Dave Dennis
David Neil Spence)

1937 – 2007
"The Double D from twelve to three, with a cup of tea on his knee"

With great sadness, we announce the death in December 2007, of Dave Dennis, who was with Radio London from the launch in December 1964 and stayed for two years.

Alan Bailey attended the funeral on Monday, January 7th 2008.

The Funeral took place in Grantham Crematorium at 9.30am and was attended by a small party of friends and family. On entry, there were high winds and driving rain but at the end of the Service it gave way to glorious sunshine, although bitterly cold. Among Neil's friends attending were John Peters of Smooth Radio, Alan Bailey, Martin Campbell of Ofcom and his wife Jan. Roger ‘Twiggy’ Day made an astounding effort to attend. He travelled all the way from Maidstone and then drove all the way back to be on air tonight. One very touching moment was when a recording of Neil was played giving an Easter reading which I recorded with him in 1978 at Radio Trent.

Mary Payne recalls Dave's Radio London career
The Double-D' was a trained actor whose idiosyncratic broadcasting style enhanced the afternoon twelve-to-three slot. He liked catchphrases, frequently following the airing of singles he enjoyed with, "That's a lovely one there!" One of his favourite records was 'Walk on By' by Leroy Van Dyke. For some reason, Dave needed a replacement copy, so he asked his listeners to send him one. He was inundated with copies!

Kenny Everett recorded a trailer that simply said, "Dave Dennis swings!" which the other Big L jocks would frequently follow with comments like, "Yeah, but from which tree?" On one memorable occasion, Kenny persuaded Dave to join him on his evening show to give a poetical reading of the strange lyrics of 'Along Comes Mary' by the Association. After the Double D's performance, Kenny announced, "That was 'Along Comes Mary'...as Dave Dennis crawls out of the studio on his knees."

Dave pioneered the band The Untamed and was head of their fan club. They returned the compliment by recording a set of personalised jingles for the Dave Dennis Show, four of which can be heard between the tracks on their Gimme Gimme CD. They include: "If you stay with Big L today, can you put up with this DJ?"

From Roger Dunbar of the Untamed

I was really sorry to hear the sad news about Dave Dennis and I have contacted Lindsay Muir who, of course, sends his sympathies to friends and family of the Double D. There was much mutual respect between the band and Dave during those heady times of the mid-Sixties, and the infamous jingles were penned by Ken Chaplin and Lindsay, to be recorded at one of the many sessions at IPC. Lots of memories.

Our thoughts and best wishes extend to all.  Rog (Untamed)

Dave left Radio London on December 6th 1966, but his parting shot was a hit single. He recorded, 'Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus', which was placed at number twenty in the Christmas Day Big L Fab Forty.

In the (nearly) eight years we have been running the Radio London website, we have never had any contact with Dave, which is a great pity, as he must have had some great stories to tell of life aboard the Galaxy. He was, however, not interested in talking about his watery wireless past.

From fellow Big L DJ Norman St John, in Australia

It was indeed sad news to learn of the passing of the "Double D", Dave Dennis. Dave had become somewhat of a recluse over the last fifteen years, choosing to live a quieter life. He was a very talented performer and DJ and I will always cherish the days on Radio London.

See you Squire and yes, Dave, "There Is A Santa Claus". RIP Mate.

From Radio London's Traffic Controller, Geoff Pearson

Thank you for e-mailing me with the sad news about Dave Dennis. Wow, it makes you feel very fragile.

I worked at Big L about the same time as Dave - pre-launch for roughly two years. My job as Traffic Controller meant that I spent most of my time in the Curzon Street basement, but I did go to the boat from time to time. The Double D was always very pleasant and helpful. He loved it when we took listeners on visits and would go out of his way to entertain them. It was no surprise that he had such good listening figures. No disrespect to those who followed, but Dave Dennis and the rest of the pioneer crew who were there at the launch, will always be Radio London to me.

I have only just picked up my e-mails, as now I am retired, I tend to be lazy and I regret I don't check them daily. I hope the funeral went well and that there was a good attendance for a very nice man.

We old RL and Radlon pioneers are getting a bit thin on the ground, but I still have great memories of those 'Pirate' days.

From Paul Peters of Radio Essex

I was sorry to hear the sad news about Dave Dennis. I did not meet him but like so many, many thousands of Big L listeners I knew of him and listened to his show when I could, although at that time I was working in a factory making typewriter covers and was only allowed to listen to the BBC Light Programme on the wireless!

From John Peters, who sent us the sad news of Dave's demise. (John is well-remembered for his part in the Big L 97 RSL broadcast)

The man was a legend in radio circles - not only on Radio London (left) where he was a great inspiration to all the Big L team (including me in 1997!).

He moved into management in 1969, becoming the first PD of UBN (United Biscuit Network), the cable radio station for United Biscuit factories around the UK, where his teachings inspired the likes of Adrian Love, Peter Reeves, Graham Dene, Alan King, Peter Young and so many more in Radio, Martin Campbell and Steve Merike especially.

David Neil Spence became PD of Radio Trent in Nottingham in the 70s, where I was on Breakfast. There he showed his prowess for radio programming, honed from days with Ruth Meyer (WMCA New York).

I also had the pleasure of moving him from London (Barnes) to Nottingham and latterly to Humby in Lincolnshire, listening to some wonderful stories! "My reward will be in Heaven," he would always say, as he tucked into his favourite dish, cauliflower cheese, which we would enjoy at journey's end at my place.

Although out of the public eye and ears for some time, he will be much missed.

From Peter Young, who was employed by Dave at UBN

I will always regard the man with a great deal of respect and affection. He was truly a one-off, both as a person and as a broadcaster. Underneath his sometimes brittle exterior, there was a man of much warmth and humour.

Certainly his great achievement on Radio London was to attain the highest audience figures of the day. Most unusual for a lunchtime/early afternoon show. This was confirmed in a promo for advertisers voiced by Dave Cash in '66, which I have a copy of.

Sometime after leaving Radio London he joined the BBC and was heard voicing many promos for Radios One and Two. He also once made a memorable appearance on the Radio One Club as the guest DJ. Whilst at the BBC, he met Graham Dene, whom I think was working in the record library! That was a fortuitous meeting, as when Neil became the first PD of UBN, Graham was one of the original team in 1970.

Long after I'd left UBN, I was presenting a late night show on Capital. One night he phoned me on air to tell me off for something he considered to be out of order. I had to laugh, but was very flattered that he considered it to be worth his while. I also benefited from a number of chats I had with him at the National Broadcasting School. I used to pop in to say hello from time to time and he was always generous with his time.

RIP 'The Double D from 12 to 3, with a cup of tea on his knee'.

To quote the man himself – "Thank you very much indeed, squire!"

From Dave Gregory, also employed by Dave at UBN

Thanks for letting me know personally about Neil's demise. I am truly saddened by this news. I had hoped to see him again for the first time in many years at the 2006 UBN reunion and was among those who rang to try and persuade him to attend, but he refused for reasons best known to himself and so it was not to be.

I first met Neil back in 1968 at Earl Richmond's "National Broadcasting School" where he was a tutor. On the same course was Michael Whale (now known as James Whale). The school itself was a bit of an industry joke as it turned out, and, at the end of our course, Neil admitted as much to me over a drink and said he was only really working there as a stop gap to pay the bills! However, he did advise me to persevere, as he thought at least a couple of us had the talent to succeed. A couple of years later, following my stint with RNI, and whilst making early inroads at the Beeb, I found out he was recruiting for UBN and rang him up. He invited me to Osterley for a live audition (one of the scariest experiences of my career) and I got the job. I actually think he still felt slightly guilty about the NBS episode and saw it as a way of making it up to me! As a result, I still have very fond memories of working alongside the likes of Adrian Love, Grahame Dene, Pete Reeves, Paul Ingrams, Giles Squire, Tony Emerson and Alan King. In hindsight I wish I'd stayed at UBN a bit longer as I'm certain that more exposure to his unique style of discipline would have better equipped me for my premature debut as a Radio 1 presenter just a few months later. Great thing, hindsight!

He was a great character and will be sorely missed.

God bless & RIP "The Double D"

Gene Pitney is Dave's guest in the Galaxy studio

From Rob Olthof in Amsterdam, co-organiser Dutch Radio Days
Very sorry to hear about the death of Dave Dennis. He was one of my favourites.
God bless him.

From Jon Myer of the Pirate Radio Hall of Fame

Thanks very much for letting me know the sad news. I didn't know the Double D of course, but his was the first voice I ever heard on Big L and – like so many of those guys – I felt I knew him.

From Chris Dannatt, Radio London listener and owner of the offshore exhibition displayed during Pirate BBC Essex

This is very sad news. Dave was one of the first DJs I heard when I originally tuned into the Big L.

I was eleven and my dad had died in the June of 1965. My mum and I went to stay at my aunt's house in the Lincolnshire countryside. Her next door neighbour had Radio London on from early in the morning until they tuned in the TV at about 6 o'clock for the evening news. I was hooked immediately, and when I returned home to go to Grammar School in the September, I took Radio London with me and thus started the journey of my life.

Dave Dennis, TW, Paul Kaye, Earl Richmond, Mike Lennox... they all meant the world to me at that young age, and it is with great sadness that you suddenly appreciate that time marches on.

Although I cannot be in Grantham for the funeral, DD will be in my thoughts.

From Chris Edwards of Offshore Echoes Magazine and website

Very sorry to hear this, a sad start to the new year. There is a clip of Dave's song Yes Virginia...(co-written by TW) under the DJs Sing part of my offshore themes pages.

From listener Stephen Chesney of Chelmsford

On 14th August 2007, when I joined the gathering on Harwich's Ha'penny Pier for the 40th Anniversary of the closure of Radio London, I thought especially of Dave Dennis. His aversion to pirate radio nostalgia was well known, so I was not expecting to see him, but I expressed my disappointment at his aloofness in conversations with Norman St John and Duncan Johnson. Now sadly, any celebration of the great Double D can only be posthumous.

After a sedate Earl Richmond Show from 9.00am to 12 noon until July 1965, and thereafter in that slot TW with his cosy chat and pauses, Dave Dennis was the ideal man to quicken the pace for the lunchtime audience. He was fast and loud. His frantic theme tune, 'Go Mean' by Ruffle perfectly matched his on-air personality.

I was fortunate to live only 5 minutes' walk from my school and I used to go home every lunchtime, grab something to eat and shut myself in my bedroom for nearly three quarters of an hour, listening to the Double D. Dave's enthusiasm for some of the records he played was very evident. A regular phrase of his was, "And we like that one very much indeed." He had a distinct style of humour. He used to answer back to jingles and promotions. After a recording of a young woman with a sexy voice saying, "Isn't it about time you played the Number 1 record? I like it!" he retorted, "I wish you'd get out of here. Get back to Chelsea where you belong." After playing the Sonovox jingle, "It's just great for fun" he once commented, "Thank you for the vote of confidence, sir." Dave gave a wicked impression of Duncan Johnson after playing Duncan's "Channel 66" promotion. But there was a serious side to his broadcasting. From the start he assisted Paul Kaye and Earl Richmond with news reading. He was suited to this because he had very good diction, although I thought he sometimes used to read the news too fast, causing him occasionally to stumble.

On 20th April 1965, Dave was with Pete Brady on the tender returning to the Galaxy when US Air Force pilot John Wynn ejected from his jet and parachuted into the North Sea. Dave and Pete were involved in the rescue

By November 1965, Dave Dennis was the only DJ who had not been moved from his original slot and he kept his 12 to 3 show throughout his 2 years at Big L. He was very proud of that. As an avid and loyal listener to Radio London, I remember feeling unsettled by the many changes to the line-up during 1966. Some of the established DJs left and several of the new signings did not stay for long. The firm anchor of the Dave Dennis show in the middle of the day was reassuring. Although there were some great DJs and shows during 1967, I remember thinking at the time of Dave's departure in December 1966, "This is the end of an era."

In conclusion, Dave Dennis made a terrific contribution to Radio London and through his longevity at Big L, deserves to be remembered as one of the biggest names of offshore radio.

From listener John Sales

I am, of course, very sad to learn of the passing of Dave Dennis. Yet another original Radio London presenter has passed on. The number of originals left must now be getting fairly low, and it's very sad indeed. I can remember you (Mary) telling me on Walton Pier in 1997 when I first got to know you, that DD had been approached by, presumably Chris Elliot, to take part in the Radio London Summer 1997 RSL and he had replied, apparently, with a stream of obscure words! It's a great pity that he chose not to take part in any of the Radio London RSLs nor to attend any of the various Offshore Radio-related meetings and reunions which have taken place over recent years. However, I gather that he was a very private man, who, certainly in his later years, lived somewhat as a recluse.

DD will long be remembered by Offshore Radio supporters around the world, a notable presenter with a style of his own.

Dave in
the mess with Duncan Johnson, Earl Richmond and John Edward (both standing)
and two Dutch

Obituary on the Pirate Radio Hall of Fame is here. The PRHoF's story of the sea rescue of pilot John C Wynn is here

Obituary on the Radio Academy web site
is here.

Links to Dave Dennis stories:
about Neil Spence's Christmas Big L Fab Forty hit; clip of 'Yes Virginia...' on Offshore Echoes' 'The DJs Sing'. The Untamed

UBN tribute site

Photos in this article comprise a Radio London publicity shot, two pictures from 'The Wonderful Radio London Story' by Chris Elliot and one from 'The London Sound' by Brian Long. All are uncredited.

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