Tue, 26 Jul 2016
Farmer Michael Sedgwick has travelled far from his Thatcham roots.
In 1954 young Michael Sedgwick moved with his family to Waterside Farm in Thatcham. An enthusiastic singer and actor, he took singing lessons in Reading and gained experience singing at his local Thatcham youth club.
Within five years he had landed a major role in Newbury Operatic Society’s performance of the “The Quaker Girl”, in which he was a great success. Professional cabaret engagements followed, including weekend spots in Northern clubs, and appearances on tv and radio. He even appeared in a Royal Command Performance, and sang with the well-known (and infamous) George Mitchell Singers. By the early sixties, he had become widely known as “The Singing Farmer”.
He served as the Chairman of the junior section of the Banbury branch of the NFU(National Farmers’ Union) from 1963 to 1965 and ran a pig unit at the farm his stepfather had moved to near Westcote Barton in North Oxfordshire. Michael maintained his interest in farming and co-presented the Tyne Tees tv programme “Farming Outlook” in the early 1970s.
However the pull of a career in showbusiness proved too strong, and in May 1974 Michael appointed Newbury auctioneers AW Neate and Sons to sell his herd of Friesian dairy cows. He then flew to the United States for a whirlwind of tv and cabaret appearances, as well as a recording contract with a Nashville record company, saying at the time “I don’t quite know how I’m going to feel when I sing Rawhide. The song always makes me feel homesick and I think I’m going to miss the cows very much indeed”.
Always suckers for an English accent, the Americans loved him. Michael was said to be in great demand among his New York show biz friends who owned new-fangled telephone answering machines, and wanted zany cockney messages to greet their callers. Happy to oblige, he recorded many such messages for his friends - one of which was picked up by a Los Angeles film producer, who promptly offered Michael a month’s filming contract in Brazil!
Around this time Michael released his first album, with the snappy title “Michael Sedgwick…Englishman”.
Recorded in two parts, the first features a London medley of songs said to portray some of the charm and character of London, while the second features a selection of popular English ballads. Some of his songs had a distinctly religious flavour, including such titles as “God Bless the Hills”.
In the 1970s he travelled the world as an international entertainer. It is even claimed his voice cracked a glass on his opening night at the Talk of the Town nightclub in Bermuda. He returned to the UK occasionally, even compering semi-final of the Dairy Queen of England and Wales competition in Newbury's Corn Exchange in May 1973. He is pictured with Bradfield Young Farmers' Club Dairy Maid, Amanda Knight.
Eventually he retired from singing and now lives in New York where he owns a PR and communications company.
Not bad for a farmer from Thatcham.