Charlie Ainley obituary

Millie Ainley
·2-min read

My father, Charlie Ainley, who has died aged 72, was a singer-songwriter who achieved success in the 1970s with his band Charlie and the Wideboys. Their energetic performances in Cornwall led to success on the London pub rock circuit and record deals with Anchor and EMI. Charlie released several albums and singles and toured across Europe and America.

Born in London, Charlie was raised in Dorset by his mother, Jane Morse, an artist and farmer. His father was Sam Ainley, a restaurateur, but Charlie never met him.

During the 60s he learned to ski and play the guitar while attending Aiglon college in Switzerland. When he finished school he moved to London, living in Chelsea, writing songs and auditioning for record companies.

In the early 70s he formed Charlie and the Wideboys, a rock’n’roll band, with his close friends Richard Worthy, Simon Fraser, Greg Phillips and Angus Fox. They performed many times at the Elephant Fayre, Footsbarn Theatre and the Rod and Line pub in Cornwall. They were signed by Anchor Records in 1974 and toured the UK, supporting bands such as Squeeze, Dr Feelgood and Slade. Charlie wrote their material; their most successful singles were In the Shadow of the Setting Sun and City Boy, both in 1978.

Charlie met Emma Gough at Tramp nightclub in 1978. They married in 1985. They had a child each from previous marriages, and had another two together. They left London and bought a derelict farmhouse in Upton Noble, Somerset, transforming it into the family’s rural idyll.

When his brush with stardom ended in the early 80s, Charlie became a project manager in house restoration, working with a team of artisans and crafts people and taking on projects throughout the south of England. His workplace was a civilised and eccentric place where 10am coffee with pains aux raisins went hand in hand with lots of pacing and organising.

Charlie bought lottery tickets and good bread, always ate a late evening apple, drove a red pick-up truck and never missed a Bond film. He loved crosswords, trees, Christmas, art, crime novels, the company of friends and holidays in Mallorca. He continued to write lyrics and perform songs for the rest of his life.

He is survived by Emma, their children, Jake, Katie, Will and me, nine grandchildren and his sister, Zulaikha.