Chuck's Final Big L Show
by Mary Payne
On August 28th, the final day of the Big L 2000 broadcast, I guested on a specially-extended Coffee Break to talk about the man Big L listeners knew as Chuck Blair. Part of my preparation for the programme was to listen closely to Chuck's final Radio London Breakfast Show from August 14th 1967. In doing so, I have gleaned much new information about Chuck, some of which I shall impart here in the hopes of jogging more memories.
Photo (courtesy of Carlton Penn III): Chuck (by then known by his real name of Rick) gained a reputation as a top-notch chef. Even the cats begged for his spaghetti!

Chuck was clearly struggling to keep his spirits raised during his final programme, which, so as not to forget previous Big L Breakfast presenters, he called 'The Mike Lennox, Kenny Everett, Tony Blackburn and Chuck Blair Breakfast Show'. The show started and ended with Blowin' In the Wind by Stevie Wonder. Most of the featured tracks were dedicated to Radio London and other offshore DJs, past and present, and people throughout the Radio London organisation, some of whom he had never met. There were also many personal messages to loyal listeners – myself and the Knees Club included. Chuck had difficulty pronouncing both my surname – Wingert – and my home town – High Wycombe!

I have singled out some of the names that, from Chuck's accompanying personal asides, seem to have been particularly meaningful to him. I apologise to anyone whose name I have mis-transcribed. The people who knew Chuck must be out there somewhere and we want to hear from them!

In Chuck's 1967 CV, his musical preferences are listed as the Beatles, (his favourites, as mentioned during the show), Beach Boys and Four Seasons. All of those artistes were featured in his final show, with three tracks from the Four Seasons, described as his mother's favourite group. Chuck dedicated Working My Way Back to You to his mother and father, both of whom he said had sadly passed away while he was working on Radio England in 1966. He does not mention either parent's name. Sharing the Four Seasons track were, "The old Radio England gang, Phil Martin, Bill Berry, Alan Black, Boom Boom Brannigan, Ron O'Quinn, Larry Dean, Jerry Smithwick and all the boys."

Attempting to capture the fun-filled essence of Big L, Chuck included as many station-produced jingles and promos as possible, especially the Big L T-shirt commercials, which he'd recorded with Tony Blackburn and Tony Brandon. His personal favourite was 'Tiptoe through the T-shirts' with Tony Blackburn. During an interview with Tony conducted in 2009, I asked if he recalled making the proms. Unfortunately, he did not remember them at all. Chuck even played a snippet of the unseasonable Yes Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus, a song penned by TW and recorded by Dave Dennis under his real name of Neil Spence, that appeared briefly in the Fab Forty at Christmas 1966, around the time that 'the Double D' left the station.

At 7.05 Cliff's In the Country was played for Jill Smith, who Chuck described as, "very, very dear to me". Jill was known by the nickname 'Lady Penelope', after the Thunderbirds character.

At 7.15 there was a long dedication to, "Marylin Sharp, June Evans, Gillian Mobley in Mill Hill, Daisy Chatwell in Walthamstow, (a good morning, dear old heart) Robin Allen, Stuart, Bryn, Janet and Peter in Ealing, Muriel Thomas, Riss, Sandy and Jay of the Chantelles, Geno Washington - boy are you jivin' man! - Zoot Money, Cat Stevens, Jonathan King, PP Arnold, 'little ol' Pat', Malcom Seldon, Mr and Mrs Woodley and 4-year-old little honey bunny, Sheila."

David Bowie's Laughing Gnome seemed to have been chosen mainly to please Mr and Mrs Woodley's little girl – now a honey bunny heading for her half-century. Are you out there, Sheila?

The Loving Spoonful's Nashville Cats ('Nashville Miaows' according to Mr Blair) was dedicated to groups that Chuck describes as his friends: The HT, The New Formula, Mirage and Jon, and John's Children. Back on February 26th, Mirage's single, Hold On had been Chuck's climber, although it failed to chart. New Formula, Jon, and John's Children all had singles on the final Big L playlist. New Formula's I Want to Go Back There Again had been Chuck's climber for July 30th.

Chuck probably knew Mirage because the band was local to Harpenden, the area where he was living. Mirage issued two singles on CBS in '65, and in '66 switched to Philips to release Tomorrow Never Knows, a cover of the final track from the Beatles' Revolver album. 1967 saw the issue of two more singles, Hold On and The Wedding of Ramona Blair, which presumably appealed to, or may even have been inspired by, Ramona's namesake! Good news for owners of that second single is that the Record Collector Rare Record Price Guide lists mint-condition copies as being worth in excess of 80!

The band line up for Ramona Blair was Peter Hynes, vcls, Ray Glynn gtr, vcls, Pat Hynes, gtr, Dee Murray, bs vcl, and David Hynes, drms, vcls. The song was written by David Hynes. David Hynes backed Caleb Quaye (allegedly alongside Elton John) on the one-and-only Caleb single. In 1969, Dee Murray and Dave Hynes joined the Spencer Davis Group. Dee Murray (David Murray Oates) was to find fame with the Elton John band. Sadly, he died of a stroke in 1992.

From Corby in Northants, the New Formula line-up was Mike Harper, vocals, Martin Fallon, lead guitar, Bruce Carey, bass, Tommy Guthrie, drums and Ricky Dodd, vocals/sax. They released singles on Piccadilly and Pye. Their debut single Do It Again A Little Bit Slower was a cover of a number 18 hit in the States for the long-windedly monikered Jon and Robin and The In Crowd. On August 14th 1967, New Formula had a version of the Berry Gordy/Chris Clark song I Want to Go Back There Again in the final Fab 40. It was joint number 29 with Truly Smith's (Decca label) version of the same song. Chris Clark, who was one of the few white Motown artistes at the time, also issued her own recording of it. Fab 40 presenter Tommy Vance, who played half of Truly Smith's I Want to Go Back There Again segued with half of New Formula's version, remarked that he thought Truly Smith's was the one destined to be the hit. (Certainly, the song had been written for a female lead vocal.) Unfortunately, with the demise of Big L and so many other stations, there was insufficient airplay to prompt either of the recordings into becoming best-sellers.

John's Children is, of course, best remembered for the '67 single, Desdemona, featuring the talents of Marc Bolan.

After the 8.30 news Somewhere My Love by Frank Sinatra was dedicated, "To Trish with all me love." We know that Chuck's Fan Club Secretary was Trish Perry.

At 8.46, Chuck mentioned that a lot of people had been asking him what he would be doing after leaving Radio London. He began saying, "Professionally, I just can't tell you..."

Later in the day, when he came ashore, Chuck told a Daily Mirror reporter that he had received offers from both Caroline and the Beeb, but nothing had been finalised. In the letter delivered to me on September 21st (reproduced on The Search for Big L's Chuck Blair page) he said he was "off to Caroline at the end of the month". George Hare, who was the land-based agent for Caroline, provided a copy of a memo he sent to Terry Bates on August 11th, 1967 which confirms Chuck's intention to join the station (see our Feedback page, Date: April 2005). Chuck had applied to work for Caroline post-August 14th, along with two other DJs, but it seems none of them ever broadcast on the station.

However, Chuck never intended to leave the UK. He continued, "...but I'm not going anywhere, dearest hearts. It amazes me quite tremendously that I had the idea that I was going to be a broadcaster when I was just a kid and I've been in it, I guess, since I was a kid. In the last twelve years of broadcasting in the States it amazes me to think that I had to come to England to find such love and hospitality and loyalty. Why, in heaven's name should I ever leave? I won't leave unless they kick me out, actually. I thank you very much for the wonderful letters that I've received. I'm going to try and answer each and every one of them. That's all I've been doing, I guess, up seven or eight hours a night doing that. And you can still write, I believe, care of Radio London, so it would be wonderful to hear from you. My home address if you care to write, (where I'm staying right now – I don't know how long I'll be there) is The Cedars, Milton Road, Harpenden, Hertfordshire. I certainly hope we're going to keep in touch with you."

Such was Chuck's affection for his audience and his determination to stay in touch, that he had taken the unprecedented step of disclosing his personal address on the air. It varies slightly from the one sent to me, which was Flat 3, Milton Road, Harpenden. That statement from Chuck proves conclusively that he had no intention of leaving the UK, yet two months later, he went back to the USA and as far as is known, never returned. It seems that Chuck may, indeed, have been 'kicked out' of the country.

Just after 7.00am, Chuck had told his beloved audience, "Hope we're gonna see a lot of people on platform 9 or 11 at Liverpool Street station today, around 6.50." said Chuck. Little did he know just how many would turn up!

Sharing a drink with friend Dick McDonald in 1983
(Photo courtesy of Carlton Penn III)

(The most up-to-date information concerning the family history and the various names that the enigmatic DJ used are on our 2011 page.)

Chuck's 1967 CV and info The incredible story of how we found Chuck
Feedback from our story about finding Chuck Chuck's final show on Big L
Chuck shares his 'will' with Big L listeners Seventies photographs taken by Chuck's family
2011: much more information comes to light 2013: Bill Russo woked with Rick/Chuck on WSJR
2013: Page 1 of Chuck's memorabilia 2013: Page 2 of Chuck's memorabilia

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