Time takes time to pass. But as time goes by so comes the feeling that time passes at an ever increasing pace. So, it was with some bemusement that I recently realised that I’ve now been with Radio 2 for ten years. The time has just flown by.
I’d been asked to find some photographs for a forthcoming BBC4 documentary about ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’ and, delving through some old files, I came across the running order for my first programme on Radio 2 on 21st December 1996.
The style and tone of the music was very much in keeping with the more mellow sound of the network at that time, beginning with ‘Dance With Me’ by Orleans and including tracks by Shawn Colvin, Leann Rimes, Van Morrison, Songhai, Slim Harpo and Jann Arden with Jackson Browne.
Following the changes at Radio 1 in 1993, I’d been broadcasting on the BBC station for London, GLR (Greater London Radio), doing the evening show, Monday to Wednesday, 8 pm to midnight. I’d been featuring a whole succession of top quality session guests, including John Hiatt, Ryan Adams, Richard Thompson, June Tabor, Steve Earle, Mary-Chapin Carpenter and Ritchie Havens along with cutting-edge Indie, World, Blues and Country records in what was one of the most enjoyable broadcasting experiences of my life. But there was no doubt in my mind that this first R2 programme was the most important I’d ever done. I really wanted to work for what I truly believe is the best radio station in the world.
Along with Alan Freeman and Steve Wright, I was the first of the ‘new generation’ of DJ’s invited in by the then new controller Jim Moir. ‘Just bring all your wonderful music with you’ he told me, and I took him at his word. Jim, Lesley Douglas, Phil Hughes, Phil Swern, Dave Shannon and Al Booth have backed my desire to give air-time to new, exciting music and have given me the space and freedom on-going to build my own programmes and play the artists I really believe in. In 1996 it was Beth Orton, David Gray, Lynn Miles, Baka Beyond, Dave Matthews, Ernest Ranglin, Buddy Miller, Eric Bibb, Sarah McLachlan, Dar Williams and the Wallflowers. Ten years on and the ‘Bob Harris Country’ list of the most played albums of 2006 is as follows:
‘Taking The Long Way’ by the Dixie Chicks,
‘Hair In My Eyes Like A Highland Steer’ by Canadian award winner Corb Lund, ‘Black Cadillac’ by Rosanne Cash,
‘Childish Things’ by the mean and brilliant James McMurtry,
‘Heartbreakers Hall of Fame’, an authentic Texas Country album by the wonderful Sunny Sweeny,
‘Little Rock’, my favourite album of 2005 by Hayes Carll,
‘A Little Girl…A Big Four Lane’ by Alecia Nugent,
‘Long Island Shores’ by the fragile and beautiful Mindy Smith,
‘Fair and Square’ by John Prine and
‘Two Bit World’, by another Canadian award winner, Dave Gunning.
Other heavily featured artists include Chris Knight, Piney Gir, Grayson Capps, Minton Sparks, Willy Clay Band, Wayne Hancock, Alison Krauss, Crooked Still, Alana Levandoski, TJ McFarland, Idgy Vaughn, Solomon Burke, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Brett Dennen, Todd Snider, Linda McLean, Hank III, Dale Watson, Slaid Cleaves and the most recent addition to the playlist…Diana Jones, whose charming old-time CD ‘My Remembrance Of You’ is the best album I’ve heard in months, occasionally similar in style to Gillian Welch. Look out for her UK dates early in 2007.
On the Saturday show, the essential list of 2006 is:
The Storys ‘The Storys’.
The Beauty Room ‘The Beauty Room’
Karine Polwart ‘Scribbled In Chalk’
Walter Trout ‘Full Circle’
Lizanne Knott ‘Under The Burning Sky’
Jose Gonzalez ‘Veneer’
Brigitte DeMeyer ‘Something After All’
Bruce Springsteen ‘We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions’
Joe Bonamassa ‘A New Day Yesterday’
Drive By Truckers ‘A Blessing and a Curse’
Death Cab For Cutie ‘Plans’
Jeff Finlin ‘Angels In Disguise’
Thea Gilmore ‘Harpo’s Ghost’
Gotan Project ‘Lunatico’
Cara Dillon ‘After The Morning’
Brian Houston ‘Sugar Queen’
Elbow ‘Leaders of the Free World’
Melissa McClelland ‘Thumbelina’s One Night Stand’
John Redfern ‘The Sun’ (Single)
The Fray ‘How To Save A Life’
Roddy Wooble ‘My Secret is my Silence’.
Meanwhile, I realised that the format of the Saturday show had altered very little since that first show, and that now is the perfect time for change. So I’ve kicked up the tempo, re-expanded the musical base and fulfilled an ambition…to get musicians into the studio to play live. So far, we’ve featured David Kitt, Derrin Nauendorf and Brian Houston, with appearances by Lisa Redford, Jon Redfern, Bruce Cockburn and Tunng planned for the next few weeks. The sessions will give me an opportunity to highlight some of our great UK artists in 2007 and there’ll be more Maida Vale mini-concerts, a selection of themed hours and an occasional dip-back into playlists from programmes past. And, if all goes well, I’ll be in Toronto in June to broadcast from the NXNE Festival. HECtic lyrics!
I feel extremely fortunate to be close to all this wonderful music and to be in a position to present it to you. Ten years after my first Radio 2 show, the most exciting CD’s in my collection continue to be the ones that arrived in the post this morning…music that will shape the programmes in 2007. Now that’s prime time!
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