Yorkshire Times by Graham Clark
Interview With DJ Tony Prince
Like me you might have listened to DJ Tony Prince on Radio Luxembourg. His passion and enthusiasm for music is still as strong as ever. Now Tony along with radio DJ’s such as Mike Read and Neil Fox have started up United DJ’s – a radio station that looks to the past and to the future too with shows such as the Heritage Chart that plays new tracks from established artists who otherwise might not be heard on radio.
I asked Tony about the radio station and his career to date including some of the artists such as Elvis Presley who he has interviewed.
What gave you the idea to start up the radio station United DJs?
A series of reunions with my DJ friends and learning how the radio industry chiefs had divorced themselves from personality DJ’s and wide music playlists.
Most of the DJ’s on the commercial radio stations in the UK all sound the same, what has happened to the DJ’s who have a personality?
You want a job on Global, you have to go through a training process which involves playing lots of jingles, talking in a time-frame and many rules and regimentations. In my day they threw you on a boat said, “there’s your microphone, get on with it!”
Radio seems to be as popular as ever despite streaming services, downloads etc, why do you think radio is still a force to be reckoned with?
People like the companionship of radio, familiarity. DJs can become a part of their family.
The Heritage Chart on the station is a great idea, these artists are still making great music wouldn’t you agree?
Of course they are, why would they ever stop making great music with such a background and knowledge of how a song and arrangement works. Our first four number 1’s on the Heritage chart were from LIMAHL, RIGHT SAID FRED, DION & PAUL SIMON and HOWARD JONES. As Dion said in a voiced promo he did for us, “I still feel more relative today”. The reason the chart came about was based on a Mike Read discussion with an artist who called himself a Heritage Artist. It was the first time I’d heard the expression, he told Mike how difficult it was for them to get airplay on BBC and ILR. I’d been courting Neil Fox for a while trying to get him onto United DJ Radio, when we decided on a chart show featuring Heritage artists, I knew Neil was the man to present it.
Do you still take an interest in current dance music such as soulful house as you used to be involved in the Dance scene for many years?
I’m into music 360 degrees but dance music and remixing is in my DNA. In 1983 I launched DMC, a DJ music mixing club for DJs and at the same time I created a magazine I called Mixmag, I also edited the magazine but I never ever remixed music, that would have taken up too much time and I developed a team who were incredible producers. When I was a club DJ or made personal appearances for Radio Caroline and Radio Luxembourg, I took a heavy bag of records. When I saw what DMC had created and DJs went to Ibiza for £150,000 in their private jets playing their whole set off a USB…I thought the world had gone nuts.
When you were a DJ on Radio Caroline, in rough seas how did you stop the needle from jumping off the record?
The stylus arm would lift off the record at a certain angle then we’d cut to a Revox tape recorder bolted to the studio wall. One night in a Force 12 in the Irish Sea, I was doing the Midnight Surf Party and the stylus lifted so I cut to the tape recorder. After 10 minutes the bolts went ping out of their holding and I watched as the Revox teetered forward, then back then, finally, it crashed to the floor. That’s when I cut to the microphone to explain to the listeners “…we have no music source and…” A rack of the Top 30 records fell on me and I fell to the floor covered in 45’s.
In your career to date who has been the best person you have interviewed?
The most illusive Elvis Presley. Paul & Linda McCartney numerous times, easy peasy. One of the most consequential was when I flew to Vegas to meet and interview The Osmonds. When I returned to Radio Luxembourg I created 5 shows featuring each of the band and did Marie’s first ever interview. These went out the five nights before their arrival at Heathrow. No one anticipated such a huge turn out of fans because no one had ever heard of The Osmonds unless of course they listened to 208 The Station of the Stars. My show was targeting the teenyboppers and I had thousands of them. It was because of their letters that I first heard of the Osmonds and what inspired me to go to see them in Las Vegas. By the way, there is a filmed documentary somewhere of their arrival and the wall that collapsed under the weight of the fans.
The music scene has changed so much over the last 60 years, what do you think has been changes for the better and the worst?
Once we launched the Heritage Chart I looked at the official TOP 100 chart and it didn’t feature one of our Top 30. It was Ariana, Billy Eilish, Justin Beiber so obviously the younger audiences are the ones downloading their music. This is the effect my granddaughter who is 12 are having but it has to be a certain type of music, music they have seen performed on their social media, music that is THEIRS. It’s like when we loved Elvis and our parents hated rock n roll…we knew they were wrong and kids today know their parents have lost the plot. (They don’t want their parents to like their music anyway). So that leaves a yawning gap for United DJs Radio, our target audience is 40+ and we have 32 legendary old-school personality, music loving jocks who love what they are doing once again.
What has been your proudest achievement over your career?
Proud? Getting to Elvis twice, introducing him on stage at the Vegas Hilton showroom. Introducing The Beatles at the Oldham Top Rank the night Please Please Me went to Number 1, the start of Beatlemania, Starting DMC and totally changing DJ culture in clubland. So many events to be proud of but I have to say marrying Christine my childhood sweetheart who has been by my side now for 52 years is number one on my chart.
You started out as a jockey at Middleham in North Yorkshire, have you ever been back up to Yorkshire over the years?
Yes, I had a TV channel (Wedding TV) and went to the Wedding Exhbition in Harrogate every year. One year slipped up to Middleham to see the old stables. My best pal is Marc Conneely from Huiddersfield, we started Nightlife Holidays together and kicked off the scene in Ibiza. Marc now lives in LA, last time I went there we had a great night out with the Emperor Rosko with whom I spent happy days bobbing up and down on Radio Caroline.
NEW SHOW – NEW DJ – DOCTOR FOX
A NEW REVOLUTION STAGED BY MANY WHO WERE PART OF THE 60’s UK RADIO REVOLUTION.
by Tony Prince.
You may or may not appreciate the changes we are now experiencing in media. TV is in free-fall but radio will likely stop calling itself radio as the streaming potential floods the internet. They tried to stop calling us DJs but we’ve addressed that too burying the presenter and announcer. DJ is far more romantic and cool.
Myself and a bunch of colleagues who had been junked by their FM employers decided to take a leaf out of Charlie Chaplin’s book, whereby he and colleagues who’d had a bellyful of the major studio owners in Hollywood, reacting by launching their own studio, United Artists.
On April 2nd 2018 we launched United DJ Radio. We bypassed FM built a studio believing passionately that streaming would make FM frequencies redundant, eventually.
Our team grew, the DJs who had been made into superstars on the BBC network were junked but I recognised there was a massive movement taking place that would have a similar influence to the pirate radio stations on which my radio career was launched in 1965. Our beloved Radio Caroline employer, Ronan O’Rahilly passed on this year, he died suffering dementia at the end cared for by his partner in Dublin. Ronan was pissed-off because he couldn’t get the BBC or Radio Luxembourg to play a Georgie Fame record. The BBC Light Programme (the name they gave this station identifies what their then Director General thought of his station’s content), was controlled by the UK Musician’s Union who hated the challenge records were giving to their live musician members.
I was expelled from of the MU on the same grounds, a victim of a major test case. When the orchestra I sang and played guitar with had their bar-break at the Bristol Top Rank, the stage would revolve to the sound of cheers as I came round spinning the hits of the day. It was 1964. 100 musicians gathered in a Bristol hotel on a Sunday afternoon to listen to me, Top Rank’s managers down from HQ in London and my own bandleader putting forward a case on my behalf.
From Rank’s point of view the economics had nothing to do with paying live trios to give the band their break replacing them with those round black vinyl things. They knew how much their audiences across a huge network of dancehalls wanted to hear the originals not live cover versions. They heard the cheers I received when the stage revolved and they heard the boos the bands received when the DJ set was over. They knew they could push a 1750 capacity audience into a record-only night on Tuesdays and as far as Top Rank Leisure and Mecca Dancing, were concerned, there was no contest. The future was quite clear…records were king!
When Ronan O’Rahilly was running out of money George Harrison wrote him a cheque having bumped inot him on the King’s Road. But whilst the BBC ran into the Musicians Union, pirate radio stations ran into the British Labour Government. The Marine and Broadcasting Offences Act brought all but one Radio Caroline ship to an end. To requite the population who had become enchanted by this American-style radio, Prime Minister Harold Wilson promised the nation a new youth channel, BBC Radio One.
Because radio was still in it’s youth in the UK, they employed mainly former pirate DJs mostly those the BBC staff had listened to for the past three years. Tony Blackburn was given the prime breakfast show, a man who had once climbed the 180 foot mast to put Radio Caroline South back on air, a man who liked the neighbouring Radio London’s PAMS of Dallas jingles so much, he jumped ship.
The Musicians Union imposed what they decided to call ‘needle-time restrictions‘, a title that wouldn’t stand today because the needles and record players are redundant, just like most of the DJs became once the Radio 1 audience out-youthed the DJ team.
Radio 2 became their stepping stone but not everyone could be accommodated by this second pop channel. Capital Gold employed many of us, Mike Read, Kid Jensen, Paul Burnett, Kenny Everett and Doctor Fox but after a couple of years the boss, Richard Parks, (who himself had come from Radio Scotland’s pirate radio roots), decided he didn’t need the big names of the past, they were too expensive.
To a man we were frustrated with ILR’s move to tighter playlists. We liked the wages but with a rotating playlist of 200 gold tunes, to us these were wages of sin. We all hated the job holding on to them by an ego thread. Beyond the gold stations in the UK, the mainstream networks learned that to repeat an A list of tunes delivered a bigger audience, a population who started to inherit choice, more ILR stations, more BBC local stations and many more television stations through the SKY network.
Then there was the internet!
Rather than take up golf or tackle the garden, I packed away the golf clubs and together with my DJ friends came out fighting. United DJ Radio now features over 30 DJs, 13 of them broadcasting from their home studios (even before lockdown). The stream is received in over 180 countries and, remarkably every radio station in the world can now be heard anywhere in the world.
Many of us came from Radio Luxembourg careers, a station on AM (we called it the Medium Wave). Luxembourg had a night-time monopoly, so hard to believe now when I listen to old air-checks as the signal had to travel all the way from the Grand Duchy to a land filled with static, much worse in the summer months when the sun attacked the frequency. But Luxembourg was all our parents had before the pirates and when the 60’s arrived and the pirate era ended, Luxembourg thrived because the Advertising Agencies had become more indoctrinated to use the radio medium.
Every star who was ever anyone came to Luxembourg arriving on Focher Friendship flights with their managers and record pluggers who loved not only the exposure but the parties they shared with the DJ team. Noel Edmonds, Paul Burnett, Kid Jensen, Bob Stewart, Dave Christian and Mark Wesley made up the first live team living and broadcasting from the centre of Europe. The DJs did gigs in clubs around the UK and right across Europe and Scandinavia. I personally made the only ever DJ tour of Czechoslovakia shortly after the Russian invasion. It was like Beatlemania. Whilst 208 the Station of the Stars as Luxembourg was known, held the entire population of UK music lovers, in the Eastern Bloc, it was even more important. Then it was against the law to listen to foreign radio stations but even a communist government couldn’t beat the Beatles, Stones and Kinks.
The realisation that Luxembourg was a European-wide phenomenon propelled me to start once again addressing a global audience on UDJ. Other streaming platforms (‘platform’ may well replace the word ‘radio’) are heard everywhere just like our station, but we are the only one actually talking to the world. We have even deregulated the descriptions Presenters and Broadcasters referring to ourselves once again as DJs.
Our Covid warnings were voiced by actor Ian Swann who played an authentic Winston Churchill not only in our series of corona virus safety clips but actually in two wonderful programmes scripted by our breakfast show DJ Mike Read.
The pirates invigorated music sales so much the British record industry had funds to aggressively enter the American market. It was called the British Invasion. It’s how an avalanche of UK groups and artists broke the almost impregnable US market. Without pirate radio this would never have been possible.
So, where are we with this fledgling UDJ concept? I believe we have one of the best, experienced, team of DJs anywhere, the majority are Brits but we have DJs in America, Canada, Barbados, Thailand, South Africa, Scandinavia Holland, Denmark and Ghana. Things were going well before Covid, advertising was materialising but the economic and business draught has temporarily stymied our growth. But the audience continues to grow, over 6000 listeners have joined our FB group, our data reveals thousands of global streams each week. We are on DAB in Portsmouth and Norwich.
Other stations are managing to survive, Gordon McNamee, the man who launched KISS FM for whom myself and Richard Branson were board members, has now established MiSoul with, like UDJ, mainly volunteer DJs who are passionate about their music. Radio Caroline continues to broadcast legally from a ship in a river, again with volunteer DJs. DJs everywhere in the world can now have their own radio platform with little chance of them being financed.
It is a passion for music that is the real driving force and one that infected me the moment I heard Elvis Presley for the first time. Quite how the record labels and music makers will deal with their finances in the future with so much of their product now in the hands of Google and YouTube, an enormous mistake if you ask me, remains to be seen.
UDJ was launched because we had been smitten by ageism. Having realised this form of age discimination was now affecting established artists, United DJs reaction was to launch a revolutionary new chart show THE HERITAGE CHART, a top 30 exclusively containing new music from established artists of old. The idea was put forward by Mike Read who is heard in his traditional breakfast show Monday – Friday 7-9am. Added to the excitement is Doctor Fox who comes out of radio retirement to deliver the show each Sunday afternoon 1-3pm.
Mike Read: “The HERITAGE CHART is profoundly important to musicians who are barred at certain radio stations because of their age. It’s the most discriminatory ageism in existence for which corporations should be ashamed”.
Doctor Fox: “I’ve so missed being a part of radio and United DJ has reignited my need to be in it especially with this important and exciting new Heritage Chart”.
Tony Prince: This is what can happen when you put your trust in the DJs themselves rather than the Chief Accountant!
Tony Prince is the founder of United DJ Radio and promoter of the DMC World DJ Championships established in 1983.
Very sad news. RONAN O’RAHILLY, Founder of Radio Caroline, passed away at 2pm today with his carer Ines by his side. He was 79. A great man who changed the face of popular music.
History of DJ – Part 6 – Radio Caroline
History of DJ – Radio Caroline
Tony Prince pays his respect to RONAN O’RAHILLY, Founder of Radio Caroline who sadly passed away today the 20th of april 2020.
Ronan O’Rahilly passed away in care at 2pm Dublin time today. He changed the world and so many of us owe him an enormous debt of gratitude, not just we DJs who worked for him on radio Caroline, but British and European radio listeners who had been starved of music until he came out fighting.
His granddad was part of the Dublin uprising and Ronan had some of him in his blood when he decided to launch his magic floating jukebox. Politicians did not concern him, his hero was John F.Kennedy and Radio Caroline was named after JFK’s daughter. If you go to our web site and scroll down to The History of DJ episodes 6,7,8 and 9 are all built on Ronan’s initiative, passion and love for music and free radio.
I know DJs everywhere who were part of his plan and those who descended from his great idea, will give an extra round of applause for him on Thursday at 8pm UK time.
God be with Ronan, he deserves a special place in heaven and I do hope we’ll all meet again…don’t know where, don’t know when…..
Peter Antony pays his respect to RONAN O’RAHILLY, Founder of Radio Caroline who sadly passed away today the 20th of april 2020.
The Emperor Rosko
Rosko pays his respect to RONAN O’RAHILLY, Founder of Radio Caroline who sadly passed away today the 20th of april 2020.
Winston – Sunday at 2pm
Winston – The Radio Show
Sunday the 26th of April at 14.00 UK time
This Sunday afternoon at 2.00 UK time, we’re very excited to be able to bring you a special programme, Winston – The Radio Show.
Our messages about staying at home to combat Coronavirus have proved so popular with UDJ listeners that Tony Prince suggested we give Winston his own show, and that’s exactly what we’ve done.
It was Bob Lawrence who came up with the idea of using “Winston Churchill” to encourage us all to Stay Home, Stay Safe and Stay United. “To this day people all over the world acknowledge how Churchill maintained a sense of ‘we’ll get through this’, so it seemed the obvious choice”, said Bob.
“It just so happens that my mate, the actor Ian Swann, does a brilliant characterisation of Churchill. He agreed to provide the voice and I made the promo spots. When Tony suggested that we run a show, I asked Mike Read if he would get involved with the writing. Of course he was delighted. It was always meant to be a serious message presented in a fun way, and it was vital that we didn’t appear to be taking the mickey out of Churchill. I knew that both Mike and Ian are great admirers of his, so I had no need to worry on that front. I produced the show but it was so easy to work with Mike and Ian’s words and acting”.
“The message is a serious one, we know what we have to do, but we can smile while we are doing it, and Winston will, hopefully, help in that direction”.
Winston – The Radio Show is on this Sunday the 26th of April at 14.00 UK time, with a repeat at 23.00 on Tuesday the 28th.
New Show Shaun Tilley
Breakfast on Sundays
We’re happy to announce that Shaun Tilley is back on United DJs with a brand new show on Sunday Mornings. Shaun kicks off Sunday the 26th of April from 7am-9am.