Radiowaves Special Feature: The Radio 4U Story


Chapter Eleven

The same weekend that Paul and the lads decorated the hall I was introduced to two other friends of Paul and JP. Their names were John, who was Irish American, born in the US but for the past years he’d been studying in Derry, living with his mother and sister. The other friend was called John too. So he was nicknamed JJ for easier differentiation.
JJ was like Kieran and Chris, very keen but not too creative. Don’t get me wrong, this does not mean that those lads were bad presenters. Indeed they are radio hosts who present a show perfectly to station policy but maybe they are lacking a little bit of drive and individual flair. A lot of managers prefer this type of presenter because they worry too much about their station sound. Really, I did not give a toss about station sound as long as the programme was interesting.

The only hilarious thing which I can remember about JJ is that he went mouse chasing during his programme. I must admit that by the end of autumn we had quite a few field mice in the party / front hall. So he followed the mouse, took a shoe off and threw it at the poor little thing, just to scare it. When I entered the room I saw JJ’s baffled face and asked him “Are you alright mate?”
With a stunned look he pointed at a dead mouse.
“I killed it with my shoe, by accident.”
Heaven knows why the mouse had such an unlucky day. Those things are usually much too fast to get caught in a proper trap, but JJ got it with a boot…
Well, normal people did not work for Radio 4U .

John was a right character. Under no circumstances would I call him a disc jockey. In short, he did not have a clue about music and, because of that, we had some minor rows. Apart from that, he was a great presenter – one of the best.

The Studio transmitter & ROT recorder

John positioned himself in the studio and started talking. While everybody else played approx. 13 songs per hour, you could consider yourself lucky if John played six. The remaining time he was yapping away with inserts of ‘Barbara Woodhouse’s Dog Training’ or Childrens’ Story records. In short, after one hour listening to John you were not a teeny weeny bit wiser than before. That was John.

Nigel Kennedy was still unknown in 1987. But since John read the tour guide for Nigel’s first Northern Irish tour. I wonder who is the bigger punk – at least Nigel Kennedy is well-known now (thanks to John?).

But then again John wouldn’t have been himself if it wasn’t for Joan Whitbay…

Joan Whitbay was his producer. I’ll never forget the programme when he spent one hour telling Radio 4U listeners that Joan Whitbay had told him off for kicking the metal litter bin in the studio. Obviously during this hour he kept busy kicking and hitting this same bin. Listeners could hear him dropping everything known to mankind into the bin. Never forgetting to remind the audience that Joan told him to leave the bin alone.
I don’t really know how to describe this programme, but he really spent one hour talking about Joan Whitbay and the dustbin. It was so incredibly funny, I have rarely laughed as much as I laughed that day in front of the wireless.
Besides, Joan Whitbay did not even exist. John invented this person and for months she was given the credits for being the responsible producer behind John’s verbal rubbish (at least the bin was near!)

After two months John resigned, telling me that his studies at the polytech took too much of his time. Only three nights later he was sitting in Nova’s hot seat. Obviously the money was much better there, it was that much better that he was even willing to travel twice as far as he’d had to travel to Radio 4U .
Nova was not interested in talent.

At Nova John had to shut up and play records to represent the station sound. Also, he’d expected a much higher telephone response to his programme, as Nova gave a lot of rubbish-talk pretending to have many more listeners than they actually did. As a matter of fact the only calls John got were local response within Donegal as Radio 4U wiped the floor with Nova in the city.

How do I know? Well, after less than three weeks John forgot about the little $£$£ signs and considered proper radio more important. He returned and stayed with Radio 4U until its very last day. The last thing I heard about him is that he is now with BBC Belfast.