Before I say anything else, can I remind readers who also listen to Spencer Leigh's On the Beat show on BBC Radio Merseyside that the deadline for responding to the BBC Trust's online questionnaire about local radio is Wednesday December 21st?
If you want to show your support for the programme, please consider answering at least Question 7 of the eight questions provided. The above image is only a screengrab so read more in the previous post if you haven't done so already or go direct to the BBC Trust questionnaire here.
On his show yesterday Spencer thanked listeners for Christmas cards and gifts but modestly said it wasn't necessary as the BBC license fee paid for the programme. But the questionnaire is a way in which all fans of the show, like me, can show our appreciation and perhaps extend the life of the programme - and you don't have to live in the Radio Merseyside region, as BBC iplayer makes locals of us all. I have filled it in myself and forwarded the comments which readers added to the previous post. Fingers crossed that On the Beat will continue for a lot longer.
I've written in the past about broadcasters who influenced my musical tastes but it occurs to me I never wrote to them at the time to say so, and in several cases it's too late, so it's good to be able to do something in this case.
But the fact that it never occured to me in the past even to drop a brief note of thanks to those broadcasters whose enthusiasms did so much to shape mine does make me think more generally that the job of deejay or broadcaster (one can't imagine Hubert Gregg thought of himself as a deejay) is, at least in part, an act of faith: the tangible signs of appreciation which come the broadcaster's way must be only a small fraction of the listenership. But the broadcaster must sit in the studio, imagining a sympathetic ear for his words - which is more or less the meaning of Vernon Green's word "pismotality."
Let me whisper sweet words of pismotality
Green was imagining a lover, but the intimacy of listening to the radio - especially late night shows, under the covers - is not dissimilar.
So as this is an anniversary of sorts - two years and a bit since I began this blog - and as my thoughts are with radio, let me salute once again those voices who shaped my tastes, with brief extracts from the series of earlier posts about them. Click on the names in bold to be taken to the full posts. Ken Sykora is pictured below, right, with Stephan Grapelli, former partner of his hero Django Reinhardt. The original post includes a link to Sykora's own version of Honeysuckle Rose, which nods to the Reinhardt-Grapelli recording.Here's how I summed up the effect of his 1970s late night Radio Clyde programme on me:
The title of his programme, Serendipity with Sykora, allowed him to play whatever he wanted, assuming some chance connection with the previous piece could be found, and the result was a beguiling mixture of novelty songs and jazz, knitted together with odd anecdotes and what came across as an absolute ease in the studio. I really wish I'd taped some of those shows at the time; alas, I have no record of any of them. It felt like a friend was informally guiding you through some records he happened to like, saying whatever came into his head about them or any loosely related matter, wholly at ease.
I'm happy to report that Carmel Gregg, Hubert Gregg's widow, read my piece on the great man and seemed to approve. You can find out more about his career and buy his autobiography, which details his long theatrical career, here. Comparing his broadcasting style with that of Sykora, I wrote:
You could say that Gregg's presentation was more mannered than Ken Sykora's, but it didn't seem like that in the execution. Even if the programmes were audibly scripted, as opposed to Sykora's air of an informal chat, a similar intimacy was conveyed. In an age of prattle, that careful preparation felt like a courtesy, not a barrier. And so you learnt to accept phrases which would have sounded artificial coming out of any other presenter's mouth, like "No more for a se'enight," when the half hour had sped by yet again, and even grew to relish the inevitability of the pause you could have driven a car through during the middle of his sign-off: "And au revoir ... to you."