'One-armed bandit' awarded Queen's Service Medal in New Year Honours

A musician who overcame a devastating injury with courage and good humour will be awarded the Queen's Service Medal for services to brass bands.

Despite losing his arm during a farming accident in 1984, Leslie Graham refused to give up his passion and learned to play music with one arm with the aid of a special harness, which he helped design. 

When he found out about the accolade, Mr Graham told Newshub that he was "still gobsmacked".

"I never imagined getting something like this," he said.

"It's a shocker - a lovely shocker, but a shocker."

The Masterton local has played in brass bands across the nation for more than 65 years, beginning at Caversham in 1951 and ending up with Upper Hutt Cosmopolitan Band in 2016. He's tutored many young players and assisted in organisation and fundraising for competitions over decades.

In 1990, he stepped in to conduct the Roxburgh band to a national championship and introduced a new section of 'slow melody solo' to the national brass band competition. 

There is even a Les Graham Trophy for Slow Melody in the national championships, but instead of the traditional 'cup' for the winner, there is a 'jug' with only one arm.

Mr Graham has never let his injury spoil his sense of fun and is cheekily known as the 'One-Armed Bandit' among his bandmates.

Through his career, the musician has felt that sometimes "the wrong people get honoured" and there should be more attention on the "ordinary Joes, who do all the work".

Congratulations to Les Graham, QSM. This time, we think the honours have gone to the right guy.