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Old March 15th 05, 06:33 AM
Mike Terry
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Default Tommy Vance - another tribute

Tommy Vance
11th July 1943 - 6th March 2005

Richard Anthony Crispian Francis Prew Hope-Weston was born in Oxford but ran
away to sea when he was 16 years old. He had been brought up on the rather
staid British broadcasting of the fifties and, like a number of his
contemporaries, he fell in love with the brash sound of American commercial
radio the moment he heard it. In his case, it was while working as a cabin
boy in the merchant navy.

Abbreviating his name to "Rick West", he tried to find work on American
radio, taking whatever shifts he could, even if it meant working for free.
He studied his craft and was constantly learning from his colleagues. He
taught himself the deliberate delivery of the professional broadcaster where
every word counts. A job on KOL Seattle necessitated another name change. He
was offered a show - but only if he called himself "Tommy Vance". The
programme had originally been intended for another presenter who had pulled
out of the deal at the last moment. Unfortunately this change of heart took
place after the jingles had been recorded. The other presenter was called
Tommy Vance. The jingles and pre-launch publicity could not go to waste so
"Rick West" became "Tommy Vance". From there he moved to the legendary KHJ
Los Angeles, the home of the boss jocks.

KHJ was one of the most successful and influential Top 40 stations of the
era and California in 1965 was a great place to be. Unfortunately America
was then involved in a war in Vietnam and, when Tommy got his draft papers
for the US Army, he decided it was time to head back to the UK. British
musician Ian Whitcomb lent him the fare and just before Christmas Tommy
knocked on the door of Caroline House in London. No programme controller was
going to pass up on the opportunity to employ a KHJ boss jock and Caroline's
Bill Hearne was no exception. On 3rd January 1966 Tommy presented his first
show on Caroline South.

Tommy had acquired something of a mid-Atlantic accent while living in
America. He had also acquired a wife. She was not best pleased with the idea
that her husband was going to be on a ship two weeks out of three. It would
mean she would be stuck in an unfamiliar city on her own. So Tommy left
Caroline after a few months and moved to Radio Luxembourg.

The marriage did not last so, when Caroline's Ronan O'Rahilly suggested
Tommy should return to the ship, there was nothing to stop him. In December
1966 he rejoined Radio Caroline South.

During the summer of 1967 it became apparent that the government was going
to legislate against the offshore stations. The pirates desperately tried to
find loop-holes in the new law so that they could remain on the air. Tommy
heard a rumour that Philip Birch, boss of Radio London, was negotiating to
move his station to France. If this was going to happen, Tommy wanted to be
a part of it. In July 1967 he transferred to Radio London. Unfortunately Big
L failed to find a base on the continent. Rather than break the new law, it
chose to close down on 14th August so Tommy's stay with the station was

Tommy was one of the initial team of disc-jockeys signed up for the BBC's
new Radio One and co-hosted Top Gear with John Peel. When the programme was
given to Peel to present solo, Tommy continued to host the occasional show
for the station but his very distinctive voice was also heard on offshore
radio on the numerous commercials running on Radio Caroline for Major Minor
Records. He appeared on various television shows and was the voice of dozens
of advertisements.

Together with his good friends Dave Cash and Kenny Everett he presented
shows for Radio Monte Carlo International and all three of them were part of
the launch team for London's Capital Radio in 1973. Tommy presented the
morning show with Joan Shenton on the station's first programme schedule but
during his time with Capital he also hosted commercial radio's first reggae
show and, at a time when punk was being vilified by the press, he carried
out the first in-depth interview with Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols.

Never one to sit still, Tommy and a couple of partners opened one of
London's top commercial recording studios, Silk Sound, later joined by The
Bridge. His voice was much in demand for advertising work and he presented a
long running rock show on Radio One as well as a daily music and chat
programme for BFBS. For many years he was also the voice of Radio One's Top
Forty. When the BBC launched Greater London Radio in 1988, Tommy hosted the
afternoon drive time show - a heady mixture of "rock and rolling news". He
was also part of the launch team for Virgin Radio and presented rock videos
on VH1.

Tommy liked to give the impression that he was just a hack voice-over man,
cynically selling whatever was on the script. (He dismissively referred to
himself a "voice on legs".) In truth, he did have an amazing voice and the
ability to sell almost anything but he was much more than that. He loved his
music, he enjoyed his broadcasting and he had a passion for life. When he
moved to Spain a couple of year ago, it was with the intention of a gentle
semi-retirement. But it was not long before he was back on the air playing
music for the tourists and ex-pats on the Costa del Sol's Spectrum FM. He
just could not sit back and take it easy. It was not in his nature. He came
back to Britain and threw himself into work again, doing commercials,
appearing on television and returning to Virgin to present a weekly show on
their DAB and internet offshoot, Virgin Classic Rock.

Fans of his shows on VH1, Radio One and Virgin will remember Tommy as the
ultimate rock jock. He certainly did love his rock but his taste in music
was much wider than that. Roots reggae was a particular passion. He was a
skilled interviewer as listeners to his GLR and BFBS shows can testify. His
voice was in demand for commercials over four decades. Tommy could do it
all. He was the consummate broadcasting professional with an incomparable
knowledge and a glorious voice. The radio world is a poorer place for his

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