Tommy Vance

Disc-jockey given to 'TV on the radio'
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The Independent Online

The disc-jockey Tommy Vance presented numerous shows, but he will be best remembered for Radio 1's Friday Rock Show. His signature music was "Take It Off the Top" by Dixie Dreggs and then he would say in his gravelly voice, "Hi, this is TV on the radio and welcome to the programme that we call the Friday Rock Show." Listeners would hear two hours of good rock music, interlaced with facts about the performers but not inane banter.

Richard Anthony Crispian Francis Prew Hope-Weston (Tommy Vance), disc-jockey: born Eynsham, Oxfordshire 11 July 1943; married (one son, one daughter); died Dartford, Kent 6 March 2005.

The disc-jockey Tommy Vance presented numerous shows, but he will be best remembered for Radio 1's Friday Rock Show. His signature music was "Take It Off the Top" by Dixie Dreggs and then he would say in his gravelly voice, "Hi, this is TV on the radio and welcome to the programme that we call the Friday Rock Show." Listeners would hear two hours of good rock music, interlaced with facts about the performers but not inane banter.

In 1966 Vance recorded two singles himself, "You Must Be the One" and a cover version of the Rolling Stones' "Off the Hook". He also played a disc-jockey in Slade's 1975 film Flame. His deep voice held him in good stead with television commercials for Wilkinson Sword razor blades and for Renault (which gave him a new car every year). For some years, he was the major voice on trailers and promotions for Sky.

Vance was born Richard Anthony Crispian Francis Prew Hope-Weston in Eynsham, near Oxford, in 1943. His grandmother owned a travelling repertory company and his father was an electronics engineer. He was expelled from school for non-attendance and his first job was as a trainee manager at the Hyde Park Hotel, London.

At the age of 16, he joined the merchant navy as a caterer but, when he got to New York, he stopped there for two years. He was excited by American radio and his ambition was to become a disc-jockey; when he returned to the UK, he worked as a mechanic for a jukebox company so that he could hear music for free.

He joined the Ulster Bridge Repertory Company, run by the actor James Ellis, as a stage manager, then, moving to Vancouver to be close to a girlfriend, he worked a midnight-to-6am shift at a radio station. Using the pseudonym Rick West, he worked for a station in Seattle.

Around 1964, he moved to KHJ in Los Angeles and learnt that the station had already recorded some jingles for a disc-jockey called Tommy Vance, who had backed out. Rather than waste them, the station asked him to become Tommy Vance. He became a popular morning DJ but, when he received his call-up papers in 1965, he realised that he had better return quickly to the UK.

The pirate radio stations were immensely popular and he worked for both Radio Caroline South - alongside Tony Blackburn, Emperor Rosko and Ed "Stewpot" Stewart - and Radio London. Tiring of the life at sea, he also worked for Radio Luxembourg. His favourite group was The Who, whom he regarded as the best of all live bands.

When legislation closed the pirate stations in 1967, Vance moved to the new Radio 1 and presented Top Gear with John Peel. He worked on many BBC programmes, becoming a regular presenter on Top of the Pops. Frustrated with his lack of progress, however, he joined Radio Monte Carlo International with Dave Cash and Kenny Everett. In 1973 all three would join the new London-based Capital Radio.

Returning to BBC Radio 1 in 1979, Vance hosted the Friday Rock Show. His researcher Jon Kutner recalls,

There was absolutely nothing to dislike about him. He had time for everyone and he would reply to his own fan mail. He was passionate about music and he would spend the whole day choosing records for his two-hour programme.

Between 1982 and 1984 he presented the Top Forty programme on Sunday afternoons and he interviewed celebrities for the BBC World Service.

In 1993 Vance joined the new Virgin Radio station, again presenting a rock show, and he developed business interests with the Silk Sound studios in Soho. In recent years, he revived the Friday Rock Show for the digital channel VH1 and had also worked on Virgin Classic Rock. He was always interested in new trends and said, "I often think that the best album of all time hasn't been recorded yet."

In 2004 he was a replacement for an injured Roger Cook in ITV's reality show Hell's Kitchen, hosted by Gordon Ramsay. He could not take the chef's abuse and he left after escaping a scalding from boiling fat.

Spencer Leigh

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