Les Barker writes strange poems and comes from originally from Manchester, but he’s now Welsh. He was an accountant before he became a professional idiot. He’s written 85 books, which sell in large numbers at his gigs because people don’t quite believe what they’ve just heard. His poems have spawned a number of folk heroes: Jason and the Arguments, Cosmo the Fairly Accurate Knife Thrower, Captain Indecisive and Spot of the Antarctic, to name but two.
Les began his career as assistant to Mrs Ackroyd, a small hairy mongrel who lay around in folk clubs, bit people and became famous. Mrs Ackroyd was the only dog ever to own her own record label. Since her sad demise, Les is mainly a solo performer, though he has taken to working with humans from time to time. The Mrs Ackroyd Band gradually evolved from an ever-changing who’s who of the folk scene into a tightly knit, well-rehearsed group. The band are now playing as a trio, without Mr Barker, and will be far more tightly knit and well-rehearsed. Mr Barker’s Welsh songs are occasionally performed by a trio of Welsh musicians who have had the good sense to keep him out of the band.
Les has several solo albums to his credit: ‘Dogologues’, An Infinite Number of Occasional Tables’, ‘A Cardi and Bloke’, ‘Up the creek without a poodle’, ‘Arovertherapy’, ‘The War on Terrier’ and ‘Daydream Retriever’. He has travelled the length, breadth and height of Great Britain, as well as Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, and – both solo and with the band – the United States and Canada, and has more recently won prizes for his Welsh poetry, including 5 small chairs, a big one and a stool, and has now completed a DVD of his Welsh poetry with photos and musical accompaniment.
The Mrs Ackroyd Band – supplemented by guest members such as June Tabor and Martin Allcock – has released five albums;Oranges & Lemmings’, ‘Gnus & Roses’, ‘Tubular Dogs’, ‘Yelp!’. and ‘Dark side of the mongrel’.
In addition there are five highly acclaimed albums of his serious work; the folk opera ‘The Stones of Callanish’, ‘Some Love’, ‘The Wings of Butterflies’, Airs of the Dog’ and ‘Twilight of the Dogs’, all involving a galaxy of talent. His serious songs have also featured on albums by Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick, and by June Tabor. June invariably includes a smattering of Mr Barker’s serious and comic songs in her live performances. The Kingston Trio and Tom Paxton have also recorded Mr Barker’s songs’.
Les and the Mrs Ackroyd Band burst furtively onto national radio with a series of six programmes for BBC Radio 2 entitled ‘Mrs Ackroyd explores her roots’. A new, and much larger audience were led in ever decreasing circles by Mr Barker’s strange mind. A growing number of radio programmes worldwide are featuring his recorded work. Dr Demento has included the Mrs Ackroyd Band’s performance of ‘Dachshunds with erections can’t climb stairs’ on one of his compilations, and ‘Will the turtle be unbroken?’ on another; and ‘Reinstalling Windows’ on the next one.
There is also a double CD of Mr Barker’s work performed by a vast number of TV & radio personalities, ‘Guide Cats for the Blind’ and several sequels, ‘The Missing Persians File’, ‘Top Cat, White Tie and Tails’, ‘Catnav’ and ‘Herding Cats.’
And ‘The Mrs Ackroyd Occasional Table Book’; a collection of his greatest hits (up to about 1998) mixed with a selection of his photographs taken on his travels, followed by ‘The Mrs Ackroyd Periodic Table Book’, and most recently ‘The Mrs Ackroyd Bird Table Book.
Mr Barker has also translated Daniel Owen’s novel ‘Enoc Huws’, and in has co-operated with a friend, Malcolm Weindling, to produce a computerised Welsh rhyming dictionary.
What else can one say about Les Barker? He was Old York Victoria’s footballer of the year in the season when they finished top of the Altrincham League. He has run a marathon in two hours forty one minutes; but he was younger then. He’s very difficult to describe. But there’s only one of him. Go and see him (and buy some of his books).