Late night listening with Roger Kirk, Roger Phillips, James H. Reeve, Scottie McClue and Mark Meadowcroft
BBC2 recently aired the Yorkshire edition of Comedy Map of Britain which included an interview with the impressionist Jon Culshaw, who although originally from Lancashire, I was intrigued to learn cut his teeth on our very own Hallam FM back in 1991.
The TV show took Culshaw to the studios on Herries Road for a visit his old stomping ground. This reminded me of being 14 and with too much time on my hands, pointlessly getting the 33 bus from town to visit the Hallam FM studios with my friends to try to catch a glimpse of Howard ‘Howie’ Pressman in reception (under the pretence of picking up a window sticker and programme schedule).
I don’t recall Culshaw’s show, but I do remember tuning in to Hallam for Roger Kirk’s late-night phone-in programme, probably in 1992. Listening to his Night Owls show was like putting on an old pair of slippers and curling up by the fire. Although regular contributors and FTCs (first time callers) did discuss issues of the day – in between extensive and slightly dull analysis of listeners’ dreams – generally it was gentle radio for dropping off to.
I usually did fall asleep quite quickly, rarely making it through to the ‘First of the day’ item at half past midnight where, like clockwork, Rog would play Hallam FM’s first song of the day. On a Sunday night a guy called Roger Phillips would host the show, which caused no end of confusion for non-regular listeners.
In February 1994, seemingly unexpectedly, all this was to change as the jolly Rogers left the good ship Hallam without warning, only to be replaced by James H. Reeve, whose presenting style was a complete contrast to what had gone before. Out went the cosiness, tranquillity and dream talk, to be replaced by sarcasm, whit and a no-nonsense approach to ignorant callers.
For the listening thousands, this came as a big shock and it wasn’t easy to adjust. I’m a bit embarrassed to recall that I co-ordinated a Bring Roger Back campaign, a ground breaking political movement forward-looking and far-reaching enough to enlist the support of all 30 members of my form at school! I sent the petition to the Hallam FM management and received a short reply (see picture below), but they were to stick with their decision: Roger wasn’t coming back and James H. Reeve was here to stay.
In time, I would realise that James H. Reeve’s show was actually much more entertaining than any other late-night radio phone-in I had ever heard. Reeve was a very talented broadcaster and a funny man, and combined with his regular callers, it was radio gold. Anyone remember Didier? Was he for real?
James H.Reeve would only last a year at The New Hallan FM. He departed as abruptly as he had arrived, and filling his shoes was ‘shock jock’ Scottie McClue. The new DJ’s presenting style was yet again vastly different to his predecessors; a slightly forced crazy and controversial mix of unfunny mild offensiveness and tedious catchphrases (“Dinky doo” and “Tell 10 to tell 10″).
You can probably guess that I never enjoyed McClue’s show as much and during his tenure I left Sheffield to go to university so stopped listening. He was eventually replaced by fomer Hallam newsreader Mark Meadowroft, who had deputised on the phone-in show numerous times before. Kirk passed away in August 2001.
I have since heard James H. Reeve on other radio stations where he has never been far from controversy, and Scotty McClue went on to present several similar shows in Scotland. I think I’m right in thinking that Mark Meadowcroft left Hallam to join the BBC.
Presently there is a late-night phone in on Hallam called The Confessional that I intend to give a listen. Could it possibly be as addictive as those late night phone-ins in the 1990s?