Singer Dougie James has died aged 72, his heartbroken brother confirmed today.
The 70s soul singer, who performed as Dougie James And The Soul Train, died unexpectedly, with his brother Barry confirming the sad news.
Dougie was father to actor Ryan Thomas, 36, and his twin brothers Adam and Scott Thomas, both 32.
Barry wrote on his Facebook page: “Thanks to Ryan, Scott and Adam for letting me know the legend that was my brother Dougie James has passed away thanks for the laughs the musical education bro, see you on the other side.”
BBC Manchester’s Mike Shaft paid tribute to the local icon, saying: “He played all over the north west, in those days when they were playing places like Golden Garter they’d have bands on, an American band and then Dougie James.
“Wonderful guy, always a smile on his face. Always a happy story. Very sad news.”
After his huge success as a touring singer in the 1960s and 70s, Dougie became a promoter and is well known in Manchester, where his sons were raised.
Ryan, Emmerdale star Adam and Love Islander Scott joined their dad on an emotional trip to India in 2019 to explore his roots for a six-part ITV documentary, Mancs In Mumbai.
There they came to terms with their previously strained relationship with Dougie, who had split from their mum Gail shortly after the twins were born.
“My dad left us for years when we were younger and then he came back into our lives and we never really talked about it,” Adam told Star TV magazine when the documentary aired earlier this year.
“There were a lot of unanswered questions, which we touched on and I think we needed to. It got quite emotional.”
Dougie went missing from his children’s lives for six years after the torrid split, only returning to them when Ryan turned 16.
“We didn’t see him in all that time, then when Ryan turned 16 he came back into our lives,” Scott told Weekend magazine.
“It was a hard time for us, which is something we had to deal with on this trip.”
“There were a lot of unanswered questions that we’d never talked about and this trip was the right time to do it,” Adam added.
The heartrending series followed the brothers and Dougie as they retracted his dad Nolan’s steps, from his home in Mumbai to the UK in 1947.
“He always referred to his dad as his hero,” said Ryan at the time, “and the moment it hit him was when he went to where our granddad went to school. I said, ‘Dad, this is the exact same playground that your dad played in when he was a child.'”
Heartbreakingly, Adam told the cameras that he’d overheard Dougie saying: “My dad’s my hero, but I’m not sure I’m my sons’ hero.”
The documentary was the longest time any of the boys had spent with their dad in one go, and Adam said it was important to put their fractured relationship in perspective.
“Getting to take him along on this journey with us was very special. It’s pretty much his show, he steals this show from start to finish,” he told This Morning.
“So he was finding out about his dad, but we were also finding out about our dad also.”
While promoting the trip on Instagram in May this year, Ryan shared a picture of them as youngsters with their dad looking on.
“We are our father’s son, thank you for making our trip so special dad. We Love you #mancsinmumbai,” he captioned it.
Ryan, who has son Roman with his fiancee Lucy Mecklenburgh as well as daughter Scarlett from his previous relationship with Tina O’Brien, is yet to publicly comment on his dad’s death.
Adam and Scott have also not yet posted about Dougie.
Tributes have been flooding in, with Simon James tweeting: “Really sad news today the legend that is Dougie james has passed away, one if Englands greatest singer entertainers. We had some great times with Alex ‘hurricane higgins’ and bought so much pleasure to so many people, he will be greatly missed. RIP DOUGIE.”
Another wrote: “Aww Just heard that Dougie James of Dougie James’ soul train has died. I remember him appearing at Fagins nightclub when I worked there, many times. Loved his version of “Hey Joe” RIP.”
A third said: “My old pal dougie james passed away last night god rest you you’ll have a soul train with the angels.”
And a fourth tweeted: “Sad news hearing the news that Manchester’s Dougie James, father of @ryanjamesthomas has passed away. Very sad news. Dougie and my uncle were great great friends. Met him at the funeral and then memorial party a month later. RIP.”