In a folk scene increasingly dominated by instrumental virtuosity and media-savvy image-making, Jack Wilkinson remains the proud standard-bearer of an honourable tradition – the folk entertainer. For over six decades, Jack has been delighting audiences of ordinary people all over his native North East England with his eclectic repertoire, mischievous wit and infectious charm.
The son of a popular local entertainer, Jack began playing on his father’s banjo ukulele, and the skiffle boom of the 1950s showed him the musical path he has followed ever since. Opportunity knocked for him and his group The Northumbrians, leading to appearances on Hughie Green’s TV show, at the Royal Festival Hall, and regular spots on Wally Whyton’s ‘Walk Right In’ for Tyne Tees Television.
Alongside his musical career, Jack kept up a skilled and responsible job in the metal industry until his retirement. This work took him on several extended trips to Ireland, where he gained first-hand experience of its musical traditions and narrative song in particular, adding a further dimension to his already rich musical palette.
The material on this album reflects the breadth of Jack’s tastes and influences. His own songwriting demonstrates his depth of feeling for his Northumbrian roots and the easy, accessible way he expresses his thoughts to his audience. A certain roguish wink is never far away either, as on his tribute to the products of Wylam Brewery (where Jack’s son Ben is – not entirely coincidentally – head brewer).
With his distinctive gait (the result of polio contracted in infancy), jauntily-angled cap and ready smile, Jack is a familiar and much-loved figure on the North East folk scene and beyond. Jack’s life has not been without its shadows, and the partial deafness caused by his work in industry might have prompted a lesser spirit to give up, but his irrepressible good nature and enthusiasm are in evidence wherever he performs.