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|The Tommy Boyd Q&A Interview
Exclusive to talkSPORT1089.co.uk
Tommy Boyd hosts a Saturday night phone-in and music show
alongside co-presenter Allison Ferns on BBC Southern Counties
Radio every week between 9:00pm-1:00am on the South Coast.
In his varied career, Tommy has worked in children's television with
the likes of Timmy Mallet and Bonnie Langford. In broadcasting, he
has worked for Talk Radio, talkSPORT, LBC, BBC Radio 5, BBC
Local Radio & Southern FM in a career spanning almost 40 years.
You are currently working for BBC Southern Counties Radio but what other radio stations have you worked for in your broadcasting career and what were your roles at each of them?
I worked for BBC Radio Brighton between 1973-1978 as a student and working on programmes for younger people. I then started working for LBC when it started as a news producer and then the head of music. Between 1980-1981 I worked as a phone in presenter where I won the National Radio Person of the Year Award. I did some work with Southern FM in Brighton and then in 1986 joined the new BBC Radio 5 station doing children’s programming and then as a sports presenter. Following my departure I joined BBC Southern Counties Radio and in 1994 joined Talk Radio as their first presenter. For a while I went over to the States to do talk radio over there and hosted some shows.
At 49, when I was sacked by talkSPORT in 2002 I retired from broadcasting as I had been saving money over the years and it wasn’t a worry for me. However, I spoke to Neil Pringle at BBC Southern Counties Radio, who knows what a proper talk radio station is, and joined the station last year once again but I’m enjoying it and I hope we can see it through as I can do the same sort of things as I did on my Talk Radio show.
You joined Talk Radio in 1995 when the station launched, but how did you get your role on the station and what were your initial thoughts about the people you would be working with?
I worked with Jeremy Scott at Southern FM a few years before I joined Talk Radio and I knew he was better than this and was the first Programme Controller of Talk Radio, one of many. He earned loads of money from his job there as he was a shareholder as well as Programme Controller of Talk Radio. Basically, you bought shares in a small radio station and waited until someone like Capital came in and bought you out.
Jeremy loved my style and was into individualist broadcasting like myself. As I was the first presenter to be hired by Talk Radio he asked to populate the station with presenters. I helped hire Caesar the Geezer and Moz Dee. These were presenters that would make listeners ask: “Oh my God, did he really say that?” Caesar was no act but the whole style didn’t seem to work on Talk Radio for a number of reasons. In the USA it is carefully thought out and I had learned that we had to maximise audiences that listened to every minute of a show including the adverts and to make it an appointment for them to tune in.
Your Talk Radio show was dubbed “the funniest show on British Radio” by national newspaper The Daily Mail. Do you look back at the show with a sense of achievement knowing you were getting rave reviews in the newspapers and by the people that were listening to you?
Yes, it was the best thing on British radio. We were different in what we did. We didn’t do the big issues as I had studied what was popular about talk radio in the USA and brought it back over here. It was something that Kenny Everett did and it was something that I did as we made it something that people wanted to tune in to. I am hugely proud of the show and it is one of the best things I have done.
In 1998, Talk Radio was taken over by a consortium led by the former Editor of The Sun Kelvin MacKenzie and you were amongst a number of high-profile presenters who left the station shortly after. What reasons were given to you to justify the decisions of the management?
None. Mike Parry sent a letter to me setting out what they wanted to do and expected me to do for them. I sent a letter back saying I was happy to do what they wanted but I was told by Parry that he couldn’t work with me. I get the impression they believed my on-air act but it is tragic that Kelvin MacKenzie is not in radio anymore. He is talented as he showed when Editor of The Sun and could have been the dogs bollocks of radio. You look at what the man did at The Sun and then with Live TV with Topless Darts and maybe he could have brought that to radio. I was removed from the premises when they sacked me but then went back into Kelvin’s office and asked him why. He said maybe we could work again in the future. I was the first presenter to be hired by Talk Radio and the first presenter to be sacked when Kelvin took over the station.
After your departure from Talk Radio you worked for LBC but was sacked for your argumentative and controversial style of broadcasting. How did it feel to leave for those reasons as it was no secret you perpetuated that style of broadcasting on a regular basis?
The news media in the UK don’t serve the public very well. Most journalists are complete tossers and adjust the stories to make them more sensationalist than they actually are. I said this while on the air on the LBC hosted the Breakfast Show which, at the time, was owned by ITN. One of the Board of Directors heard this whilst he was shaving and told me that news was a commodity and should not be saying these things whilst broadcasting on-air. My contract wasn’t renewed strictly for those reasons but I had said more objectionable things on the air in addition to that.
You were asked to cover for a number of talkSPORT’s talk show presenters in early 2000 before accepting a permanent role later in the year replacing James H Reeve. How did this come about considering your dramatic departure just a couple of years earlier?
I was taking them to court over money that was owed to me. However, instead of taking of them to court I worked for them for a while covering for a few shifts. I then stood in for James H Reeve and then took over the Friday, Saturday and Sunday night slot but was asked to keep it low key. I did the Human Zoo on a Sunday which was a load of crap but very popular. I think one week we had near to a million callers to the show which must have broken some sort of record. Then Kelvin’s financial guy thought of an idea to screw a fiver out of the people that were calling the show with a new phone system. This meant that instead of a quick set of callers you had people holding on for 8 minutes meaning so I had to fill the time without callers by chatting to Ash.
I also did the Wrestling on a Saturday as well. I came home one Saturday and found my kids watching it and they said it was brilliant and seemed to love it. I watched some of it as well and thought that it was an excellent product. One Saturday I thought I would start talking about WWF, as it was then, and what people thought of The Rock. The lines went mad. They had 505 before my show between 5:00pm-8:00pm which was supposed to command a great amount of calls but we got nearly three times as many callers as they did.
You had a number of different segments to your shows on talkSPORT, including The Sports Quiz, The Wrestling Show and The Human Zoo on a Sunday night. Did you have free reign to do as you wished on your shows or was there any pressure from management to do things in a particular style?
I was asked to do what you would call a news and issue based programme but it was crap we had hardly any callers. I had a tosser of a producer who took be aside with a bundle of cuttings from the newspapers an hour before the show and presented me with a story about a Granny that was clamped outside her local shop. I asked listeners for similar stories but had fuck all callers. I still went along with it to prove them wrong. However, the Programme Controller at the time left and a new one arrived which was Jason Bryant who worked under Kelvin at talkSPORT. He was a good Controller and was in the same mindset as me and loved joke topics and taking a ludicrous side of an argument. He understood how it worked and knew what entertainment value was.
Did you always feel enthusiastic enough to broadcast The Human Zoo as it appeared to involve the same few callers every week towards the end of it and shortly after you left the station, Ian Collins said that you were looking to “knock the Zoo on the head” and give it a rest. Was this always going to be the case?
I was looking to move it forward but I was the first person to get bored of it but I had to give it time before the audience got bored. I didn’t want to go stale because it was a good thing when Elvis died when he did. It was at the top. It is the same for Fawlty Towers as they only made a few episodes and it became legendary. Incidentally, myself and a few drinking buddies have started writing the final farewell episode for Fawlty Towers where they all come back to the hotel finding out it has been turned into a Travelodge. We may send it to John Cleese one day and get a letter back telling us to fuck off.
You organised an event called Revival at the Crystal Palace Arena in London during your time as talkSPORT’s Wrestling Show presenter. How smoothly did everything go and were you surprised by the demand for tickets and success of the event?
The Wrestling could have been huge but there aren’t really any British Wrestlers that would be good enough. Kids would have seen the WWE and then watched the stuff we would put on and would think it was rubbish. Alex Shane was a very bright guy and best of luck to him but I don’t think you can compare him to some of the guys in the States. We staged the event at the Crystal Palace Arena and were able to plug the even on talkSPORT and they even had live coverage of the event on the night. Kelvin congratulated me on the way I had put it all together and executed it. He sent along his Head of Finance from talkSPORT and he was gobsmacked by the whole event and thought there was money to be made out of it. Even ITV showed an interest and there were mentions of it becoming a Saturday night show but then Kelvin wanted a 50% share of the company and as a shrewd guy he saw that there was a market for this kind of a even like I did. I wanted to negotiate as I didn’t know who I would be partnered with.
After the removal of Talk Wrestling from talkSPORT in 2002, your co-host Alex Shane was quoted as saying that you "tried to sack me and take over the FWA". What is your response to those comments?
I always wondered if we had enough good quality wrestlers to start the whole thing up again. Basically, the answer to that is that we don't, not yet anyway.
Alex Shane has said that, on talking to Bill Ridley, he was surprised to learn that you "weren't liked around the station", that "many people said they were waiting to get rid of you" and that talkSPORT management had "already sacked him before but he threatened to sue them and got his job back". Would you like to make any further comments on your working relationship with the talkSPORT management?
That is news to me but they did owe me some cash. I think Bill Ridley, who is talkSPORT's Programme Director is a good bloke and doesn't mind having enemies. Kelvin MacKenzie is a fine foe!
Would you ever consider a move back to talkSPORT if something was offered to you by the new UTV Radio management or are you happy to remain exactly where you are?
I am very happy remain where I am at BBC Southern Counties. I do believe that Ulster TV should move talkSPORT to the next level wherever that is.
What are your thoughts regarding talkSPORT’s current non-sports programming involving James Whale, Mike Dickin, Mike Mendoza and Charlie Wolf?
They are all good broadcasters in their own right. However, I would like to hear them kick on a bit and explore what is around them and not go over the same topics each night of the week.
You were involved in talkSPORT’s Christmas Clash of the Titans programme in 2000 and 2001. What was your relationship really like with Mike Dickin and James Whale and how much of the on-air friction between each of you was in fact real?
The friction from James Whale and Mike Dickin was 90%. But from myself I would say that it was 50% friction but then I am showbiz, of course!
Are there any talk show hosts you have worked with or heard on the stations in the UK or USA that have grabbed your attention and you would recommend to people?
Those that grab my attention and would recommend are Chris Evans and Jonathan Ross on BBC Radio 2 and Danny Baker on BBC London during weekday afternoons. Howard Stern over in the United States is the Daddy but not as good as his public relations.
Your television career must be mentioned at the very least. Looking back, what was the highlights of your days in television and who was your favourite co-host?
My happiest time was on Magpie with a guy Mick Robertson. We used to play cricket in the corridor before live shows and that's the best it was. Michaela Strachan remains a great family friend and has a good heart.
Are you still involved with the Chichester Branch of the Portsmouth FC Supporters Club and do you get to Fratton Park that often at the moment?
I cannot get to see Pompey that often at the moment because I do the Saturday night show on BBC Southern Counties. But the Chichester Supporters Branch are fantastic guys.
What is the best sporting moment you have been at and why?
It has to be the game at Craven Cottage for Fulham 1-4 Manchester United. George Best was simply the best. Another fond moment from the game was that I also got the lead the Fulham chanting.
Who were your idols as a child?
You what what? Nobody. I knew Muhammed Ali was special though.
What was the last CD you bought, and which CD's are in your car?
The last CD I bought was by The Pogues. I also have albums by the Dexy's Midnight Runners and The Stranglers in the car. I am a Celt...
What was the last film you saw at the cinema and what did you think of it?
The last film I saw at the cinema was lost in translation. It was simply beautiful.
What books are you currently reading, and are there any that you have read that you would recommend?
I actually always have got about a dozen books on the go at once. However, To Kill a Mockingbird is my all time personal favourite book.
Finally, where do you see yourself in 10 years time in your career and as a Pompey supporter?
No idea really. I will probably be getting fired by some half wit as usual. As for Pompey, it'll probably be sadly just another club lacking £110m injection and floundering around mid-table in the Premiership.
Thanks to Tommy Boyd for the chance to interview him. You can check out Tommy every Saturday night on BBC Southern Counties Radio between 9:00pm-1:00am.
The Tommy Boyd Q&A Interview
BBC Southern Counties Radio