BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in:  Entertainment: TV and Radio
Front Page 
UK Politics 
TV and Radio 
New Media 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Tuesday, 31 July, 2001, 11:58 GMT 12:58 UK
John Walters: Radio raconteur
John Walters
John Walters: Ground-breaking radio producer
Together with his good friend, John Peel, John Walters was responsible for changing the face of British popular music, showcasing acts as diverse as Pink Floyd, The Undertones and The Fall.

Born in Derbyshire 1938, John Walters studied Fine Arts at Durham University and saw his work exhibited beside those of David Hockney.

He later worked as a teacher at a comprehensive school in Newcastle upon Tyne but his first love was jazz music.

John Peel
Walters produced John Peel from 1969
It was while he was living in Newcastle, lecturing in jazz studies at evening classes and writing a jazz column for the Newcastle Journal, that he met Alan Price, the former keyboard player with the Animals.

John Walters joined the Alan Price Set as a trumpeter in 1965 and spent three years with the band.

They enjoyed a number of Top 10 hits including the House That Jack Built and the Randy Newman-penned Simon Smith and His Amazing Dancing Bear.

The group appeared as a support act to the Beatles at the Empire Pool, Wembley, at the Fab Four's final concert in Britain.

In 1967, right in the middle of the so-called Summer of Love, John Walters joined BBC's fledgling Radio One as a staff producer.

It was here, in 1969, that he teamed up with a widely-travelled disc jockey from the north of England, John Peel, on the Top Gear programme.

It would be renamed The John Peel Show.

Together, the two men were at the cutting edge of musical taste for more than 20 years, giving first radio exposure to acts like Cream and T-Rex, punk/new wave bands like Stiff Little Fingers and the legendary Half Man, Half Biscuit and The Fall.

Jimi Hendrix
He booked Jimi Hendrix for live sessions
Others, like The Police, Genesis and David Bowie were propelled to superstardom by Peel and Walters.

The show's style was unlike any before it. Peel, whom John Walters once dubbed "the most important individual in British rock history", refused to talk over any songs, thereby allowing his audience to tape them without interruption.

The programme's relaxed style, at once cynical and whimsical, belied the vast amount of work which took place behind the scenes.

Thousands of audition tapes were reviewed by presenter and producer and artists, including Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and The Jam, were booked to appear on live studio sessions.

The eclectic nature of The John Peel Show has endeared it to millions of radio listeners.

As its producer, Walters once hired two chimpanzees, Bugsy and Rosy, to accompany John Lennon and Yoko Ono on the piano.

The most important individual in British rock history

John Walters on John Peel
The show's annual Christmas special was a rare treat. On one occasion Marc Bolan joined Ron Wood, now with the Rolling Stones, the surreal Scottish poet/musician Ivor Cutler and Soft Machine's Robert Wyatt, to perform God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and Good King Wenceslas.

And Walters was one of the few people to be able to work successfully with the brilliant, but unstable, Vivian Stanshall of Bonzo Dog Band and Sir Henry at Rawlinson End fame.

John Peel and John Walters were close friends. Indeed Walters was best man when Peel married his wife Sheila (aka. The Pig) in 1974 and he and his wife accompanied the pair on honeymoon.

Alongside his work with John Peel, John Walters also produced Jimmy Savile's Savile's Travels as well as Andy Kershaw's programme, showcasing music from the developing world.

John Walters presenting Here and Now with Anastasia Cooke
On Here and Now with Anastasia Cooke
John Walters was a noted broadcaster in his own right, with programmes like Walters' Weekly, Loose Ends and Idle thoughts under his belt. He also appeared alongside Anastasia Cooke on BBC One's Here and Now.

John Walters was a witty and erudite raconteur with a passionate belief in music and musicians.

His whimsical and relaxed style belied his vast knowledge of his subject and his partnership with John Peel made the pair one of the most influential teams in British music.

Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more TV and Radio stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more TV and Radio stories