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

"I'm not funny, I'm not pretty.
My whole reason for existence is that I'm a disc jockey.
My interest is in the music."

The man who started life in Oxford with no less than six names, ended it as
someone so well known that he used only two initials - TV.

Richard Anthony Crispian Francis Prew Hope-Weston had gained his first radio
experience in the US, with stations in Washington State, using the name Rick
West until he joined KOL Seattle in 1964. As has been the case with numerous
DJs when they change stations, he was then obliged to adopt a new persona,
to make use of station jingles which had already been recorded in the name
of Tommy Vance. From there, he went to California and KHJ, Los Angeles,
where he became a star jock.

The threat of being drafted into the US army prompted a swift return to
Britain. In January 1966, Tommy transferred from being a top DJ earning big
bucks on KHJ, to being an unknown on Radio Caroline South, braving the North
Sea for a meagre 18.50 a week. Although he said he relished a challenge, he
described this sudden upheaval, which occurred within the space of about
five days, as the biggest cultural shock of his life. The jingles (by the
Johnny Mann Singers), which had been instrumental in changing his identity,
came with him to England. Although he never officially changed identity by
deed-poll, 'TV on radio' was a memorable catch-phrase and 'Tommy Vance'
remained his name for the rest of his life.

Tommy tolerated three winter months aboard Caroline, had a stint on Radio
Luxembourg, then came back to Caroline for another six months.

In July 1967, Radio London programme director Alan Keen persuaded Tommy to
jump ship to the Galaxy. He was already a regular Big L listener, having
become a fan of John Peel's 'Perfumed Garden', while aboard the Caroline
ship Mi Amigo. (TV and Peelie later co-presented 'Top Gear' for the BBC.)
Radio London was short-staffed, because so many of the DJs were opting to
leave before the Marine Offences Bill came into effect in August. Tommy was
persuaded to join because at the time, there were plans for Radio London to
recommence broadcasting from the continent after August 14th. Management
hopes were high for the station's future, but not all the DJs shared their
optimism.

Although Tommy's stint on Radio London must have been the briefest in his
long broadcasting career, his place in Big L history will always be
remembered. He was the last DJ to join Radio London, presenting his first
show the day he arrived aboard the ship - July 25th 1967. Tommy had the
honour of presenting the final Fab 40 on August 6th. His last show
(breakfast) was on August 7th and he left the Galaxy the following day. His
voice, however, was heard on Radio London's final day. On August 14th, a
pre-recorded 'Juicy Fruit Spectacular' was broadcast between 1330 and 1400,
and at the end of the show Tommy (who co-hosted it with Lee Peters) said a
personal farewell to his Big L audience.

Listening on shore to the close-down, Tommy said: "It was very sad because
it was a part of your life. I was perpetually confused by the evolution of
the medium in this country because I'd come from America, where radio was
commonplace. It always struck me as terribly strange that if America had
this proliferation of radio, why couldn't the UK have it?"

Of course, thanks to the influence of offshore radio, the UK eventually got
a variety of radio stations, and Tommy was to work for many of them,
including Radio One, Capital and Virgin. It's impossible to list everything
in a career like Tommy's. He made an appearance in a Slade film and released
several (unsuccessful) singles. His talents also took him into television;
he hosted Top of the Pops, voiced many commercials and fronted the Friday
Rock Show on VH1.

Tommy told us that people regularly presented him with copies of the final
Fab 40, thinking that they were doing him a favour. But he did not really
want to listen to it, as his one-and-only Big L chart presentation was not
something he regarded as one of his finer broadcasting moments! The Fab 40
title was a misnomer, as Alan Keen had crammed a much larger number than 40
records into the final chart. Not surprisingly, the show overran by 22
minutes.

Tommy always enjoyed a party. He was present at our 35th Anniversary
Offshore Reunion in August 2002. (His signature from the Guest Book, is
below.) Sadly, a business commitment in Spain prevented him from attending
the Radio London 40th Anniversary Reunion, which took place on February 26th
2005, less than a week before his untimely passing.

(Picture right: Tommy at the 35th Anniversary Offshore Reunion, 2002, with
fellow broadcasting pioneers Johnnie Walker, Ronan O'Rahilly, Dave Lee
Travis, Mark Sloane and Keith Skues.)

Students from Luxembourg, making a documentary about their country's famous
radio station, arrived at the 2002 reunion and interviewed Duncan Johnson
and Keith Skues. But Tommy, hiding behind his trademark dark glasses, kept
well out of the way. He told us he did not want to talk to them, because he
felt he had enjoyed a little too much to drink.

Perhaps Tommy's least-known (but nevertheless, very popular) role was that
of 'The Thing That Ate Birmingham' from Kenny Everett's famous 'Moment Of
Terror' promo, made while they were both working for London's Capital Radio.
Never one to miss the opportunity of obtaining a special effect, the
mischievous Kenny recorded the sound of Tommy burping. By adding an enormous
amount of echo, Kenny enhanced the sound to create an audio monster. He
frequently used 'The Thing that Ate Birmingham' in his space serial, Captain
Kremmen.

Quotes are from Brian Long's book, 'The London Sound'.

http://www.radiolondon.co.uk




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