Tommy Vance

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Tommy Vance
Tommy Vance 2005.jpg
Vance in 2005
Richard Anthony Crispian Francis Prew Hope-Weston

(1940-07-11)11 July 1940
Died6 March 2005(2005-03-06) (aged 64)
Dartford, Kent, England
Other namesRick West
OccupationRadio host, presenter, DJ
Years active1960–2004
Known forFriday Rock Show (1978–1993)
TelevisionTop of the Pops, Dumber and Dumber, The 11 O'Clock Show, The Nightfly and The Friday Rock Show (VH1)
Spouse(s)Ferne Johnson (divorced)
Susan Hanson (divorced)
Stella 'Cookie' Brusa (divorced)

Richard Anthony Crispian Francis Prew Hope-Weston (11 July 1940[1] – 6 March 2005), known professionally as Tommy Vance, was an English radio broadcaster. He was an important factor in the rise of the new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM), along with London-based disc jockey Neal Kay, in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Vance was one of the first radio hosts in the United Kingdom to broadcast hard rock and heavy metal in the early 1980s, providing the only national radio forum for both bands and fans. The Friday Rock Show that he hosted gave new bands airtime for their music and fans an opportunity to hear it. He used a personal tag-line of "TV on the radio".[2] His voice was heard by millions around the world announcing the Wembley Stadium acts at Live Aid in 1985.[3]

Early life[edit]

Born Richard Anthony Crispian Francis Prew Hope-Weston in Eynsham, Oxfordshire, on 11 July 1940, his grandmother owned a travelling repertory company, his father was an electronics engineer, and his mother a former singer and dancer.

Expelled from school at 15 for truancy, Vance got his first job as trainee manager at the Hyde Park Hotel, London. He joined the merchant navy in 1956, aged 16, as a cabin boy. It was while docked in New York, listening to US radio, that Vance first toyed with becoming a disc jockey. He had been brought up on the British broadcasting of the 1950s and, like a number of his contemporaries, fell in love with the brash sound of American commercial radio.

When Vance returned to the UK, he worked as a mechanic for a jukebox company so that he could hear music for free. Unable to find an opening in British radio he enrolled at a Northern Irish college, becoming a part-time actor/stage hand. He joined the Ulster Bridge Repertory Company, run by the actor James Ellis, as a stage manager.[4]


KOL Seattle and KHJ Los Angeles[edit]

Moving to Vancouver in pursuit of his first wife, Fern, in 1964, he joined KOL Seattle as its prime drive-time jock, contrary to other reporting, under the name Tommy Vance. He got into a pay dispute with KOL and quit and went on to voice his displeasure on rival KJR where he co-hosted for a few days with KJR's prime time jock Pat O'Day.

From there Vance moved to Los Angeles where he was offered a show by programming consultant Bill Drake on KHJ radio (aka Boss Radio), holding the evening 9-midnight airshift at KHJ for a few months in late 1965. The programme had originally been intended for another presenter who had pulled out of the deal at the last moment, the jingles and pre-launch publicity could not go to waste continuing under the name "Tommy Vance", "The station asked if I would take the name as they had already made the jingles for him. I said, for that kind of money you can call me what you like, mate".

KHJ was one of the most successful and influential Top 40 stations of the era and California in 1965 was a great place to be. However, America was then involved in a war in Vietnam and when Tommy got his draft papers for the US Army, he decided it was time to head back to the UK.[5] For the next several months Vance filed occasional phone-in reports for KHJ covering the British music scene.

Offshore Pirate Radio[edit]

Vance returned to the UK in 1965 just before Christmas with British musician Ian Whitcomb who lent him the fare. Bill Hearne hired Vance for Radio Caroline South, where his colleagues included Johnnie Walker, Dave Lee Travis, Tony Blackburn and Emperor Rosko. On 3 January 1966, Vance presented his first show on Caroline South; his slogan was "TV on radio" and used Jack Costanzo's version of the "Naked City Theme" as his signature tune.

Vance released a handful of singles; "You Must Be the One", A-covers of Herman's Hermits', 'Silhouettes' and a cover of The Rolling Stones, "Off the Hook".

Vance's wife was not pleased with the idea that her husband was going to be with Caroline South, on a ship two weeks out of three, where she would be living in an unfamiliar city on her own. Vance left Caroline South and moved to Radio Luxembourg. Nonetheless, the marriage did not last. Radio Caroline's Ronan O'Rahilly suggested Vance he should return to the ship, he rejoined Caroline South in December 1966.

During the summer of 1967, it became apparent that the government was going to legislate against the offshore pirate stations. Vance heard a rumour that Philip Birch, boss of Wonderful Radio London, was negotiating to move his station to France and Vance wanted to be a part of it. In July 1967, he transferred to Radio London – however, Big L failed to find a base on the continent. Rather than break the new law, the station closed down on 14 August. Vance's stay with the station was very brief.[6]

Radio 1, BBC World Service and Capital Radio[edit]

After the pirates were closed down in 1967, the BBC's new station, BBC Radio 1, adopted much of their musical philosophy and took on many of their personnel including Caroline colleagues Tony Blackburn, Johnnie Walker and Radio London's John Peel. Vance co-hosted the "progressive" show Top Gear with Peel.

When the programme was given to Peel to present solo, Vance moved to the BBC World Service in the late 1960s, launching "Pop Club", a hugely popular radio programme on the BBC World Service. Each installment of the programme started with a song from Cliff Richard, who was the nominal president of the club. Listeners to the BBC World Service from all over the world would apply to become members of Pop Club, receiving a membership card, special badges and gifts. Every week Vance would read listeners' letters and played requests with one being chosen as the "letter of the week".

Vance was becoming frustrated with his lack of progress, however, and joined Radio Monte Carlo International with Dave Cash and Kenny Everett. In October 1973, all three would join the newly launched London-based Capital Radio, Britain's first legal commercial pop station. Initially co-presenting the morning show with Joan Shenton, then playing Capital's very first reggae and soul music on a weekend show.[7]

In 1975, Vance made a brief film appearance as disc jockey Ricky Storm, in Richard Loncraine's Slade in Flame, a vehicle for the group Slade.[8] By 1976, Vance was also on the Portsmouth ILR station Radio Victory. He was also frequently heard on independent radio voicing advertisements.

At a time when punk was being shunned by the press, he carried out the first in-depth interview with Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols in 1977, whose single 'Pretty Vacant' was A-listed on Capital's playlist.[9] Rotten talked at length about his love of reggae music, at a time when the group were given very little media exposure other than in the weekly music press.[10] Vance also presented Capital's Hitline Top 30 on Sunday evenings, based on listener votes, starting from the top of the chart. He would often abandon the chart during the 20-30 positions, in favour of album tracks by rock bands such as Led Zeppelin.

BBC and the Friday Rock Show[edit]

Vance returned to Radio 1 in November 1978 to begin a 15-year stint hosting the show for which he is best remembered – the Friday Rock Show. He was to become associated with heavy metal and rock music; his deep, resonant, booming voice and catch-phrase 'classic cuts' have been much imitated. The first record which he played on the show, and with which he finished on his final programme in 1993, was 'Rock 'n' Roll Damnation' by AC/DC. A 1983 edition was the first radio programme to use only compact discs. His signature music was "Take It Off the Top" by Dixie Dregs and then he would say in his gravelly voice, "Hi, this is TV on the radio and welcome to the programme that we call the Friday Rock Show."[10]

Vance had a two-year stint (10 January 1982 to 1 January 1984) hosting the Sunday-afternoon Top 40, where he showed knowledge of and enthusiasm for a wide range of music and displayed a similar keenness when he hosted Top of the Pops around the same time. He also deputised on the Top 40 for Richard Skinner (in 1984 and 1985), Bruno Brookes (in 1987) and Mark Goodier (in 1991 and 1992).

Vance was a daily presenter on BFBS from 1976 to 1987 and so he also became known in Germany, where BFBS was popular among a civilian audience despite being aimed officially at British military personnel. He also presented a weekly chart show for BFBS as well as other programmes such as Soul Bowl. As well as presenting the best-selling singles chart of 1982 and 1983, he also presented the equivalent show in 1991 despite not presenting the weekly chart at the time.

From 1984 to 1985, Vance hosted a Thursday night AOR programme on Radio 1, "Into the Music". This was in place for about a year before being taken off in favour of Andy Kershaw. At a similar time, the "Friday Rock Show" gained an extra hour on MW only, during which the rock charts were played.

When the BBC's new radio station for London, Greater London Radio (GLR), was launched in 1988, Vance presented the drivetime show, mixing album-oriented rock and current affairs dubbed "rock and rolling news". He also became the continuity announcer for BBC2 in the early 1970s as well as Sky One in the late 1980s and interviewed for the BBC World Service. Vance was a frequent choice as master of ceremonies at award shows, concerts and festivals; such as Monsters of Rock at Donington Park.[11] Vance departed Radio 1 in March 1993, however, he continued to host Rock Salad for BBC World Service for many years.

Later years[edit]

Tommy was a key player in the launch of Virgin Radio in March 1993, presenting the Drivetime show, a move he later regretted as the station dropped its adventurous format in favour of an ad-driven playlist.

Vance co-founded the internet radio station Rock Radio Network with his former Radio 1 producer Tony Wilson, music promoter Andy King and journalist Malcolm Dome in 1997, rebranding as TotalRock in 2000.

Vance developed business interests with the Silk Sound studios in Soho, later joined by The Bridge.

Vance joined digital music channel VH-1 UK from its inception in 1994 with 'The Nightfly', later reviving 'The Friday Rock Show', which ran for some years until 2002. Vance featured twice in the Channel 4 comedy series, The 11 O'Clock Show,[12][13] the spot was called Tommy Vance's News Slam in which he took a minute to read out news headlines. He was presenter and voiceover for the Channel 5 series Dumber and Dumber and had a much quoted appearance on Brass Eye.[14]

Perhaps his most memorable TV appearance came in 2004 when he walked out of ITV's Hell's Kitchen. He decided to leave the show after escaping a scalding from boiling fat and foulmouthed abuse from the celebrity chef, Gordon Ramsay. Vance's agent stated that he felt the environment was "dangerous" and that he was a risk to himself and the other contestants due to his age.[15]

When Vance moved to Spain, it was with the intention of a gentle semi-retirement. It was not long before he was back on the air playing music for the tourists and ex-pats on the Costa del Sol's Spectrum FM. Vance came back to Britain and threw himself into work again, doing commercials, appearing on television and returning to Virgin to present a weekly show on their DAB and internet offshoot, Virgin Classic Rock.


Vance died at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, Kent in the early hours of 6 March 2005, three days after suffering a stroke at his home.[16] He said of death, "When you're gone, you're gone, I don't want anybody weeping for me." Vance is survived by his ex-wife, their son and daughter.


On 11 March 2005, five days after Vance's death, TotalRock ran Rock On, Tommy Day, a 15-hour live broadcast celebrating his life and work, including much music, numerous testimonials from artists and colleagues, and also from people who wrote down their thoughts on Tommy at a special Forum, In Memoriam: Tommy Vance, put up at the TotalRock website. As a finale, after the actual live broadcast had ended, the last Friday Rock Show Vance recorded for BBC Radio 1 in 1993 was re-broadcast.

Author Paul Stenning dedicated his biographies of Iron Maiden and Slash to Vance.[17][18]

On 31 March 2006, a Tommy Vance Tribute Night, in association with the Teenage Cancer Trust foundation, was held at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Judas Priest, Scorpions and Ian Gillan all performed to pay tribute. There were also special stage appearances by Roger Daltrey and Bruce Dickinson.

In early 2018, it was announced that a new festival, Stonedeaf, would be naming their stage after Tommy Vance. In true Monsters of Rock fashion with one day and one stage, held at Newark Showground on the same weekend.[19]


  1. ^ Vance's year of birth has been given, variously, as: 11 July 1940 ("Tommy Vance". The Pirate Radio Hall of Fame. Retrieved 20 August 2010.) and ("Tommy Vance". Radio London. Retrieved 20 August 2010.); 11 July 1941 ("DJ Tommy Vance dies after stroke". BBC News. 6 March 2005. Retrieved 20 August 2010.); 11 July 1943 (Leigh, Spencer (7 March 2005). "Tommy Vance". The Independent (Obituary). Retrieved 20 August 2010.) and (Laing, Dave (7 March 2005). "Tommy Vance". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 August 2010.)
  2. ^ Leigh, Spencer (7 March 2005). "Tommy Vance". The Independent (Obituary). Retrieved 20 August 2010.
  3. ^ Jones, Dylan (2013). The Eighties: One Day, One Decade. Random House.
  4. ^ Wall, Mick (4 December 2005). "The lives they lived: Tommy Vance, Monster of rock, died aged 64 on 6 March". The Guardian.
  5. ^ Jacobs, Ron (2010). KHJ: Inside Boss Radio. Magic Broadcasting Publishers. p. 74. ISBN 978-0-578-06379-9.
  6. ^ "A tribute to Tommy Vance".
  7. ^ "Tommy Vance". The Independent. 7 March 2005.
  8. ^ Film end credits
  9. ^ "Capital Countdown".
  10. ^ a b Van der Kiste, John (2016). Pop Pickers and Music Vendors. Stroud: Fonthill Media.
  11. ^ Laing, Dave (7 March 2005). "Obituary: Tommy Vance". The Guardian.
  12. ^ Clip of Tommy Vance on The 11 O'Clock Show, as featured in the Channel 4 programme Back to the 90s with Vic Reeves on 29 December 2021 at 11pm, first shown in 2020
  13. ^ "Back to the... - All 4".
  14. ^ "Tommy Vance". IMDb.
  15. ^ "Stars walk out of Hell's Kitchen". BBC News. 26 May 2004. Retrieved 3 October 2010. He is not a young man and unless you are seriously trained it is very dangerous. He left to save his own finger and somebody else's.
  16. ^ DJ Tommy Vance dies at Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 27 February 2015
  17. ^ Iron Maiden: 30 Years of the Beast (2006). ISBN 978-1842403617.
  18. ^ Slash: Surviving Guns N' Roses, Velvet Revolver And Rock's Snakepit (2007). ISBN 978-1786064196.
  19. ^ "Line Up". 5 March 2022.

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by BBC Radio 1
chart show presenter

10 January 1982 – 1 January 1984
Succeeded by
Preceded by BBC Radio 1
chart show presenter

8 March 1992
Succeeded by