IT was the Swinging Sixties - that hedonistic era of monumental changes dictated by the young of the day.

Beatlemania was round the corner and mini dresses and flared trousers were the must-have fashion.

And while Helen Shapiro was ‘walking back to happiness’ and The Shirelles were doing what ‘mama said’, the names on most people’s lips around Long Preston were ‘Ann and Stan’.

Villager Ann Jackson, a slip of a thing barely scraping 20, had a penchant for folk music and ballads. She was a particular fan of singers Nina and Frederik and was so taken by Frederik’s guitar playing she decided to take lessons.

“I went to Norrie Greenwood, in Settle, who taught me a few chords,” said Ann, modestly. “I practised for hours and then someone said that Stan Gray, also from Long Preston, was learning the guitar and why didn’t I go and see him? They thought we’d go well together, so I did.”

Stan, a wagon driver for Dodgson’s corn mill at the time, and Ann, who spent 28 years at Ribblesdale Motors until retirement, were indeed suited to singing as a duo.

“It was two people with a love of music, both having the same taste in music. We met to see how each other was doing and the rest is history,” she said.

“Stan’s house was the practice venue every week. We would practice songs over and over again ‘til we got them right. We felt sorry for Stan’s wife but we pressed on, with sore fingers and some strong language,” she mused.

“We started singing at the Maypole Inn tap room for the regulars and it went down well and our very first booking as a singing act was there. Suddenly we were ‘Ann and Stan’.”

As bookings started rolling in they needed someone to help out, particularly with getting to venues as neither could afford a car.

Fortunately for them, electrician Stuart Robertshaw who lived nearby offered to drive them and became their manager.

The late Billy Ward provided his expertise as photographer, taking copious numbers of pictures which Stan kept in an album.

Both Billy and Stuart became very good friends of the duo and helped them on their way.

Despite having little money between then, Ann and Stan played all around the district and beyond for free. Stuart, too, was happy to chauffeur the pair with two guitars and ‘a bit of an amplifier’ as he called it, for nothing.

“I didn’t mind because I used to get a good supper,” he said. “I was interested in music myself and I had heard them sing in the village.

“Ann had a lovely singing voice and a strong stage presence. She could talk to people easily and relax the audience. Stan had a good voice too and both of them told amusing stories in between songs and engaged with people.They were really good.”

In fact Stuart was so impressed he sent a demo record of one of their songs to Polydor Records Ltd, in London.

The company wrote back saying they’d like them to audition but it was too far to go.

“We couldn’t afford to get there. We were both working. Besides, it wasn’t what we wanted to do. Stan had a young family and both of us just wanted to stay local and entertain folk,” said Ann.

This wasn’t to say they didn’t achieve some national fame.

On Saturday November 19, 1966, they took part in Take a Bow, a feature in the Light Programme of the BBC introduced by ‘Diddy’ David Hamilton.

“It was pre-recorded in Manchester but was great fun to do,” said Ann.

They also had one of their songs played on Radio Caroline.

Ann also proved her talent as a songwriter in the early days, writing the lyrics for Go Tell The World.

The couple continued to draw crowds for most of the 1960s until they went their separate ways.

Stan had moved to Hellifield where he still lives, though is currently not well and ‘not at his best’ as Ann would say.

Some years later Stan began singing again with another partner and played guitar around the district, while Ann took an extended break.

It was a health scare with breast cancer that brought her back into the limelight in her early 50s.

After successful treatment at Airedale by top surgeon Archie McAdam, Ann flexed her vocal cords once again, this time to raise money for the Airedale Cancer Support Group. Her efforts added £18,000 to the coffers.

Ann carried on singing with a few local groups but gave up altogether a few years ago.

“I’ve done now. You need to know when to stop,” she said, though has kept hold of one of her guitars. “They were great times and even today I get called Ann and Stan. It happened only a few months ago in the supermarket.

“I have some wonderful memories. I even got to meet Nina and Frederik backstage when they were appearing in Bradford.”

Coronavirus has stopped Ann from travelling far, but she does keep in touch with Stan on the phone. However, these days, they choose to draw on memories, rather than melodies.