I’ve chosen an image of my Uncle Jim, Jim Wilkes, who was a fabulously accomplished trad jazz musician, entertainer and a big supporter of my musical endeavours. When I was a young kid discovering guitar, he sent me finger picking tips from folkie friends, chord shapes to practice, and took an interest in my music even though it wasn’t strictly speaking his kind of music. In adult life we’d meet for breakfast, swap stories and he’d sit the car to listen to my new recordings, share ideas on lyrics and support my ambitions.

By day he taught English ending his teaching career as deputy headmaster in a Rochdale Comprehensive school, where he wrote and directed legendary school musical productions. He gigged continuously and maintained a lifelong passion for jazz. He died in 2006 but his lasting influence on me very much remains.

A few months before his passing he gave me a poem he’d written. It brings together references of both family holidays, and his playing the trumpet on Blackpool Pier, one of his regular gigs. The characters in the poem are his parents, his brother and sister, my grandparent’s auntie and father. I used the words in the Vinny Peculiar song ‘Playing on the Pier’ which appeared on 'The Fall and Rise of Vinny Peculiar' album [2006]. I played the song to our Jim the week before he died and he approved, which meant a lot to me. We played it live for the first time in a long time at a recent band show.

I’m proud to be keeping his words alive and in a small way maintaining a link to his memory. Here he is dressed in his best doing what he loved to do.

Tribute to Jim Wilkes: http://www.jazznorthwest.co.uk/jwilkes.htm

Lyrics to the poem 'Playing on the Pier': https://vinnypeculiar.com/lyrics/root-mull-affect/playing-on-the-pier/

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