our Fab Forty compiler, Alan Field, who discovered the sad news that in May
2001, the man known to Radio London listeners as Earl Richmond passed away and
was cremated in Bangkok.
An Internet search on Earl's real name, John Dienn, brought Alan to the following paragraph from a May 18, 2001 newspaper column written by Bernard Trink, and linked from the Bangkok Post:
"John Dienn, everybody's favourite MC at parties, passed away midweek, in Pattaya. He was 75. Bi-lingual in English and Thai, his suave voice was clear and pleasant. A radio personality and hotelier, he assumed correctly that I did my work at all hours of the day and night and called at the oddest times with items for the column. R.I.P."
From Earl Richmond's entry in The Pirate Radio Hall Of Fame, Alan had gleaned that Earl had last been heard of in Thailand, and the surname Dienn, was not very common, so Alan reached the conclusion that this was, indeed the same man.
investigations of features from the Bangkok Post have revealed that John Dienn,
a long-term resident of Thailand, had not only continued with his radio career,
but had taught in local schools and universities and owned and run a restaurant
called the Beefeater.
Peter Corbett, who last spoke to John only a few days before his death, wrote:
"He became a legend in radio for his sprightly morning shows and, later, afternoon and evening classical and jazz sessions. He was planning a programme on radio from 9pm to 1am. For a man in poor health, living alone, at 75, John Dienn was a trooper. I am proud to have known him."
was with Radio London right from its beginning in 1964. He became Ben Toney's
third recruit to the Big L broadcasting staff, having previously worked for
Forces Broadcasting Services and TV companies. As was the tradition aboard the
Galaxy, he adopted an on-air pseudonym, Earl Richmond.
Earl used the April 16th, 1966 Disc and Music Echo Radio London column, to announce that he would be leaving the ship that week. He said, "I have three youngsters, Stuart (15), Christopher (12), and Martin (8), and the way things are going I was hardly seeing anything of them." He would continue to appear at land-based Radio London promotions in his Earl Richmond persona, and he also became Director of Studies at the School of Broadcasting in the Strand.
David Ballantyne, who accompanied Earl and David Bowie on a promotional visit to the Target Club in High Wycombe on March 18th, 1966, says:
"I'm very sad to hear about Earl Richmond. He turned up on my doorstep in Ealing one Saturday evening with P.J. Proby sitting in the passenger seat, swearing that I had promised to do a P.A. with him in Luton, as I remember. Unfortunately, I had to turn him down as I had agreed to sing and play guitar in a band for a wedding in Hatfield. The line-up was: Me, guitar and vocal; my oldest school friend Tony Smith, drums; Tim Rice, bass guitar; Andrew Lloyd Webber, piano. Of course, Proby was a big star in those days; Rice and Lloyd Webber were unheard of."
Earl described Radio London and its often harsh living conditions, as "an adventure". John Dienn's farewell message to Big L as Earl Richmond, was broadcast during the station's final day, August 14th, 1967.
Stephen Chesney took the trouble to send a personal tribute.
I was really sorry to learn of the death of Earl Richmond. I was aware that it was believed he was living in Thailand and I had hoped that one day he would be tracked down and send greetings to us all.
When I first started listening to Big L in March 1965 as a 15-year-old schoolboy I remember thinking what an unlikely purveyor of pop music Earl Richmond was because his voice resembled a BBC Home Service announcer and his style was rather formal. I was convinced he must be the oldest DJ on the ship but of course he was a few years younger than TW. To be fair, he always seemed to enjoy what he was doing and I grew to like him a lot, although because of the timing of his show, I only heard him at weekends during term-time. I remember feeling indignant when in July 1965, he was displaced from the 9.00am to 12 noon show in favour of Tony Windsor and thereafter did relief work.
With hindsight we now know that moving TW to the mornings was an inspired decision which paid off hugely. But it also helped Earl Richmond, because he was very good at sitting in for other DJs on different time slots. In my opinion his best shows on Big L were after July 1965 and the recording I have of him doing the 3.00 to 6.00pm slot on Saturday 21st August 1965 is one of my favourites from my collection. By then his style was livelier, while maintaining that rich (I like the description "suave" given in the obituary) voice. Again in my opinion he was the only DJ over the 32 months of Radio London who could read the news as well as Paul Kaye.
We shall remember Earl Richmond with particular affection and respect because he was one of the original team who had to rough it during those early days when conditions on board were not so good. He was a professional.
Earl Richmond's nephew, also called John Dienn, got in touch to say how much he appreciated reading the tributes to his uncle. I asked John if other members of the Dienn family still lived in the UK, and he has kindly sent a brief 'family tree'.
Dear Mary and Chris,
Reading your article on John Dienn (Earl Richmond ) I would just like to say what a wonderful tribute people have paid to my uncle. I hope the memories live on.
Earl has three sons, Stuart, Chris and Martin. Of the three only one is living in the UK at present, that is Chris. Stuart, last I heard, was in Belgium and Martin was in Las Vegas.
Earl also had a large family of brothers and sisters some of whom are still with us. His brothers are Fred, Gerry, Derek, David, Tony; his sisters are Eve, Barbara, Sylvia and Yvonne. The ones still alive are David, living in Bangkok, Eve in Brockley, London, Barbara in Thamesmead, London and Sylvia, North London. Then there are cousins scattered everywhere like true Dienn's!
I will have a look for some family pictures but they could be quite old.
Rod Douglas has written a tribute to his late boss
Dear Radio London,
I did a search about two years ago and I was surprised to see that my old boss had passed away. My air-name was Rod Douglas and I worked for Earl Richmond aka John Dienn from August 1971 to April of 1973. Being the only yank at HSA Radio Bangkok 90.25, I took a lot of teasing from Earl, Robin Wolfe and Elizabeth Barnibas. I would like to know what happened to Robin and Elizabeth. She might still be in Thailand and I believe Robin is back in England.
I did an afternoon show for John playing mostly British rock and American R & B and Motown. I had worked for Armed Forces Radio and TV at the two U.S. Thailand bases. Then after I finished my military obligation with the Air Forces, I contacted K-Wattana ROP, who leased HSA Radio Bangkok from the Thai Army.
John was instrumental in getting our station the first-reported cart machines ever used at a Thai radio station. All of the U.S. military stations already had all of the latest broadcast electronics. John was also instrumental in having an excellent broadcast engineer from Scotland travel to Bangkok. He worked for Thompson Television in England which owned the two English-language newspapers in Bangkok, the Post and the Times. Later Thompson Television got involved with a partnership with K-Wattana. The engineer discovered that our transmitter was modulating on negative peaks rather than positive ones and that our power was lower than licensed for. So he made the changes which increased our coverage area and improved our overall sound quality.
I learned to appreciate British humor because of John and some of the pre-recorded programs that we ran from England, such as Tony Hancock’s 'Hancock’s Half Hour'.
John taught me to always strive to be the best that I could. I remember that he talked highly of Dave Cash. By the way I have a copy somewhere of the Radio London jingles from PAMS of Dallas.
That’s about all I have to add, except that I wish John was alive, so I could call or e-mail him once in a while.
Regards, Rod Douglas