Very sad news today of the death of Charlie Gillett - one of the greatest DJ's and knowledgeable broadcasters/writers about popular music ever. I followed his radio shows avidly from the early days of Radio London's pioneering "Honky Tonk" in the early 70's to the latest world music shows on BBC Radio 3. Charlie's calming soothing voice was the perfect antidote to all those other DJ's who sounded like they were shouting by comparison. He obviously loved all the music he played and that came across in his shows. I used to send him mix-tapes of my scratchy market finds back in the 80's ( the cassette equivelent of this blog!) and he seemed to enjoy them - so much so he invited over to Capital Radio , the station he was working for at the time, to play some of them. It was a very nerve racking experience but one I shall never forget. Charlie was the perfect host and tried to put me at my ease as he could see I wasa nervous wreck! He gave me a lift home afterwards and when he saw I lived next to a pub in Lambeth Walk he said " Blimey, I used to put bands on at that pub a few years ago , I hope they didn't make too much noise!"
Gillett was born in Morecambe, Lancashire, England, United Kingdom. He began in journalism in 1968 with a weekly column in the Record Mirror. His 1970 book, The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll, originally written as his Master's thesis for Columbia University, was a seminal history of popular music. It received excellent reviews in both Time magazine and The New York Times and enabled Gillett to further his music journalism career and to write a second book, Making Tracks. He wrote for a variety of music magazines including Rolling Stone and New Musical Express and contributed to The Observer.
He began a weekly radio programme, Honky Tonk on Radio London in 1972, leaving in 1978. He brought Ian Dury to public attention, and was the first DJ to play demos by Graham Parker, Elvis Costello and Dire Straits ("Sultans of Swing"). In the latter case, significant numbers of London's A&R men had contacted Gillett's studio by the time he had finished playing the song - sending Dire Straits on their journey to global stardom.
With partner Gordon Nelki, Gillett launched the Oval record label in 1974 with Another Saturday Night, a compilation album which popularised Cajun music in the UK. The duo managed Ian Dury's first group Kilburn & the High Roads, co-produced the first Lene Lovich album (including the hit "Lucky Number") and published Paul Hardcastle's worldwide number one hit, "19". More recently they worked with record producer David Lowe on the projects Touch and Go (including the pan-European hit "Would You...?") and Dreamcatcher.
In 1980 Gillett joined Capital Radio, and began to play more independent music. He was fired in 1983, but after listener complaints was re-hired with orders for a new format. He chose to follow his new interest in music from the rest of the world and his show, A Foreign Affair, is credited with helping to launch 'world music'.Having been the first British DJ to play Youssou N'Dour, Salif Keita, "Hot Hot Hot" by Arrow (Alphonsus Cassell) and many more, he left Capital in December 1990. He was presented with the Sony Gold Lifetime Achievement Award the following year."