Retro: City gig for Prince of airwaves

DJ Tony Prince
DJ Tony Prince
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Famous 1960s and 70s radio DJ Tony Prince has been remembering his times working at the Top Rank suite in Sheffield, meeting city music stars.

A huge Elvis fan, the Prince later met the King and in Sheffield encountered city music royalty Joe Cocker and Dave Berry.

I used to go to the Penny Farthing. Joe Cocker and the Grease Band used to play there a lot. That’s where I fell in love with his voice

Tony DJed on the Radio Caroline pirate ship until the Government outlawed offshore radio broadcasters in August 1967.

He was offered a job in Sheffield while he waited to see whether he could join the new Radio One or Radio Luxembourg.

Tony said: “I guess I was there about eight months in total.

“On nights off I used to go to the Penny Farthing. Joe Cocker and the Grease Band used to play there a lot. That’s where I fell in love with his voice.

“On January 1, 1968 I left Sheffield to go to Radio Luxembourg and my first choice for the record of the week was Joe Cocker’s Marjorine. That was a fabulous record but not as big as his next one, With a Little Help from my Friends!”

Tony treasures his copy of that record and keeps it with a thank you letter that Joe wrote from his home in Tasker Road, Crookes to say thanks to Tony for choosing to feature his song.

Tony also became friends with Dave Berry.

He remembered: “The Top Rank was a wonderful venue and very, very busy in those days.”

He stayed at Radio Luxembourg for years and an undoubted highlight was meeting Elvis.

Tony said: “I played more Elvis than anyone else on Radio Luxembourg. The British fan club was based in Leicester and they invited me to a convention and to become honorary president.”

That led to a trip to the USA with members of the fan club, including a concert in Las Vegas, where Tony found himself on stage introducing Elvis and explaining why the English fans were in the audience.

Tony was later thrilled to see a photo of the trophy room at Graceland, with a picture of him and the King on a wall.

Tony is currently promoting a book he co-wrote with Jan Sestek, called The Royal Ruler and the Railway DJ. It looks at the pop world behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War.

Tony said: “I’ve never seen a book that’s written by two people like this. It’s a double autobiography where you read my story, then flip over to the Iron Curtain and see how Jan’s doing.

“I was on Radio Luxembourg in 1970 and was invited to Czechoslovakia to do a three-city tour. How I got there I don’t know because the Communists didn’t allow westerners into the country. One of the few people to have gone there was Paul Anka.

“It was just after the Russian invasion when they tried to introduce a more Western Communist regime and tanks and planes were sent in to Wenceslas Square, where young student Jan Palach burned himself to death in protest.”

Tony later learned that youngsters like Jan Sestek faced jail for having pop records or daring to listen to western radio stations. Jan put on his first music event at the railway station where he worked, hence the book’s title. Tony, of course, was nicknamed the Royal Ruler.

The Royal Ruler and The Railway DJ costs £20 and is available from www.dmcworld.com.