Ray Shakeshaft, one of the pioneers of the ukulele revival in the UK, died last week, after a long illness.
Ray was an RAF radar technician, a college lecturer and a staunch trade unionist all his life. He played banjo in the booming folk music scene of the 60s, then became an accomplished jazz saxophonist. He had to give this up on doctor’s orders – it was doing his jaw in. So he started a Samba Batacuda group, but had to give this up too after a while – it was doing his ears in!
He took up the uke in 2003. It was a less physically threatening instrument and chimed well with his love of jazz standards from the 20s and 30s. He formed SUSA – The Severnside Ukulele Strummers Association – in 2004; probably the first wooden figure-8 uke club in the UK. He also set up the first uke website: ukuke.co.uk . Ray’s example, advice and enthusiasm were the foundation for the many uke clubs that have sprung up since.
He was a joy to be with: endlessly entertaining, generous, caring and a talented musician.
Without Ray, there would probably be no TUSC – and you wouldn’t be reading this brief appreciation. We all owe him a lot.
Fly away, Ray!