A RESPECTED Northumbrian folk singer struck down with a rare immune disorder has been honoured by fellow musicians, who have come together to make a compilation album in his name.
Johnny Dickinson is facing months in hospital after been diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, which is brought about when the immune system becomes dysfunctional, attacks itself and begins to destroy parts of the central nervous system.
The 48-year-old, of Amble, Northumberland, contracted the condition following an infection he picked up after a course of chemotherapy to treat a form of cancer last year.
The condition has left him paralysed and doctors say it could be 12 months until he can start using his legs again. As a result, full-time performer Johnny has been unable to work, so close friend Dave Smith decided to do something to help Johnny’s wife, Deborah, support the couple’s four young children.
Dave, from South Shields, South Tyneside, said: “All the people Johnny has worked with are so fond of him, and I told everybody when he became unwell and could no longer work.
“I wanted to do something for him like a benefit, but it would have been too difficult to get all of those people in one place at one time as most are international tourers – it could take 18 months to organise a benefit show with those musicians. So I came up with the idea of everybody giving a track and doing it that way. .”
After putting a call out to Johnny’s friends in the music industry, Dave was inundated with tracks to be featured on the album. Some of the artists included are former Stone Roses guitarist Aziz Ibrahim, Tommy Emmanuel, John Renbourn and Tony McManus.
The Johnny Dickinson Benefit album is now on sale online for £5 and Dave, who runs an artist management company, has been touched by the interest from people all over the world.
The 57-year-old said: “It’s just taken off since we’ve released it, and I think the reason it has worked is obviously to do with the artists involved and the fact that it’s very cheap.
“It’s amazing how people have picked up on the idea – I’m getting interest from people all around the globe.” Dave hopes the record will raise enough money to ease the financial pressures on Deborah while she continues to look after the couple’s children and also visit Johnny in Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary.
“The expense of something like this for a family with four young children is very difficult,” said Dave.
“I have been visiting Johnny regularly and there wasn’t much improvement at first but, over the last few weeks, they seemed to have found the right concoction of medication and he’s doing much better.
“He is able to move his arms now and is talking. It’s going to be a long, long time before he is well and the consultant told him he could expect 12 months before he could use his legs.”
He added: “His family seemed to be completely taken aback when they heard about the album and Johnny seemed genuinely cheered up by the amount of interest.
“Despite everything, Johnny is still in good spirits and is very aware of what’s going on. The nurses in the hospital say he knows more than them because he takes everything the doctors and consultants say on board.
“That’s the really heartening thing about it all, even though it looked so terrible at first, it’s really great to see him now coming around.”
Further fundraising events include an online auction and a gig at The Cluny in Newcastle on August 18.
For more details or to download the Johnny Dickinson Benefit album, visit www.johnnydickinson.net