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Haverhill singer dubbed the ‘Suffolk Sinatra’ passes away

Jack Griggs, the 'Suffolk Sinatra,' performing with the Len Copsey band
Jack Griggs, the 'Suffolk Sinatra,' performing with the Len Copsey band

A well-known singer and amateur actor from Haverhill who was affectionately nicknamed the ‘Suffolk Sinatra’ has died.

Jack Griggs became a part of the social fabric in Haverhill thanks to decades he spent singing in bands at dances in his home town - and beyond.

He was also well known as a leading man in many of the productions staged by the Haverhill Amateur Dramatic Society.

Jack was born in Haverhill and apart from service during the war spent his working life in the town.

Eldest son of Violet and Edward, he went to the Cangle school where he developed a love of drama.

He was called up in 1941 to become a “Bevan Boy” and went to Mansfield to work in the mines and later joined the RAF, stationed at Yatesbury in Wiltshire where he enjoyed presenting a request programme on the forces radio station.

On completing his National Service in 1947 he returned to Haverhill using skills acquired in the RAF, working on overhead line repairs for Eastern Electricity.

By contrast Jack’s evenings were spent in pursuit of his passion for drama having joined Haverhill Amateur Dramatic Society who regularly staged two very popular three-act plays each year.

He was a natural and played a leading role in many productions, including some of Noel Coward’s plays.

Jack’s talents also included a good singing voice which was probably modelled on his great hero, Frank Sinatra, and it was while at a talent show at the Town Hall (now the Arts Centre) that he was persuaded by his mates to enter and won.

Local dance band leader Len Copsey was in the audience that night, and clearly impressed by Jack’s talent asked him to join his band which had been filling the town hall on Saturday nights during the war.

This partnership lasted 39 years, testament to the band’s popularity at a time when Saturday nights were spent at the local ‘hop’, and modern dancing featured waltzes, quicksteps, foxtrots and for the more ambitious some Latin-American.

The band invariably kicked off the evening with the well-known standard “It was just one of those things” - a lively romantic quickstep to get everyone in the mood.

Such was the reputation of the band they were invited to play at the Mildenhall Air Base where a tea dance was being held for the US airmen returning home.

Although booked to play from 3 to 5 pm they played until after midnight arriving home at 3 o’clock in the morning!

Jack ended his career as a salesman in the Electricity Board’s showroom, latterly acting as Relief Manager covering ten local branches.

He was a devoted family man, having married Paulene Green in 1959.

They had two children, Tony and Amanda and two grandchildren, Sarah and Ellie.

In retirement Jack pursued his hobby of photography - he was a founder member of the Haverhill Camera Club, and he and Paulene enjoyed a busy social life being keen members of the sequence dancing club.

Having enjoyed a happy marriage of 58 years, they were separated by Paulene’s untimely death last year, something from which Jack never recovered.

The funeral service takes place at St Edmunds Chapel, West Suffolk Crematorium, at 3pm on Wednesday, March 14.

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