HE’S the former “housewives’ choice” DJ who famously quit Radio 2 over its “geriatric” music policy
HE’S the former “housewives’ choice” DJ who famously quit Radio 2 over its “geriatric” music policy before moving into commercial radio with Reading’s Radio 210.
That was almost 30 years ago now, but tomorrow night (Saturday) fans of “Diddy” David Hamilton have the chance to see him in action when he rocks up at Henley’s Kenton Theatre — with a live band in tow.
The legendary broadcaster has been on the road since January with his live theatre show Rock ’n’ Roll Back the Years.
Featuring hits from the Fifties and Sixties, the show is billed as a nostalgic blast from the past that takes the audience on a swinging trip back in time to the golden decades of classic pop.
The DJ, who has worked extensively in both television and radio over the years, said: “Communicating with people over the airwaves and on TV is wonderful — but I think that after all these years it’s time we saw the whites of each other’s eyes.”
Joining him on stage for the show are five-piece band The Fugitives, together with a male lead singer and female duo The Tiffany Girls.
“I did a show with the band at the London Palladium and they were fabulous,” says David. “We thought it would be fun to put together an all-time great musical touring show — the greatest songs of our lifetime, all in one evening. The show is a tribute to the greats — Elvis, Dusty, Cilla, Cliff and the Shadows, The Supremes, Roy Orbison, among many others.”
The presenter, who acquired his “Diddy” nickname while playing comedian Ken Dodd’s straight man on Sixties TV series Doddy’s Music Box, had just celebrated his 78th birthday when we spoke earlier this month.
“We were doing the show in Solihull and we had a great night. It was my birthday, so my grown-up children [Jane and David, born in 1963 and 1964] were in the audience.
“They thorougly enjoyed it and the band gave me a little presentation picture of us all on this show with a funny message on it.
“It said ‘From beginning to end this show is a sheer joy — it’s the stuff in between that makes it daft.’ I’m the stuff in between! So I think they’re joking. I think it’s an affectionate dig!”
A regular host on Top of the Pops in the Seventies, David has presented more than 12,000 radio shows for the BBC and commercial stations over the course of his career — along with more than a thousand TV shows.
The Kenton Theatre show is his 32nd this year, and by the time the 2016 tour concludes at the Epsom Playhouse on November 18 he and his Rock ’n’ Roll Back the Years colleagues will have notched up 35 dates — with 10 more already in the calendar for 2017.
“It’s been very, very enjoyable,” he says. “When we started out there was a picture of me with records behind me and a few people got the impression it was going to be me playing records — which I don’t think you’d get a lot of people into a theatre for that!
“But once the message got through to people that it’s a band and singers and it’s all the music that we’ve grown up with and that we love, we’ve just found that the houses have got bigger and bigger as we’ve gone along, which has been great.”
Given its Sixties focus, the show naturally features a Beatles medley, which should please the George Harrison fans in the audience.
There’s no Rolling Stones medley as yet — David says they might include one in next year’s shows — but he does tell one story to do with the time he worked with their Satanic majesties. “I did a show with them in Manchester and I had a little red MGB sports car that I was rather proud of at the time but I parked it round the back of the theatre, which you could do in those days.
“Somebody thought it was Mick Jagger’s car and scratched a little message on the bonnet — so for a week I was driving around with ‘I love you Mick!’ on the bonnet of my car!”
He chuckles at the memory. “It’s just little stories like that which are hopefully funny, you know? We’ve got quite a lot of banter between me and the band, so there are quite a lot of laughs as well as the music. We keep it very light-hearted.
“The only serious thing in it, which will be particularly interesting for Henley, is that we pay a tribute to two of my colleagues who have died this year — Terry Wogan and Ed Stewart. We sadly lost both of them within a couple of weeks of each other.
“When Ed died I asked the band and the girl singers if they could do Morningtown Ride, which was the theme from Junior Choice, which was his programme for many years on Radio 1.
“Within a couple of days they learnt it and we did it — and we’ve kept it in because the audiences enjoy it so much. And Ed’s lady, Elly Thorne, is coming along to Henley for the first time. So she’s going to be in the audience to hear our tribute to Ed. That will be lovely.
“I think she lives in Surrey, so she’s not far away. But she’s coming along with Stephanie de Sykes, who sang Born With a Smile on My Face. We have one or two celebrities who are going to be in the audience as well. I’ve got to keep some of them a surprise, but we do have a little bit of a star-studded audience.”
Unbelievable as it may seem, David’s career in the entertainment industry began 60 years ago this year.
The son of a Daily Mail journalist in Manchester, where he was born in 1938, and a lifelong fan of Fulham FC, David started out writing a weekly column for Soccer Star magazine.
On leaving school he landed a job as an office boy for ATV, before an article he had published in TV Times saw him promoted to scriptwriter.
“I had a really nice little job going and I’d been writing a series called Portrait of a Star. Suddenly I got called up for national service in the RAF and I was posted to Cologne, which was the home of Two-Way Family Favourites — the German end. And so the first job in broadcasting I did — in 1959 — was reading the football results.
“I went along to the station and I said to the station manager ‘Look, I’m a scriptwriter, can you use me here?’ He said ‘Well, we don’t actually have writers but as it happens we need somebody to read the football results on Saturday afternoons.’
“I did that for a while. Then I said to him one day, ‘All this music that you play, Bing Crosby and Peggy Lee, it’s fine for the officers but the troops want rock and roll.’ I don’t think he knew what rock and roll was.
“So, anyway, he said ‘I’ll give you a show on Sunday afternoon.’ So on Sunday afternoon I was playing Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard and people like that — and Elvis Presley, who was in Germany at the same time doing his national service with the US Army.
“I was in Cologne and Elvis was in Frankfurt, so I was playing his records and the troops of course loved it because suddenly they had their own music.
“But because the station director was nervous about transmitting ‘heathen music’ he followed it with a speech by the padre. So the padre came on and cleansed their sins for listening to this devil music, you know? That’s how people thought about rock and roll in 1959.”
Today, when he’s not busy touring the country’s theatres, home for David is a farm in Sussex. As it turns out, not just any old farm, but the one to which he was evacuated as a young boy during the Second World War.
“My wife and I moved down here 10 years ago,” he says. “I actually found a house on the farm that I grew up on. My grandfather was the farmer here many years ago. When he retired the farm was sold and I was about 15 — I thought I’d never come back here again.
“Eventually I found a friend of mine who was also in the music business — I discovered he was living here, so we came down and saw him and I said ‘If you ever sell the house, you must let me know.’
“And about a year later he said ‘We’re moving on.’ So we came down, sold up in London, moved down here. It’s the best thing we ever did, moving into the countryside, there’s no doubt about that.
“And when I walked through the fields I remembered all the sights and the places I hadn’t seen since I was 15, which I thought I would never go back to again, so it’s been a wonderful homecoming. It’s been a long and winding road that led me back home.”
Tickets for Rock ’n’ Roll Back the Years are £21. The show starts at 7.30pm and runs for two hours and 20 minutes, including an interval. To book, call the Kenton Theatre box office on (01491) 575698 or visit www.kentontheatre.co.uk