Mike Unthank started
playing the piano when he was 4 years old. This basic musical
knowledge equipped him with a head start when he bought a clarinet at the age of
15 years. Why did he do that? Because his friend Trevor was already
playing the clarinet and the girls followed him around. Trevor went to
Canada, but, to his chagrin, the girls did not follow Mike around.
However, he continued to play his clarinet.
He joined the electricity board, as an apprentice, when he was 16, and retired
as first engineer, responsible for planning and design. He had a brief
break from the electricity board when he was in the RAF from 1957-59 when he was
looking after airfield lighting at Cranwell. However he did get to play in the
RAF band at that time.
The first band he played in was Alan Duckles' band, in Lancaster, when they were
both teenagers. He played in Lancaster until 1970 when he met John Sideau
and worked in the New Hall Jazz Band. After that he joined Les Bull’s
Festival Band and was with them for 13 years playing baritone sax as well as
clarinet. (he sang as well, but struggled to remember the words….). With
Les he was delighted to play alongside John Barnes, the late Campbell Burnap, John
Crocker and Roy Williams.
Three or four years ago Dave Savill (who came
from the South, playing with John
Barnes, Roy Williams et al) formed the Jubilee Jazz Band Mike has been
playing with them ever since.
But that’s not all he currently also plays with Dan Riley’s different
bands, and can be seen regularly at the John O’Gaunt in Lancaster most
Musician friends of mine tell me Mike is a natural band musician listening
to others in the group. One of the highlights of his career was
playing in a marching band in Bourbon Street in New Orleans and having the
photo on the front page of the local rag.
Mike now lives in Kendal. He has a daughter, Alison, and is grandfather to two
girls and a boy. He also has a son John.
31 May 2008
- Penny Vingoe