Johnnie Walker - Music man

Johnnie Walker
Johnnie Walker

JOHNNIE Walker looks out to the crowd and with a barely veiled smirk, says he’s going to run though 66 years of “good, clean living”.

“There’s no sex, drugs, or rock ‘n roll,” he says with deadpan delivery. He pauses. “Well,” he concedes, “maybe a little...”

The infamous pirate DJ of the 1960s doesn’t start with debauchery, but takes us right back to the beginning when his father treated him to the all time classic, Teddy Bears’ Picnic.

Who knew a childhood nursery rhyme was so profound as to spawn a life-long love and career in music? Stranger things have happened, and certainly in Johnnie Walker’s life.

Taking us from his early days as a part-time record spinner in Birmingham, the young rebel defied his father’s advice to stick it out as a car salesman and began DJing. Then he jumped ship – literally.

Johnnie found himself out to sea cutting his teeth as a full time, offshore DJ with Radio England.

The punchline? “My dad still wasn’t happy,” he laments.

Going from strength to strength, the Radio 2 legend rattled through his time on Radio Caroline, where he found a penchant for “tea” and encountered his first legion of loyal fans.

He recalled the moment he defied the Marine Offences Act in 1967 and continued broadcasting in a show of blatant defiance of the newly-inflicted law – a goosebump moment that deserved a replay of his speech: “We intend to stay on the air, because we belong to you, and we love you.”

Johnnie grimaces and by way of explanation for its cheesiness, he says: “I get embarrassed at the delivery...but it was the summer of love.”

The show is less a musical mystery tour and more an incredibly interesting insight into the life and times of a man dedicated to the songs and artists he helped discover and launch over a highly successful career.

What’s touching is it does not wander into self-congratulatory territory. It documents both the highs (his BBC stints, marriage to the “love of his life”) and lows (battling cancer, having to live in his car with his son), and even opens up the conversation to the floor, allowing audience members to ask questions.

In fact, it was so good, a woman fainted. But that’s a whole other tale...