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Early life and career
At the age of 17, Les won a DJ competition run by the Birmingham Evening Mail, beating Johnnie Walker, who came second. Part of his prize was to appear at Radio Luxembourg for an audition, but this never happened. He was offered his first gig at the Mecca Ballroom in Birmingham before moving on to the Birmingham Rollerskating Rink.
BBC Radio Birmingham
The break he was waiting for came in 1970 when he joined BBC Radio Birmingham now BBC WM, presenting a Saturday morning show with John Henry. It was one of the first “zoo-radio” formats – involving a studio audience and interactive elements and phone-in requests presented by Fiona MacDonald.
The breakfast show, entitled “On The Move”, was unusual because it started at 5am. The BBC national networks did not start programming until 6am making Les the only presenter on the air in the UK for one hour a day. The Radio Birmingham transmitter at 5.5 kW was one of the more powerful local radio ones in the country at the time and so Les enjoyed an audience of shift workers over a wide area.
Radio Tees & BRMB
In 1974, Les applied to work at BRMB; but they rejected him. In the summer of 1975, Les joined Radio Tees in the North East of England, presenting their Breakfast show. He also presented a successful Saturday morning music show which used the talents of the station’s record librarian Wincey Willis as co-presenter. In March 1976, Les went back to Birmingham & joined BRMB, taking over the Breakfast show from Adrian Juste, who had left to join Radio 1.
Xtra AM & Back to BRMB
With the launch of sister station Xtra AM in 1989, Les moved on to present there for four years. In August 1993, Les returned to BRMB Breakfast show, where he had female co-presenters by his side during this period, including Suzi Becker & Tammy Gooding. After 26 years, on Friday 27 September 2002, Les presented his final BRMB Breakfast show, live from Birmingham International Station. As 9 o'clock approached, he hopped on a train (hauled by electric locomotive no. 86259 especially named 'Les Ross' by Virgin Trains) to symbolise the end.
He later purchased and preserved this locomotive in operational condition following its retirement from regular passenger service. Locomotive 86259 has been returned to mainline use and sees use on various rail tours, painted in 'Electric Blue' livery.
On Monday 6 January 2003, Les took over from David Hamilton, on Birmingham's Saga 105.7 FM Breakfast show. However, in December 2004, he quit the station as he claimed the station management was guilty of sending "nannying" e-mails which were turning him into a "robo-jock" and was apparently banned from drinking coffee during his early Breakfast show.
He announced his departure, which was planned for Christmas Eve 2004, after he was only offered a one-year contract, below half-pay, despite doubling the show's ratings in recent audience research figures. Les actually stated "How much would I have had to put the ratings up by just to get the same deal as I was on before? If I had been happy and felt that I had support, I might have stayed for half the money. But I wasn't happy and I feel that if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys". Les's departure came before Christmas Eve, as station bosses decided to take action as he talked to the local press about what had happened.
Back to the BBC
Rumour mills went quickly into action about where Les would turn up next BBC Radio WM, snapped him up to present a weekly show on Sunday mornings from 9 am to midday. So on Sunday 6 February 2005, Les presented his first weekly show on BBC WM. He would also cover for various holidaying presenters on the station including Adrian Goldberg, Ed Doolan and Danny Kelly's afternoon show, which Les would later take over permanently.
In addition to his Sunday morning show, on Saturday 23 July 2005, Les also took over the Saturday Breakfast show from 6 to 9 am.
Back On Daily
Les took over the Monday to Friday 1 to 4 pm slot from Danny Kelly on WM on Tuesday 10 April 2007.
BBC WM's managing editor, Keith Beech, said: "Les Ross is one of the best-loved and most popular presenters there is. I'm excited about the prospect of hearing him every day here on BBC WM."
In early 2009, the show went out from 2 to 4 pm on weekdays and has since left the station just after his 60th Birthday.
On 7 December 2009, Les Ross returned to the airwaves when he became the presenter of the Big City Breakfast Show on Birmingham's Big City Radio 89.1. He hosted his final show for the station on Friday 26 March 2010. He returned to the station on 10 February 2013 to front a Sunday afternoon show. In April 2015, Les started broadcasting a Sunday Sixties show on Wolverhampton's 101.8 WCRFM: www.wcrfm.com.
- Young, Graham (2 April 2009). "Les Ross ready to hang up his headphones". Birmingham Post. Retrieved 31 December 2009.
- Young, Graham (7 December 2009). "Legendary DJ Les Ross MBE comes out of retirement for third time". Birmingham Mail. Archived from the original on 23 September 2012. Retrieved 31 December 2009.
- "Les Ross returns to radio in Birmingham". Radio Today. 12 February 2013. Retrieved 12 February 2013.
- Link to Guardian piece on the Hardeep Singh Kohli interview, including sound clip
- His Radio Academy Hall of Fame entry
- Les Ross interview
- Class 86 Locomotive 86259/E3137 'Les Ross' owned by Les Ross