The sound of swinging 78s

The voice of Norwich is Keith Skues, and John Peel is his biggest fan. Anthony Clavane takes a trip into Partridgeland

"A very good Tuesday evening to you from me, Keith Skues. And a warm welcome to the programme. The dateline: February 10... we are 41 days into 1998 ...."

Steve Coogan might try to pass off Alan Partridge as a figment of his cheesy imagination, but some of us know better. From Monday to Friday every night in East Anglia and beyond, in the slot known as "God's waiting room", the legendary jock can be heard in the guise of one Richard Keith Skues. "Cyril of Ipswich has requested any Salvation Army music. Well, thanks to June and Sidney of Norwich, I now have a lot more Salvation Army music than I had a month ago ...."

Although aimed at the 60 to 90 age group, the Skues show is developing a cult following in Partridgeland. This is due mainly to the efforts of John Peel. Unlikely as it sounds, Peel has put on hold his devotion to The Fall, Asian dub music and all things hardcore to worship at the altar of Skues. He is a man obsessed, tuning in religiously for a nightly fix of Keyboard Cavalcade, Sedate Seventy Eights and Trivia Quiz Time ("How many cc's were there in the group that sang `I'm Not in Love?'") and eulogising the great man's virtues in his Radio Times column.

"It is a genuine alternative to all the other stuff, you know, the fourth- form, locker-room, Chris Evans clones," explains Peel. John's wife Sheila is beginning to worry about her husband: "One afternoon he just rambled and ranted on about him - me and William, our eldest, thought it was hilarious. We were killing ourselves about it."

Like Partridge, the 58-year-old Skues spins his discs from a Norwich station, is easily irritated by listeners, especially "clever trousers" who try to catch him out and old dears who ask for specific tunes - "Sorry, Betty of Wickford, this is not a request show, m'dear" - and has been stalked by a crazed fan. "Have you seen Play Misty for Me?" he asks. What, the film about the psychotic woman's deranged infatuation with a local radio presenter? "Yes. It's like that. One accused me of breaking and entering her house and siphoning off her petrol. A female arrived at my new home the other week; it had only taken her a week to find out where I lived. She was only a young girl. Probably under 60."

He prefers older listeners, particularly those in their eighties, because they never ring in, complain or try to "bowl me a googly". Instead, they send chocolates cakes, teddy bears and talking parrots. "I do jolly well for pressies," he beams, proudly pointing out a cupboard bulging with Cadbury's Milk Chocolate Biscuit Assortment tins.

The oldies love it when he gets hot under the collar about songs recorded in foreign languages - "This is the English-speaking service of the BBC" - and when he activates the "Skues-O-Graph", a master print-out of their top tunes. After leaving the station, he hops into his "Skuesmobile" - a Ford Sierra - and drives back to his chalet-style house to index another batch of records. "It's a national archive. I've got about 250,000 records. I mean, where's that collection going when I pop me clogs?"

He tugs at his neatly knotted cravat, looks up at the clock, then rushes into the studio just in time for the handover with Mark Whall. Unfortunately, he is too late to hear Mark's opening gambit but, being a pro, breezily replies: "Well, everything here is tick, tick, tick, tickety boo. Alrighty, Mark, see you on the wireless."

It is reassuring to come across a presenter who says wireless. His voice is a throwback to that brief, but golden, era sandwiched between the end of dinner-jacketed newsreading and the beginning of mid-Atlantic, Mockney and Mancunian deejaying. He sounds like Alan Freeman's sensible brother - after a ditty by "Mr Barry Manilow" he throws in a "not'arf" homage to his old mate (they were both in at the launch of Radio Onederful) - and feels frustrated that the age-range of his audience prevents him from playing the sort of poptastic ditties championed by Fluff.

Occasionally, he sticks his head on the chopping block and does something daring, like playing a Cliff Richard or Cilla Black song. But only last week, Jim of Mildenhall, 86 years young, chewed his ear off for playing an Elton John number and he was almost "booed off the air" after spinning a Spice Girls disc. "I got a lot of abuse for that," sighs the dapper, silver-haired DJ. "But, y'know, for the three minutes those records were on, they should have gone to make a cup of Horlicks. Good luck to the young generation, that's what I say. I was a rebel in my day."

When he took over the late-night slot at BBC Eastern Counties, he received stacks of hate mail from people not used to the challenging sounds of Cliff and Cilla. But once the abuse died down, he established himself as the voice of easy listening, protecting listeners from the hazards of "hooligan music" and, as Peel puts it, "discussing, at no little length, the merits and demerits of steel, as opposed to chipboard, shelving for the storage of 78rpm records."

"I think people take pity on me," he says. "Y'see I'm not married. I'm pretty useless at doing the housework and ... hang on ... stand by ...."

Expertly fading out "As Long as He Needs Me", he flirts with Doreen of Long Crendon, but turns down her offer to iron his shirts. Then he signs off with another sigh. "These two hours simply go by very quickly - don't they always? And if you are not feeling too well, may I, Keith Skues, wish you a speedy recovery. And if you are living on your own, good night - that extra special good night. God Bless. Keep warm, many hugs and lots of love."

The Keith Skues Show can be heard on BBC Radio Eastern Counties, Monday to Friday, from 10pm to midnight.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

    £17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

    Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test