Jacob's Ladder: People...You Are The Reason I Am...

Tommy Vance   

6th March 2005

Tommy Vance, the former Radio 1 DJ and television presenter, has died following a stroke at the Durrant Valley Hospital in Kent. He was 63.

The DJ, who made his name in the 60's on Radio Caroline and Radio 1, was taken to hospital three days ago after suffering his first stroke.

Born in Oxford in 1941, Tommy's real name was Richard Hope-Weston. In the early 1960's he adopted the 'stage name' Tommy Vance, after a disc jockey of the same name failed to turn up at the market leading radio station KHJ in Los Angeles. He not only used the Tommy Vance jingle package but also kept the name! However, Tommy's gravel voice and slick presentation ensured a successful career that spanned several decades.

At 16, he joined the Merchant Navy as a trainee caterer but, while at sea, heard US radio for the first time and was instantly attracted to the idea of becoming a disc jockey. With show business in his veins (Tommy's mother was a singer and dancer), he enrolled to study acting. Unhappy with his salary he moved to the USA where he became one of the first English DJ's to work in US radio, his first being on KOL in Seattle, where he was known as Rick West. Apparently, when he finally had to leave the US, because of the war in Vietnam, he suffered a huge drop in pay from 15,000 dollars a year to 18 pounds and 10 shillings.

He returned to Britain in 1966, joining the best-known offshore pirate station, Radio Caroline. It was here that he coined the slogan "TV on radio". Later that year he briefly moved to Radio Luxembourg before re-joining Caroline. In 1967, only a few weeks before the Marine Offences Act silenced most of the pirates, he jumped ship to Radio London.

Tommy was soon to return when Radio One took to the air in September that year. He first featured in the cutting edge new music show Top Gear, co-hosted by John Peel. However, after only a few months the show was shortened and Tommy was dropped. He briefly moved to work on Radio Monte Carlo but soon returned to try his hand in television. In 1973, at the advent of UK commercial Radio, he joined Capital Radio where he stayed until 1979.

He moved back to Radio 1, this time for a much longer period of 14 years, where he presented the legendary Friday Rock Show. Here the accent was on presenting top quality heavy rock music from around the world. He tried, where possible, to give new bands much needed exposure. At the same time he also broadcast a daily drive-time slot on BBC's GLR in London. Tommy also fronted the hugely popular Radio 1 Top 40 show from 1982 to 1984 and throughout the period he recorded shows to be broadcast around the world on the British Forces Broadcasting Service. In 1993, he moved to Virgin Radio and also worked in television for VH1, Channel 4 and Five.

Tommy was known for his deep 'gravely' voice for which he became famous. He could be heard on numerous TV and radio advertisements over the last three decades many produced at, Silk Sound, a studio he co-founded in London.

Tommy's enthusiasm, love and knowledge for music and talented artistes of all genres shone through with every broadcast he made throughout his career.

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