Buddy will get involved with piano masterclasses and hold concerts to raise money for the project.

He has teamed up with his wife Lezlie Anders, who is a singer, and Karen Edwards, owner of the Piano Pavilion shop in London Road, Westcliff, to launch the scheme.

Ms Edwards encourages children to take up playing the piano because of the positive impact it can have on their lives.

Buddy will perform at the Southend International Jazz Festival at the Palace Hotel in Church Road, on Sunday, October 16.

l Jazz festival details in tomorrow’s Echo.