SO the Beeb wants to give the good Dr Rock what’s colloquially known as ‘the bum’s rush,’ just in case you think that’s a rude expression, it’s really a technical term for a method of getting a horse in a horse box; two people (men, usually) link arms behind a horse’s bottom and guide it up a ramp.
Charles White has been my friend for many years, since he came into Bernard Dean Ltd., where I worked happily for over a decade, asking if I’d heard of someone called Ry Cooder. Of course I had and I’ve been happy to share my own fairly extensive knowledge with him any time since.
I went one day with Chas to what was then known as Radio Tees, up in Stockton, where the special and brilliant producer/DJ, Alistair Pirrie (The Big P) recorded Chas’s demo, which subsequently helped him get noticed, rightly. At the same time, I did one and got a trip to Radio One out of it, where it was suggested I might deputise for John Peel when he took his holidays; you can see who got the better deal. I also had to walk home from Loftus on a very foggy and wet night, wearing a fake fur coat and carrying a heavy bag of records with only a packet of cigarettes for company, a scary experience brought thankfully to an end by a kindly car-driving potash miner, on his way home from a late shift at Boulby.
Chas has been my friend for so long, I can’t be wholly objective. I attended his fantastic course on rock ‘n’ roll at what was then Scarborough Tech – now the Grimsby-owned Yorkshire Coast College – way back in the late 1970s. His enthusiasm is legendary, his love of music incontestable. Never afraid of hyperbole, Chas’s programmes have always been essential listening, the triumph of a rock ’n’ roll crazy, Irish music fan over The Suits who run the BBC and who clearly think they know best. Except, they want to bin this lovely man off.
BBC local radio has run its course. The people it wants to attract own PCs and laptops and listen online to whatever they want, whenever they want to. In chasing listeners aged around 55-years-old, BBC local radio is a waste of licence payer’s money. Its fans are older but there aren’t enough of them. So it’s time to call time on what was once a very good idea but has now been replaced by state of the art Information Technology.
But instead of dumping this brilliant, campaigning chiropodist, confidante of legends like Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, the BBC needs to understand he’s one of its greatest assets and give him an even wider audience. Put him on a regional station, based in Leeds or Hull but broadcasting to all the north of England; all of the UK, really. (Chas met Buddy Holly, by the way, when he was a student in Ireland; Charles White, that is, not Charles Hardin Holly.)
When I lost my post at BBC Radio York through illness, very few of my long-standing colleagues offered support, let alone kept in touch. But Chas, Charles, Dr Rock - the Good Doctor - however you want to refer to him - has always been a pal, someone who offered me great and kind support.
I’ve helped his various radio producers link him up with rock legends around the world, often under exasperating circumstances not of his own making. I’ve silently applauded his work as a Son of Neptune from the sidelines, only because my position as an unbiased reporter wouldn’t allow me to pat him and Fred Drabble, Chris Found, Brian Dew and Cec Ridley, and the late and much missed Captain Sid Smith and co on the back for their regularly thwarted efforts to make Scarborough Council realise sometimes a block of concrete or firing a mile of human excrement out to sea every hour, every day, shouldn’t be the only answer, however cheap an option it might be.
Yes, BBC, save lots of money and re-organise the great and vital national institution by regionalising it more widely. Its day as a competitor to stations like Yorkshire Coast Radio is long past. It shouldn’t be attempting to attract people who’ll never listen to it because really, they want music, not trainee reporters from outside the area cutting their journalistic teeth on some daft beggars who live by the seaside.
Chas White is more than a local hero, he’s a brilliant asset. Mark Thompson, Director General, if you lose him, it will be yet another example of your tunnel vision and lack of insight. You might not love me any more but listeners love people like Dr Rock.