John Peel's career shadowed the unfolding of popular music, touching and inspiring almost every British music-maker of the last four decades. He began on air in Dallas as rock took hold, returning to the UK on pirate radio during the full flowering of hippiedom. One of the founding DJs of Radio 1, his unique show outlasted several generations of lesser DJs, only ending with his untimely death in 2004. Constantly searching for music to make his hair stand on end, Peelie epitomised the hunger of a true DJ.
Did you go over to America as a DJ, or intending to become one, or what?
Oh good Lord, no. The DJ nearly didn't exist, as such, when I went over there. I went over in 1960 and there were DJs on Luxembourg like Pete Murray, Alan Freeman, I guess, David Jacobs. Was he on Luxembourg? I had in the back of my mind that it was something I'd like to do. But I went over there really to... because my dad dared me to. It's like my son now, it's a vengeance... karma. He hasn't got anything to do. I don't know what to do with him. In the same way my dad didn't know what to do with me. So my dad said 'I'll send you to America if you'll go.' So I went. After I'd been on there about a year, I got on to a radio station in Dallas playing R&B stuff, because I had records they didn't have. So I did that for a few months. Then, having experienced that I was rather excited by it....
Interviewed by Bill Brewster in London, 7.4.99