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Who is Jack Straw?

We are often asked whether Jack Straw Productions is named after a British elected official (The Rt Hon Jack Straw MP, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), founded by Grateful Dead fans (after the song: "Jack Straw from Wichita cut his buddy down..."), or politely ask if "Jack" is available. Sorry, none of the above. So who's Jack and why do we keep him around? Well, since you ask...

The name Jack Straw has several appeals for us. Naturally, we delight in the obscurity of it. It refers to a trouble-making peasant type who, in 1381, led a riot against the Flemish inhabitants of London for nothing less mundane than economic reasons, but better, is associated in Chaucer with the absolute confusion and demi-philosophical statements of Chanticleer and Dame Pertelote under attack of the ‘povre wydwe, somdeel stape in age.’ Figure that one out.

Jack Straw bodes well for KRAB, with outside help we may be able to escape the inordinate confusion of our farmyard studios. We are sometimes revolted by our poverty and dream – as we have said – of glistening studios with miracle equipment and a transmitter lost somewhere in the clouds of faultless transmission and wild improbable plans. We will refuse, of course, adamantly, to give up the confusion of our quasi-philosophical stance– that it the nature of KRAB and Dame Pertelote.

~The Radio Papers: From KRAB to KCHU by Lorenzo Milam

Excerpt of Chaucer’s The Nun’s Priest’s Tale

So hydous was the noyse, a benedicitee!
Certes, he Jakke Straw and his meynee
Ne made nevere shoutes half so shrille
Whan that they wolden any Flemyng kille,
As thilke day was madde upon the fox.
Of bras they broghten bemes, and of box,
Of horn, of boon, in whiche they blewe and powped,
And therwithal they skriked and they howped,
It semed as they hevene sholde falle.


Modern English Translation

So terrible was the noise, ah ben'cite!
Certainly old Jack Straw and his army
Never raised shouting half so loud and shrill
When they were chasing Flemings for to kill,
As on that day was raised upon the fox.
They brought forth trumpets made of brass, of box,
Of horn, of bone, wherein they blew and pooped,
And therewithal they screamed and shrieked and whooped;
It seemed as if the heaven itself should fall!

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