John Wilson’s Haircut

Yesterday evening I watched a recording of a BBC Four broadcast of the John Wilson Orchestra from the Royal Albert Hall; a performance forming part of the 2019 Proms season. The Gateshead-born conductor’s orchestra treating their audience to a selection of music from Warner Brothers movies.

John Wilson was educated in the same Low Fell alma maters of Breckenbeds Junior High and Heathfield Senior High as I was. That being said, as I’m nine years older than him, his time at those places of learning were several winters after yours truly.

Incidentally, I’m not penning this piece with a view to basking in the glory of being taught at the same schools as an internationally famous orchestra leader. Learning establishments who’s corridors were also graced by the presence of former England international footballers Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne and Steve Stone.

The aim of this prose is to give an insight into how my mum and myself’s conversation evolved while viewing the polished musical arrangements of a man also educated in Gateshead.

I’ve never met the bespectacled maestro, but the fact he trod the same Low Fell streets as me in childhood led to the following exchanges between mater and me;-

Me (pointing at the TV at the periphery of the living room)  – “Just think, mum, that bloke on the telly has probably swam in Shipcote Baths, like I did a kid.”

Mrs S senior (clearly underwhelmed with the observation) – “Hmmm.”

Me (intentionally attempting to distract mater) – “Do you think John Wilson would’ve had his hair cut at James Thows on Low Fell?

Mrs S senior (agitated at the distraction) – “How the hell would I know that?!”

Me (with continued intended absurdity) – “Do you reckon if he did that he’d have taken his specs off to have his hair trimmed, or you do think the barber would’ve just cut around the arms of the gigs?”

Mrs S senior (tersely) – “Of course he’d have taken them off to have his haircut!!…. Don’t be so ridiculous!”

Me (mischievously continuing to antagonise) – “Of course, he mightn’t have worn glasses when he lived on Low Fell….. He could’ve had 20/20 vision until a freak accident when he poked an eye out with a conductors baton when studying at the Royal College of Music.”

Mrs S senior (looking unimpressed with my deliberately ridiculous theory) – Don’t be daft…. I tell you what, though, he definitely takes his glasses off these days when he has a trim….. That haircut’s a work of art!”

Me (not keen to let the stupidity abate) – “Do you reckon he still goes to James Thows to have his hair cut?”

Mrs S senior – (responding with absolute surety) – “Thows would never cut his bonce with that much skill.  That’s the Mona Lisa of haircuts is that!….. When you and our Ian had your ‘ears lowered’ there as kids it was a far less accomplished effort than John Wilson’s hair is now!”


Me (persisting with the mischief) – “Thows might do a different range of cuts. John Wilson might get the VIP, more expensive service than the bog standard efforts Ian and me got which made us look as though a goat had chewed our hair off.”

Mrs S senior (getting more agitated at being distracted from listening to Wilson’s orchestra performing a song from My Fair Lady) – “Look Gary, there’s no way that hair style was created at James Thows on Low Fell.”

Me (continuing with the absurdity) – “Who do reckon cuts John Wilson’s hair then, mum? His aunt Audie on Wells Gardens?”……. (A made up name to add to the idiocy of the exchange)

Mrs S senior (turning away from the TV screen to admonish me) – Will you belt up, Gary, I’m trying to listen to these songs from the movies!!….. His orchestra are very good, aren’t they?!…… The Low Fell lad has done good!”

Me (Like a dog with a bone) – “Just think the first time John Wilson heard this song from My Fair Lady (Street Where You Live) could’ve been the Classic on Low Fell just over the road from Thows barbers!……. His afternoon could’ve entailed a haircut, before crossing Durham Road to buy a 1/4lb of cola cubes from Reeds sweet shop and then making the short walk to the Classic.”

Mrs S senior (again suitably underwhelmed) – Hmmmm.”

Me (indulging myself self so much at this juncture completely ignoring what was unfolding on TV) – “Do you reckon it’ll mention where John Wilson got his haircut as a child on his Wikipedia page?”

Mrs S senior (apoplectic  at this point with my distractions) – “Don’t be so bloody stupid, Gary!!…. Now will you shut up and let me watch this in peace!!” 

Me (after pausing for a minute or two with my phone in my hand) – “It says here on John Wilson’s Wikipedia page that his aunt Audie on Wells Gardens cut his hair as a kid!”

At this, Mrs S senior slammed her palms on each chair arm, rose from the seat before storming out of the living room.

Me – “Mum!! Mum!!….. What’s wrong?……. Where’re you going?!….. Mum!!”

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