Tuesday, September 8, 2009

John Peel

John Peel, was an English disc jockey, radio presenter and journalist. He was the longest-serving of the original BBC Radio 1 DJs, broadcasting regularly from 1967 until his death in 2004. He was known for his eclectic taste in music and his honest and warm broadcasting style. He was one of the first broadcasters to play psychedelic rock, reggae and punk records on British radio, and he is widely acknowledged for promoting artists in various styles including alternative rock, pop, death metal, British hip hop and dance music.

Peel's Radio 1 shows were notable for the regular 'Peel sessions', which usually consisted of four songs recorded by an artist live in the BBC's studios, and which often provided the first major national coverage to bands that would go on to become famous. Another popular feature of his shows was the annual Festive Fifty countdown of his listeners' favourite records of the year. Peel appeared frequently on British television, as one of the presenters of Top of the Pops in the 1980s, and he provided voice-over commentary for a number of BBC programmes. He became popular with the audience of BBC Radio 4 for his Home Truths programme which ran from the 1990s, featuring unusual stories from listeners' domestic lives.

In 1960, he went to the United States to work for a cotton producer who had business dealings with his father. Once this job had finished, he took a number of others, including working as a travelling insurance salesman, remaining in the United States until 1967. While in Dallas, he spoke to John F. Kennedy as the presidential candidate and Lyndon B. Johnson toured the city during the 1960 election campaign. Following Kennedy's assassination, he passed himself off as a reporter for the Liverpool Echo in order to attend the arraignment of Lee Harvey Oswald and he and a friend can be seen in the footage of the press conference shortly before Oswald's assassination. He later phoned in the story to the Liverpool Echo.

While working for an insurance company based in Dallas, Texas, filing card programs for an early IBM 1410 computer (which led to his entry in Who's Who noting him as a former computer programmer), he got his first radio job, albeit unpaid, working for WRR Radio in Dallas. There, he presented the second hour of the Monday night program Kat's Karavan. Following this, and as Beatlemania hit the United States, Peel got a job as the official Beatles correspondent with the Dallas radio station KLIF due to his connection to Liverpool. He later worked for KOMA in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma until 1965 when he moved to KMEN in San Bernardino, California, using the name John Ravencroft to present the breakfast show.

Peel returned to England in early 1967 and found work with the offshore pirate radio station Radio London. He was offered the midnight-to-two shift, which gradually developed into a programme called The Perfumed Garden (some thought it was named after an erotic book famous at the time - which Peel claimed never to have read). It was on "Big L" that he first adopted the name John Peel (the name was suggested by a Radio London secretary) and established himself as a distinctive radio voice.

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