I was born in Hartlepool and hated working in a factory serving an apprenticeship as a turner and could not wait to get out! Thank God for Lonnie Donegan, skiffle, pop music and Joe Brown because it was all down to Joe that I managed to get that break in the first place. I started running his official fan club in 1960 and when Joe had his number one hit with "A Picture Of You" in May 1962 that's when I finally made the break and left the factory behind. It was also the time that I started a new and exciting life.
Joe Brown, his wife Vicki, his mother Rene and me at the Jack of Clubs, London in the 1960's. Photograph © John Heddon.
On stage with Joe Brown at Trenchers Wine Bar in Middlesbrough, 1984. Joe was appearing in a play at the Billingham Forum and I took him to Trenchers for a meal after the show. He ended up giving a "free" cabaret show to the audience.
Photograph by Hartlepool Mail
Hartlepool United footballers Terry Bell and Cliff Wright, together with Joe Brown and me, in 1967. The photograph was taken in the house where I lived at the time - 90 Kildale Grove, Seaton Carew. The waistcoat I am wearing was once owned by the late and great Billy Fury and was a gift to me from Joe's mother, Rene.
I spent four very happy and informative years with Joe in London and I certainly owe a lot to him for the knowledge and outlook on life he gave me. However, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end and in 1966 it was time to quit and search for a new career. It took a while for that other lucky break to come along and in 1970 I was fortunate to join the BBC in local radio working for BBC Radio Teesside, later to be called BBC Radio Cleveland, in Middlesbrough, where I spent 23 happy years!
For most of those years at the BBC I produced and presented a country music show called "Country Time" which was first broadcast on New Year's Eve in 1970. The programme, which ran for 21 years, was just 25 minutes long when it started and, due to popular demand, was increased to 45 minutes after just six weeks. "Country Time" was 120 minutes long when the show came to an end in 1992. During those 21 years as a country deejay I travelled to Nashville on several occasions to meet many of the major names in country music, I was compere at the Peterborough Country Music Festival in England, introducing American stars on stage and I presented "Country Club" on BBC Radio 2 when its regular presenter, the late and great Wally Whyton, took a holiday break.
Broadcasting country music wasn't my main role at the BBC. For five years I was the presenter of the flagship breakfast show "AM 194" which was an all-speech news and current affairs programme and for almost two years, before the end of my career, I was a sports producer and presenter.
My main claim to fame: I was the first ever disc jockey in the UK to play Chris Rea on the radio. It was long before the days that Chris had a recording contract. He came into the BBC Radio Teesside studios one day with a reel-to-reel tape and asked me to play a track. The song was called "Love Is The Way" and I don't think he's ever recorded it to this day. Before he became famous, a young Chris Rea used to work in the family-run chain of coffee bars and ice cream parlours known as Rea's! I had many cups of coffee served to me by him!
After spending 23 years at the BBC, then enjoying early retirement on the Costa Blanca and living in Spain for almost fourteen years, I finally returned home to Hartlepool in November, 2007.
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