Jake Thackray - The Yorkshire Chansonnier
Cerys Matthews explores the life of the Yorkshire poet-singer Jake Thackray whose wry, tender and lugubrious songs earned him a cult following in the 70s and 80s.
With his rich baritone and roll neck sweaters, Jake Thackray made his name singing in folk clubs and on local radio in the 1960s before gaining weekly slots on TV programmes like The Frost Report and That's Life with Esther Rantzen.
His lyrics and storylines were bawdy and surreal - 'The North Country Noel Coward' was one title he earned. But he really aspired to be 'the Yorkshire Chansonnier', taking inspiration from the French chanson tradition and, in particular, Georges Brassens - his great idol. Cerys hears how Jake travelled to Paris to meet Brassens and persuaded him to play his only ever gig outside France, at the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff in 1974.
In Monmouth, where Jake spent much of his adult life, Cerys meets old drinking pals of Jake's and they recall Jake's early life at a Jesuit school in Leeds and later as a teacher in France and Algeria. She talks to Father David Smith at the church where Jake became an unlikely bell-ringer. And she speaks to Jake's old friends and colleagues Ralph McTell, Don Black and Esther Rantzen about Jake the private man - shy and self-effacing.
Ultimately Jake was uncomfortable with television and eventually he stopped turning up for shows. Agents gave up trying to book him slots and, as drink took over, he became more unreliable. He was happiest performing to small crowds and at folk festivals where his annual performances of Lah-Di-Dah and Sister Josephine became legendary. He died in 2002. In his song 'The Last Will and Testament' he requested "no forget-me-nots, no epitaphs - you can let my memory slip - say a prayer or two for me soul then, but make it quick, boys.".