Ooh, yeah! Gary Davies is back on airwaves
HE was Manchester’s original superstar DJ and tonight Gary Davies is making his big return to the BBC airwaves. Gary will take the helm of Radio 2’s Sounds of the 80s show on Friday nights, remembering the hits of the decade in which he first became a household name.
It brings him full circle, after pretty much quitting broadcasting 20 years ago to concentrate on setting up his own music publishing company, which saw him discover acts including Corinne Bailey Rae.
But from today he will be back on the airwaves - and yes, that “ooh Gary Davies” jingle will be back too.
He says: “It’s quite amazing really, it was nothing that was planned.
“It all happened after Radio 2 did their Comic Relief 80s danceathon last year and Simon Mayo called me up and said ‘why don’t you come in, no one knows what you’ve been up to for 20-odd years.’
“That was the first time I’d been back at the beeb since leaving Radio 1. It led to Radio 2 contacting me to see if I would stand in on Sara Cox’s show. I hadn’t done radio for 20-odd years and I didn’t know if I could still do it, but it got an amazing reaction.
“It really surprised me. I didn’t think people would remember me - but it was clearly the opposite. It was an amazing feeling to know you had such an impact.”
It was back in 1982 when Gary got his “big break” on BBC Radio 1 - heading to London to join them initially on a three month contract, quitting his role on Manchester’s Piccadilly Radio.
But it went better than he could ever have expected - with Gary dominating the airwaves with his lunchtime show The Bit In The Middle and TV swiftly followed with presenting on the BBC’s Top of The Pops. And Gary’s glossyhaired good looks earned him the place as a pin-up on fans’ walls.
Looking back on those times he says: “Radio One in the 80s it was huge. If you were a DJ on Radio One at that time, with the size of audience it had, it was the closest thing any DJ could have of being like a pop star.”
Gary, 60, was born in Chorlton and raised in Cheadle and Gatley, studying at the North Cestrian Grammar in Altrincham although he admits he was a “terrible academic”.
His cousins Jack, Philip and Ivor Abadi owned the Twisted Wheel club in Manchester and would “sneak him in” to watch legendary artists like Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin. When he was 17 they gave him a job on the door - but one fateful night there would change Gary’s life forever. He recalls: “One night the DJ didn’t turn up so I went and did it. I just loved it. From then I started DJing.
“When no one was in the club I would record demos and send tapes around to every radio station I could to try and get my break.”
In 1979 he got that break with Piccadilly Radio in Manchester.
He says: “Piccadilly was huge in Manchester at that time. They would never give me my own daytime show, they told me I wasn’t good enough! But what was great for me was there was not one show I didn’t end up doing so in terms of radio. I did sport, breakfast, lunchtime, it was an amazing learning experience.”
He joined Radio 1 in 1982, working there for over a decade before leaving in 1993, and left broadcasting behind as well.
He said: “I just thought it would never be as good as what I did and what I had at Radio 1. So I decided to do something different.
“I always loved discovering new acts, I had a passion for new music and new talent so I set up my own music company.”
As to what we can expect when he takes the helm of the popular Sounds of the 80s show from 10pm, he says: “Loads of great music, the main thing is I lived through the 80s, I was helping to break a lot of acts and I do have a huge knowledge of the music.”
Manchester DJ Gary Davies today and at the height of his fame in the 1980s, inset
Gary Davies with 1980s’ icon Toyah