As well as being resident DJ at Mod club Tiles in Oxford Street, Jeff Dexter was a working DJ on the London circuit for over ten years up until the early ’70s, as well as being a dancer at the Lyceum Ballroom and a singer. Latterly, he managed the band America. These days, his son Wesley is a drum’n’bass DJ.
So where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born in Lambeth Hospital and grew up in the Newington Butts, which is by the Elephant & Castle. I was born in 1946.
When did you get interested in music?
Well, we never really had a record player. But the first record I ever bought was Sixteen Tons by Tennessee Ernie Ford. I just thought it was the coolest song, and I bought it in East Street Market from A1 Records stall and I walked home with it under my arms singing it, thinking I was this big country person digging in the mines. This was 1955 or 56, I think. It was a 78. Not many people had record players to play 45s in those days. I had two friends who lived locally who had gramophones so I could go and play it there. We never had one. We had a piano.
How did your interest in music come about?
I studied music. I played the piano, I played the flute, I played the trumpet, I did classical. I had a knack of taking off people from the age of about eight or nine, the pop stars of the day: Johnny Ray, at the local mother’s meeting hall. I was never that interested in pop music, as such. I liked the Goons. I liked military music, as well. I’d go anywhere at that age, to see a military band. I liked the uniforms. Unlike most of my friends who were suddenly all besotted by these new images. My brother had become an Elvis fan. I wasn’t particularly interested at first, until Buddy Holly.
Interviewed by Bill Brewster in London, 18.2.99