John Wain and Jazz

In the 1980s, John Wain recorded four programmes for the BBC entitled John Wain’s Jazz, reflecting his long-time love of the music.

In Dear Shadows (1986), he writes: ...’in my youth I discovered, via the gramophone and the grudging ration of radio programmes, the subtleties and delights of jazz (then, remember, very much in its heyday)… [writing of the late 1930s and early 1940s]. Yes, reader, there was such a thing as the jazz world of Stoke On Trent.  And why not? It was no more remote and provincial than the jazz world of Davenport, Ohio, which nurtured Bix Beiderbeck. Nor more unlikely a cradle for that kind of sensibility than the gipsy encampment in Belgium where Django Reinhardt grew up. 

His jazz was what is often called ‘trad’ jazz, that of Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Jelly Roll Morton, Charlie Christian and others, most notably the trumpeter Bill Coleman, who became a close friend of John Wain’s in the 1960s. (See the chapter called ‘Light Breaks Where No Sun Shines’ in Dear Shadows here). The radio programmes reflected that, and his love of the music. I’m pleased to acknowledge the permission of BBC Radio to provide the link to the Fats Waller (pictured) programme below. Opens in a separate tab.

John Wain’s Jazz



John Wain on “Amours de Voyage” By A.H. Clough.


A Song About Major EatherleyEatherly

Sound file here of John Wain reading his poem ‘A Song About Major Eatherley’. This is an old and crackly recording made in about 1958, but a great reading of one of John Wain’s, and indeed the era’s, most powerful poems. For more about the poem and the full version in print, see here. Right, Richard Avedon’s photograph of Claude Eatherley, who was the pilot of a Reconnaissance plane for the flight of US aircraft that dropped the first  atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945.




An extended interview with John Wain in 1973 Part One.

1973 Interview Part Two Here.

The writer was interviewed at length in his wife Eirian’s cottage in North Wales by David Gerard, lecturer at University of Wales Aberystwyth and later on JW’s bibliographer. Covers a wide range of topics including the Angry Young Men so-called, and much else. Thanks to Heather Drake of Drake Education for her invaluable help in unearthing this rare archive recording.