It was 20 years ago today….

It’s just after 6am on Saturday 16th October 1999. The news is just about to finish, and then………..I’m going to be in control. Of a whole radio station! For the first time! My first ‘proper’ radio show was just about to begin. I had finally made my childhood dreams come true. I was about to become a radio presenter! At last!

However, there is a whole, long love affair with radio and music to tell before we get to this point, so lots go back to where it all began…….

I have always been interested in radio. I listened to it a lot as a kid. One of my childhood memories is being off poorly from school – I was a sickly child, so I was off school a lot – either being at home listening to the radio on my Dad’s Hi-Fi or at my grandparents listening to the radio on their radiogram, which looked like a normal cabinet, but when you opened it up, it had a turntable, a tape deck and a radio! I loved it, being able to listen to shows that I wouldn’t normally hear like Gary Davies Bit in the Middle and the brilliant Steve Wright in the Afternoon.

I was already listening in the morning to the breakfast show, Mike Read was the first presenter I really remember doing the show. Oh and Tony Blackburn on Junior Choice at the weekend. And of course recording the Top 40 on a Sunday evening, like everyone else!

Imagine the excitement when I found out that Radio One was coming to my hometown for a summer roadshow! Except it wasn’t a roadshow, it was a boat show, on a canal boat! I was there nearly all day on the Sunday when they were setting up and of course I was there for the broadcast on the Monday! Amazing. Simon Bates and Janice Long were the presenters. I stepped in to a radio station for the first time a couple of years later, when Radio Leeds were holding an open day at Woodhouse Lane.

As well as listening to the radio, I used to do radio shows in my bedroom. Nothing technical, just a tape machine and a turntable. Then it progressed, when I bought a twin tape ghetto blaster with a microphone on it! (Remember this is the mid eighties!).

I did the shows for mates and eventually started playing them in art classes at school. A friend at school – JP – had a clever brother who was in to sound recording and he agreed to do some jingles. In the end he did one for me but it was an epic! With the help of two other school friends – Cathrine and Kathrine – who recorded their ‘vocals’ outside Biology if my memory is correct! It had rainfall, footsteps, a creaky door and the girls in unison saying my name! Thinking about it now, it sounds really corny, but it was ace at the time!

Around this time, it was decision time as far as what I wanted to do for a career. I went on work experience at the local newspaper. I really enjoyed it but, I have to be honest – I was too thick to get the qualifications that would be needed to be a journalist! No, I wanted to work on the radio! And that is what I told my careers adviser. She thought it was a brilliant idea. By the time I had got home, it wasn’t such a good idea. She had rung my parents, to tell them to talk me out of the silly idea. I needed a trade behind me, not this radio thing! So I decided that radio wasn’t for me, Graphic Design was! I’d always liked drawing!!!!! So yeah, if I could make a living out of it – why not! A local printing firm were looking for a graphic designer so I was dispatched for an interview. I didn’t get the job. However, I must have made an impression, because they created another position for me – a printer! They were buying a new machine (see picture below!) and wanted me to run it! OK, so I had never wanted to be a printer – does anyone? So I accepted the job. I worked there for 11 years. I wouldn’t say I hated it from day one, but I didn’t really like it. I made some great friends, earned a decent wage eventually but it wasn’t radio!

While having the time of my life printing business cards, letterheads and labels for boxes of chocolates, radio still played a big part of my life – listening to it at work. Whether it be Radio 1 and playing along while at work to Bits and Pieces on the roadshow, or the test transmissions and the subsequent launch of Virgin Radio, the radio was nearly always on!

ITN reporting the opening of Virgin 2015

I continued to record shows for friends. Some of the shows went to the other side of the world to Australia when long time listener Gee went there! A whole new audience!!! His wife to be became a listener as well and she tells me he still has these tapes somewhere, I’m sure they are terrible! Thankfully, in this day and age of streaming services and the like, the need for a tape deck has disappeared – hopefully never to return. Even to this day, at the G’s gatherings, people still greet me as if they have known me for years because of them spreading the word of Bewes! Thanks guys!

We have now reached the late 1990s, 1997 to be precise, and there is big news. My home town is getting it’s own radio station!!!!! The station had been on air a year or two earlier for an RSL, but now it was coming back – full time! I needed to be involved! I arranged to go to Yorkshire Dales Radio and see somebody about being involved. Now this is where I made a really silly mistake! The guy I saw said that he would get back in touch, and I didn’t hear anything from him. I was a dick and didn’t follow it up myself. To this day I have no idea why not, but I didn’t.

Fast forward to February 1999 and I decided that I had been stupid and I got in touch again. This time I met Big Ron. He was the Station Manager. I went up on a Saturday afternoon for a chat and a look around. It was based in port-a-cabins next to where I used to go to school – where the jingle was recorded! This was meant to be! Anyway, I’ll be honest, I expected him to say come up at the weekends and make tea, help record a few bits etc, but no! He said there was a slot every weekday evening which was just music and a few adverts, between the end of the drivetime show and the start of networking from Harrogate with Stray FM. It was suggested I pop up whenever I could and he would train me on how all the studio equipment worked and how to ‘drive the desk’! This was better than I ever expected.

The following Monday, I was there at about 6.30 and started my training. Looking back it was brilliant not to have to worry about talking between the songs while not knowing what any of buttons did. I went up every evening for several months to work on a actual radio station. This was in the days before computer playouts, so everything was either on CD or Mini Disc (!). The adverts were on a cart machine on a computer and that was as high tech as we got. But in the summer of 1999, change was on the way. A new boss was on the way. A new name for the station was on the way – Fresh AM – and lots of presenters and shows were on their way…. out of the station! Including the slot I was doing!

Luckily I had built up a name for myself as being useful and free! So the new boss kept me involved with station. Admittedly, the extent of my involvement was going up to the station just before 7pm every evening to pull a fader down in studio 2 where the output was coming from for one area we covered while there was a live show going to another area which was coming from the main studio. But I was still involved and I was making use of the spare studio as much as I could by recording demo’s for the new boss to pass judgement on. I would go up on a Friday lunchtime for him to tell me where I was going wrong!

Then one of the new presenters made a silly mistake – he failed to turn up for his breakfast show one Saturday morning and eventually there was a parting of the ways. This meant I got my hour of playing music back, except now it was between 6 and 7pm, because we had travel news spots sponsored, so someone had to be there to bring them in on ISDN! And I was happy to!!!!

Now we find ourselves on Friday 15th October and I walk in to the building for my normal demo assessment. On my way in, I pass the Programme Manager Mike Long and he just winks at me and says ‘well done’! What’s up with him, I thought! In to the meeting I go and Mark, the boss, does his normal routine of telling me where I’m going wrong, but then says something else. ‘Look Mate, you can carry on demo’s forever, but we won’t know how you will cope in a live situation until you actually do a show. So how do you fancy doing the Breakfast show on a Saturday?’ Hang on, did he just say what I think he said? ‘Oh, OK, starting when?’ I mumbled. ‘Tomorrow at six mate’. Holy crap!!!!!!

So here we are, as the clock ticks round to me playing my first song as a radio presenter, the job I have somehow managed to make a living out of for the last 15 years. I must have done something right that morning because after a month doing Saturday breakfast show, I was given the Sunday breakfast show to do as well. For the next 6 months I was working at the printers during the week and then getting up at silly o’clock at the weekend to do the shows! I was knackered, but I loved it, so I didn’t care. In April 2000, I was offered a full time slot, doing the weekday evening show and Saturday breakfast, so it was time to say goodbye to printing and hello working on the radio!

It wasn’t plain sailing, there were lots of ups and downs, losing shows, gaining shows, new bosses with new ideas and timeslots for me (5am starts, really?), but I met some amazing people and had the time of my life. I eventually became Breakfast Show presenter, head of Music and Programme Controller at Fresh, before leaving in April 2006, to join the team at Teamtalk Broadcast/ Headland Media/ KVH Studios presenting shows on their in-store radio services and being Head of Music since 2009 – and it’s where I have been ever since.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Big Ron Nicholson who saw something in me back in 1999 and brought me on board at YDR, Trent Watson for missing that Breakfast show back in 1999 that lead to me being given a show and Mark Reason for giving me the show that started it all off. And of course all the other brilliant people that I have worked with on air over the years at Fresh, that have helped me have some of the best times ever. Mike Long, Tim Paul, Stuart Clarkson, Allan Hollings, Becky Hall, James Wilson, Larry Budd, Jeremy Gartland, Nick Babb, Matt Banks, Glenn Pinder and Steve Warren. And that is just on air, there’s loads more from behind the scenes.

And if were wondering, this was the first song I played 20 years ago.

2 Replies to “It was 20 years ago today….”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *