First of all, I should take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and hope that 2014 brings you everything that you wish for. Thanks for visiting this site too, however often it is that you stop by. I’ve had another varied, exciting and interesting year in many ways, and next year promises to be no different as things look from here.
2014 will also bring a couple of personal anniversaries into view for me. Actually 3, come to think about it.
It was 20 years ago this coming New Year that I embarked upon a new band adventure with Sons Of God née City Kidds, and went on my only UK tour as a musician – a tale that I detailed in one of my ‘Rock and Roll Stories’ blogs on here, so I shan’t bore you with that again. You know where to look for that :o)
10 years on from that time, and I had begun 2004 working on the Snatch It TV shopping channel in Redditch, whilst also commentating on football matches for BRMB & Capital Gold Radio in Birmingham, despite having been dropped as the presenter of BRMB’s Barmy Brummies Drivetime show some 18 months earlier.
It was early one weekday morning in January ’04 and I was heading for the Snatch It studios down the M42 when my phone rang. It was Alan Carruthers, Programme Controller of 100.7 Heart FM West Midlands. It was a pleasant surprise to hear from him, as I genuinely thought I’d previously blown my chance of hearing from him ever again.
You see, back in mid-2002, when I’d been unceremoniously dumped from my position as BRMB Drivetime presenter, Alan had been straight in touch with me direct (I didn’t have – and still don’t have – an agent) and invited me to have lunch. When we met up, he revealed his shock at how I’d been let go from BRMB and how his office had listened to my last Drivetime broadcast, howling with laughter at my final sketches – sketches that Sean & I had written to deliberately poke fun at my own untimely demise.
In short, he wanted me to come and work for him at 100.7 Heart FM – at the time, though, the bosses at BRMB were promising that I would still have an on-air role as a weekend presenter at the very least along with my football work for Tom Ross (Tom was brilliant, incidentally, and told me whatever happened with my presenting work, he still valued my work as a commentator and didn’t want to lose me). And so out of stupid, blind loyalty, I politely rejected Alan’s offer. He understood and we moved on.
Trouble was, as time went on, the promises of work made to me by BRMB were not kept, and I was soon just working for Tom at weekends and at midweek games for the station.
This is what makes radio such a volatile industry to work in. Your show or style of presenting can suddenly not fit in and before you know it, you’re persona non grata. No warning at all, either to you or to the listeners that like and listen to you, and your role on the station is consigned to the history books.
I was pissed off. Mightily pissed off. Sean (my co-writer) and I never got a straight answer to our questions about a new show, and by the Autumn of 2002 I realised nothing was going to be offered. I contacted Alan at Heart in vain hope, but of course the offer he had initially thrown my way had been made to someone else since our original meeting and he now had no room to accommodate me.
That was that, I thought. I resolved to work harder at the football commentating and reporting angle for Tom. It was all I felt I could do at that moment. Also by this time in late 2002, I’d started work at this fledgling shopping channel in Redditch called Toys, Games & Hobbies (TGH for short) which was run by Steve Bennett, a local entrepreneur and big fan of my Barmy Brummies show. The work was only occasional and pre-recorded rather than ‘live’ at first, but by 2004, TGH had morphed into a very successful live ‘reverse auction’ channel called Snatch It where I worked 3 days during midweeks, a schedule that fit perfectly around my footballing commitments for Tom.
Anyway – there’s one history lesson! Now, back to my call from Alan in that early part of Jan 2004. A Sunday lunchtime slot needed to be filled on Heart FM, and he wanted to know if I was still interested? It was perfect from a logistical point of view for me, certainly. I could still work my 3 midweek days at Snatch It, commentate on football matches on Saturday AND present the show on a Sunday, leaving Monday as my notional day off. Sean was on board with me swiftly as co-writer, and Ian Danter’s Sunday Carve Up was born.
It was brilliant working with Sean again dusting off the old characters we’d enjoyed writing so much during Barmy Brummies days – Black Country Bob, Des’s Dedications (renamed Des’s Diary for this show) the Mr Men stories, Ozzy, Sunday League Footballer’s Wives…not to mention the parody songs that I could now spend more time perfecting at home during the week with my home studio. Alan gave us carte blanche, even though our show was going to stick out like a sore thumb with the rest of Heart’s – shall we say, safe? – output. On reflection, it was brave of Alan to give us free reign, although we only rarely overstepped the mark with our work.
Indeed, our work was appreciated in more areas than I had dared hope. In late Spring, we were nominated for an NTL Commercial Radio Award for ‘Programme Of The Year’, only 5 months after starting at Heart. It was a real feather in our cap and felt like some kind of redemption for my treatment at BRMB. (I didn’t win)
Oddly enough, that curious treatment had manifested itself once more at BRMB once my dual radio life had recommenced. It was decided by BRMB management that, because of my work with Heart FM, I was no longer welcome in the offices to do prepatory work for my football commentaries. The assertion was that I would see ‘sensitive information’ about the station that I could then snitch about to Heart FM (regarded as the enemy by BRMB) and thus undermine BRMB’s position in the marketplace.
How utterly fucking ridiculous.
I had no desire to undermine a station that was, after all, still employing me to commentate on local sides in Premier League and Championship games, which generated great revenues for them. What could I possibly have gained from seeing some erroneous figures on a whiteboard in the marketing department and relaying those figures to my other office half a mile further down Broad Street? It was utterly laughable – especially as the covert way in which I was replaced as Drivetime presenter (my successors’ new show was advertised on the sides West Midlands buses before I was informed of my sacking) showed management to be far more duplicitous than I could ever be. I knew my moral compass was firmly in place, even if they didn’t think so.
This barmy (geddit?) decision had nothing to do with Tom Ross, and it irritated him greatly, but the decision was made all the same. Therefore, every Friday morning on my way to Heart to pre-record sketches for the Sunday show, I had to suffer the ignominy of waiting in the BRMB reception for a bag containing my football commentary equipment to be brought out to me by one of the Sport staff. I felt like a naughty schoolboy every single time I went in from the January though until the end of season in May. It was almost a relief to have no football work during the summer as it then saved me the weekly embarrassment of loitering around outside a station that seemingly had little respect for what I had been for them.
But that embarrassment would soon become an irrelevance. For in that summer of 2004, things changed. For one thing, the new Programme Director at Capital Gold decided in her infinite wisdom that live football commentaries were to be scrapped from that moment across the country, despite its No.1 place in the ratings amongst Birmingham and the Black Country’s radio listeners. Tom thus no longer had any work to offer me as budgets were slashed, and he spent the ensuing months endeavouring to prove to his new bosses that live commentaries were vital to the station and should be reinstated. He was to be proved right by the beginning of the 2005/6 season.
But I couldn’t wait a year for such a change of heart to be made – luck was on my side, though. My old friend Nigel Pearson called me one summer’s afternoon whilst I was on a break at Snatch It. He had worked at BRMB/Capital Gold prior to my arrival at the station and had since joined talkSPORT, which had been launched at the end of the last millennium.
Nigel told me that the station was looking for a Midlands-based football reporter to cover the patch from Stoke to Forest to Villa and beyond. He had recommended me to talkSPORT, who had asked him to get me to send a showreel to them. And before you knew it, at the start of the 2004/5 season, there I was at Crewe vs Cardiff in the Championship, having invested in broadcast equipment of my own after being offered the position at talkSPORT.
And that’s how quickly things can change in media. By Autumn 2004, Snatch It had become Gems TV and I had travelled to Thailand to take jewellery exams and visit Sapphire mines in Chantharburi. You never know what’s around the corner in broadcasting, and you have to be prepared for both the good stuff and the not-so-good…nothing lasts forever. Maybe that should be my stock answer when I’m asked by younger presenters how to advance in this business! :o)