Holidays with DJs – they were there!

My name is John Church and I worked as resident DJ at the White House (Casa Blanca) throughout the summer of '67 with 'Radio London Holidays with Djs'. I'm afraid I don't recall John Chadwick or any of the other DJs mentioned, but when I arrived in Estartit the radio thing was already going, so someone was running it. It can't have been going long as I was there in early May. At best the Costa Brava season doesn't start till April.

I had been interviewed in Mayfair as a DJ for Radio London and was told to come back in September. Though strangely, the two events - my Big L interview and my becoming the resident jock at the Casa Blanca - were completely unconnected. I wanted a change in my life and took off for the Costas. I definitely had ambitions to broadcast. I guess I was the first one into town with the appropriate talent and became 'the man'!

(Right) Stewpot. Still attracting 'crumpet' in his Radio London teeshirt. (Photo courtesy of Hans Knot)

I supplemented my income teaching water skiing for the water-ski school where I had worked prior to getting the Casa Blanca gig. I was on the beach all day and in the club at night, so had the two best jobs in town! The biggest customer the ski beach had was Villaparties, the Radio London contractor, so we were in and out of their pension all the time. In fact if you worked on the ski beach you could eat in the pension free, and I did. The food was plentiful and the 'Oliveda' wine was free, shut your eyes, hold your nose, drink the first glass straight down and after that it tasted great! So from my second day in Estartit I was 'in" with the Villaparty staff, and I met the MD on my first night in town. He wasn't often there, so perhaps he had arrived for the Radio London kick-off. I kept my association with Villaparties after the Marine Offences Act put paid to any immediate possibility of a job aboard the Galaxy.

My first meeting with Ed Stewart was not in the disco but was on the ski beach. The most significant thing about his visit was that he came encumbered with his girlfriend. Very much taking coals to Newcastle since it was a singles holiday! He didn't socialise with us or the clients, apart from his evening 'stint' in the club. Stewpot also may have been rather older than us, certainly his week was the least successful from my point of view. I think the clients were mostly there for two weeks and so got to see two DJs from the ship during their holiday. All the other visiting DJs, so far as I recall, were very much with the clients by day and by night and the promotion was a roaring success for all.

The 'White House' was of course completely black - very 1960s that! It was some way from the holiday pension and at the top of the Calle de Santa Ana, (being the only tarmac street in town, we called it 'Oxford St'). The sea front road was only packed sand, and the roundabout where it met 'Oxford St' was just a stunted tree with a man selling terracotta pots off a donkey. The only lighting effects in the Casa Blanca were some UV lights in the ceiling.

(Left) Tony Blackburn. Did he wow the Spaniards with his jokes or did they lose something in the translation?

I cannot now remember, but I think the White House stopped serving booze at midnight and closed not too much later. It really had only a bar licence and operated on a bit of a wing and a prayer with the Radio London thing.

The accommodation a bit of a tip? (see Ed's comment, on Page 1) Well for sure it was basic, but maids cleaned it every day and the cook was a retired 'working girl' from Gerona, (she must have been appalled at all us amateurs doing it for free). I think similar sorts of pensions still operate around the world for students and low cost travellers. I thought it OK at the time, but I might not be so enamoured now.

After the Radio London thing ended I moved on to a proper discotheque, by which I mean a proper Spanish discotheque with a 4am licence.

(Left) the Roman Emperor models Big L beach gear. (Publicity photo courtesy of Gordon Sheppard)

My life and career took a different passage through night club management and later as the owner of a small group of discotheques. It's a lesson that's 'it's never too late' in that I did not foresee the advent of commercial broadcasting, by which time I was a discotheque Manager in Southend and stayed with the regular pay-cheque. Now I'm free of the daily grind I'm thinking of revisiting Estartit.

In recent years, I went through a divorce and after sitting about for a while I decided it was time I did something about the broadcasting, even if 40 years late. In 2007, I spent 11 weeks full-time at the National Broadcasting School, did RSLs over the summer and am now doing Community Radio. It would be nice to be paid though...

'Holidays With Djs' was the most excellent good fun and it is not an exaggeration at all to say that 1967 and the following two years I spent in Spain, have been the best years of my life so far.

For nearly 40 years since those days I've been waiting for a knock on the door and for a voice to say, "Hi Dad!". It's not happened yet but there's still time!

John Church

Hear a clip of John as he sounds now.


Perhaps it would be a good idea to introduce myself, I am the missing John Chadwick mentioned in Brian Long's work The London Sound.

My connection with Big L began when I trained under Earl Richmond at the School of Broadcasting in London. On completion of said training I was asked by Earl Richmond if I would go to Estartit as one of the overseas gang; of course I went.

The name John Church doesn't ring any immediate bells; some of the guys I was with in Spain around July of 67 were a South African - Aidie, an absolutely gorgeous West Indian girl - Erline I think, a guy I met the following year on the disco circuit - Lawrence and the guy I roomed with, Larry. I suppose the most memorable moment must have been running the disco with only one deck after Chuck Blair decided it would be great to break one of them. It was just heavy handedness (which he was prone to) that caused the damage and we couldn't get a new part for a couple of weeks. Replacement parts had to go half way round Europe before they arrived in Estartit.

Things that come to mind about being in Spain and those mad times are being threatened with arrest if we didn't keep off the beach after dark. This was strictly forbidden in case one thing lead to another - if you get my drift. We were also warned of the possible consequences of holding any competition in the disco that might have decidedly sexual overtones. Spain was at that time under the control of a very moralistic general Franco.

(Right) the 'heavy-handed' Chuck Blair with pal Ian (wombat) Damon. (Photo courtesy of Ian)

I should like to point out to any smart Alecs, that this DJ job meant proper cueing up of records - no just sticking 'em on and waiting for the music to start. A guy who I later worked with in forces radio apparently timed me for one of these changes - record off to record on with a full linking spiel - at just seven seconds. He reckoned he wouldn't have believed it if he hadn't seen it and he was an experienced radio presenter.

I was back in UK by the end of July to go out to the Galaxy, only to be told that the station was going off the air and that all bets were off, so to speak. However it was a good time, we all had lots of fun and I think that Kenny Everett and I were the youngest to work for Big L. I was not too pleased to be told that the Galaxy gig was off, but more upsetting was the fact that August 14 is actually my birthday.

More latterly, I worked in local radio Mellow 1557, hosting my own show for five-and-a-half years as well as doing news work and panel work with other presenters. Several of the old Caroline jocks worked for, or on Mellow; Andy Archer was our station manager at one time as was Roger 'Twiggy' Day, we also had Paul Graham and Johnny Lewis amongst others. A real bunch of pirates you might say! I gave up when the radio station (which I helped start) changed hands and direction.

I have trawled the archives and found a couple of pics for you. The one on the far left was a promo jobby from 1967 – you got lucky there – and the one on the left was a giveaway from my Mellow 1557 days. The yellow sweatshirt was use to provide a dedication/autograph area. I have also sent pics of sew-on patch badges of the prog. which were also used as giveaways, and just for the record I had some printed metal pin on badges as well.

By the by the last time I found mention of myself on the net it was a picture of me driving a coach - strange world ain't it!

John Chadwick

Many thanks to the two Johns for their reports on the Holidays With DJs, some aspects of which they feel (and we agree) are best glossed over! Stewpot does admit in an interview in The London Sound, that he was pretty gutted to have gone on this Radio London holiday having just got engaged to Myrtle, and then finding himself surrounded by 'crumpet'!

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