A much-loved Wigan club singer has died suddenly, the day after celebrating his 45th birthday.
Dean Winstanley, who was well known on the circuit as Dean Michaels, was taken ill just hours after going out for a meal with long-term partner Jean Bennett and he was pronounced dead soon after at Wigan Infirmary despite medics’ best efforts to revive him.
The Ince vocalist was acclaimed as a talented regular around the borough’s venues, no more so than at Mr Earl’s and Goose Green Labour Club where he had regular spots. Dean also made many an appearance at fund-raising events.
And he also once hit the headlines after the stepson of Elvis Presley, David Stanley, heard Dean impersonating “The King” with an orchestra at Blackpool Winter Gardens and told him: “Elvis would have been proud to hear you.”
Heartbroken Jean, who had been Dean’s sweetheart since they were teens and has a 25-year-old son, Aaron, with him, was at his side when he lost his battle for life.
Family, friends and work colleagues of Jean at Wigan Infirmary have now set up an online fund-raising drive to help pay for Dean’s funeral this Tuesday at 11.30am at Ince Parish Church.
A festival has also been organised by cousin Jimmy Aspinall which will also help settle funeral costs while paying tribute to the musician at Rose Bridge Rugby Club on September 1.
A post-mortem examination has concluded that Dean died from cardiac failure due to heart disease. Jean said there had been no warning and she couldn’t even recollect him going to the doctor’s with any kind of ailment since they met.
She added: “I am still coming to terms with what has happened. It was all so quick. We had been to Blackpool on the Monday with family then on his birthday on the Wednesday we went to La Cava in Hindley and he was happy and right as rain.
“It was only the next morning that he got up and said he felt ill and that I should get an ambulance. We made him comfortable and the paramedics were very quick and worked at him at home and in the ambulance, but even at the hospital there was nothing they could do.
“He was a very fit lad. He didn’t exercise and ate what he liked, but there was no fat on him and his medical history was non-existent. It came as a complete shock. He was my childhood sweetheart.
“Everybody loved him. He was just so laid back and placid. He got on with people and did so much for charity. You’d never find anyone who had a bad word for him.”
Jean said close family members had since gone to the doctors for heart tests in case there were any hereditary issues to identify but all had been given a clean bill of health.
Dean was born and brought up in Ince, attending Belle Green Primary and Rose Bridge High where he excelled in art and music. On leaving school he held down several jobs, including as a trained painter and decorator, working at Heinz and as a bingo caller. More recently a day job had also deployed his artistic talents as a roving tattoo artist.
But music was always his first love and was performing in venues such as the Riverside Club when in his mid-teens. A breakthrough came in 1993 when he won Wigan’s Search for a Star contest at Gidlow Cabaret Club and, with the £500 prize money and help from his parents (mum Mary was an agent) he began his career as a professional singer and was soon getting regular work. Latterly he had ventured further afield to gigs in Blackburn, Widnes,
Barrow and the Catterick army barracks in North Yorkshire.
Dean’s favourite artist was Elvis - that tribute from Mr Stanley was much treasured - but he also sang the songs of musicians as varied as Daniel Bedingfield, The Stone Roses, Killers and Tom Jones.
The funeral is followed by committal at Wigan Crematorium at 12.30pm and a wake thereafter at Higher Ince Labour Club.
A Gofundme page has been set up to raise money for the funeral. Jean said: “We were stupid not getting life insurance and you don’t expect things like this to happen, but it did and now we are in difficulties.
“People have been very kind though. Jimmy has organised this festival from noon to 6pm on September 1 at Rose Bridge RL Club to fund-raise too and involving loads of local artists who are queuing up to pay tribute to Dean and help us out.
“We are very grateful.”