When the news broke that there was to be a commercial radio station in Manchester, I was absolutely delighted.
As an avid radio listener in those days and a disc jockey playing soul and dance music I was hopeful that I could get a job on the station. I wrote to Colin Walters and received an application form and an outline of their terms. They weren’t brilliant, but I didn’t care. I wanted to be on the radio.
Of course at this point I didn’t get a job but I was confident that it was only a matter of time. My biggest disappointment came on the first week of broadcasting when I heard the soul programme ‘Soul Train’ presented by Andy Peebles. It was brilliant and right then I knew that I would never be working at Piccadilly as long as Andy Peebles was there.
The programme was everything that a soul show should be, a mixture of up-to-date and classic soul featuring all the great soul artists. Lamont Dozier was a particular favourite of Peebles, as he was known to everyone, as was Bobby Womack and Sam Dees. It was truly wonderful to hear tracks like, ‘The show must go on by Sam Dees’ and ‘Fish ain’t biting by Lamont Dozier’ played on the radio. Since I had no particular interest in any other type of music, I could not see the possibility of working on Piccadilly radio.
If there was one slight criticism of the programme, it was the lack of dance music. Back in those days, the line between soul and dance music was not as pronounced as it is now, however Peebles still avoided the better quality dance music. Those of us who were looking for something to criticise were left with this very tiny area to focus on.
There was some excellent dance music, but if you wanted to hear it you still had to go to the clubs. While Peebles would play ‘It’s a man’s world’ by James Brown, he probably wouldn’t play ‘Sex machine’. While ‘Zoom’ or ‘Just to be close to you’ by the Commodores was acceptable, ‘Brick house’ definitely was not, and P Funk, one of the biggest musical forms at the time was avoided. So, no Bootsy Collins, Funkadelica or Parliament. Well not on any regular basis anyway.
At this time, while working at various clubs in the Manchester area and throughout the North West, I also held down a full-time job, working on a counter at the post office.
On this faithful day, at the West Didsbury post office, I opened a copy of the Daily Mail to see the news that Andy Peebles was moving to Radio 1. The reason for this was the fact that Radio 1 and Radio 2 which had, to this point shared evening programming, would now each have their own programmes. I was in shock. Peebles was going! This was my chance to get into Piccadilly.
Within 1 hour, I had rearranged my lunch break and was in the reception of Piccadilly Radio demanding to see the Programme Controller, Colin Walters, only to be told by the receptionist, Pat, that he was not in the office today.
Pat suggested that I spoke to his secretary Gail who came out to meet me. For the next 45 minutes I harangued the poor girl with every reason as to why I was the only person who could take over from Peebles.
In the end, I think more to get rid of me than anything, she suggested I sent in a tape to Mr. Walters. I said, “Look, I’ve sent in tapes to stations before, and they don’t even listen to them”. “Send the tape to me” she said, “and I’ll make sure he listens to it.” That was all I wanted.
I knew if Colin Walters heard my tape, I would get the job. I had had years of experience of disc jockeying and although radio was different from clubs, I had been grooming myself for radio work by presenting a full Saturday programme at a local shopping mall, Oasis.
I played adult contemporary music, The Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Bread, Carpenters, etc, and included jingles and adverts. I had listened to enough radio to know what sounded good.
I was ready for Piccadilly but was Colin Walters ready to give me a job? Peebles was gone, for me, it would be now or never.
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