DIARY: Colin drury on a man with a lifelong passion

Sheffield's oldest DJ Pat Reid
Sheffield's oldest DJ Pat Reid
Have your say

WHEN the time comes, says Pat Reid, he’d like to die behind his DJ decks.

“Hopefully not for a while,” he notes. “But that would be the way to go – with Carl Perkins playing.”

Morbid talk? Not at all.

This is merely the passionate mark of a man who has dedicated his life to music and who, as he prepares to celebrate his 70th birthday this month, is thought to be Sheffield’s oldest touring DJ.

You’ve perhaps heard of him. Or at least heard him playing records.

For nearly 50 years Pat has been spinning his discs – rock n roll, Motown, Mersey Beat – at pubs, clubs, wedding receptions and birthday celebrations. His residencies have included the currently-closed-but-still-legendary Black Swan in Snig Hill, the much-missed Marples in Fitzalan Square and the Hallamshire Hotel in Commonside.

Before that (and during too) he was a promoter, touring with The Nolans (“nice enough”) and putting on Marc Bolan and Dr Feelgood in South Yorkshire.

“Well,” he says, “it was better than getting a real job.”

And now? This month Pat (nicknamed Carl because of his love of Perkins) is to celebrate that milestone birthday by doing what he does best – getting behind the decks at his own party.

“Do I plan on retiring?” he says, adjusting his hearing aid as we speak. “Not a chance. I’ve slowed down. I pick and choose my gigs now and only do private bookings but this is what I love doing. It’s my life.”

And what a life.

Pat – who grew up in Petre Street, Pitsmoor, then Pryor Mede, Harthill – first discovered rock n roll aged 12 when he stumbled on American Forces radio.

“It was Fats Domino,” he says. “I was hooked from then on.”

He built up a 2,000-strong record collection and would spend his evenings at Sheffield gigs.

“But my last bus was at 9.30pm so I use to miss a lot,” he says. “One night I asked a Sheffield band called the Hillbilly Cats if they’d play near me and they said they would if I organised it. So I did. We put them on at Harthill Village Hall and it went great.”

So well in fact that he started booking acts for several pubs across the city, eventually quitting his job at a Kiveton Park steelworks to set up PR Promotions.

Then in 1970 a DJ he’d booked to play The Shiregreen Hotel, in Sicey Avenue, pulled out at the last minute.

“I had no-one else,” says Pat of Hands Road, Crookesmoor. “I had the records and I can talk a good game so I did it myself. Afterwards I told the guy I’d be doing it from then on.”

And pretty soon he was notching 12 gigs a week.

“We did lunchtimes too back then,” he notes. “You’d get go-go girls in the Black Swan from midday.”

It was a something he would carry on with until the early Nineties when the recession forced him to also take part-time work as a cellarman. But he kept spinning and, even now, as a grandfather-of-three, he’s still getting those bookings.

Things have changed of course – in 2012 he has electric lights instead of the oil ones which had an unnerving habit of catching fire – but he still loves his music.

“There’s nothing better,” he says. “I’ve been very lucky.”

n Pat’s party takes place at The Bath Hotel on Sunday April 29, 8pm. The Hillbilly Cats will play, and all acts, artists and friends from down the years are invited.