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|DJ WHO PARTIED WITH ELVIS
April 18, 2017 - The Express / Elvis Express Radio
IF YOU were a young pop fan in the late 1960s to 1970s, chances are you grew up listening to DJ Tony Prince on Radio Luxembourg on a crackling transistor radio nestled under
Tony, ebullient, pint-sized self-styled “Royal Ruler” of pirate station Radio Caroline and then influential European station Radio Luxembourg, hailed from humble beginnings in
Yet the boy “from a Coronation Street terrace” went on to work – and sometimes party – with everyone who was anyone in music from his childhood idol Elvis Presley to Paul
McCartney, Led Zeppelin and rock wild man Keith Moon – “a lovely man… when he was sober”. He also DJ’d for the Luxembourg royal family including Princess Marie-Astrid who
was once tipped to marry Prince Charles.
Tony’s brush with musical stardust started aged 15 in 1960 when he sang backed by the drumming of a pre-Beatles Ringo Starr.
The self confessed “small and cheeky” 5ft 4in Tony, now 71, recalls: “I entered a talent contest at Butlin’s in North Wales. The camp’s backing group was Rory Storm and the
Hurricanes and their drummer was Ringo. So I sang with Ringo before Paul McCartney and John Lennon did – and I borrowed Ringo’s cowboy boots.
“I sang Be-Bop-A-Lula, the Gene Vincent song. Gene used to kick up his leg on the microphone stand. I tried that but Ringo’s boots, three sizes too big, came off and landed on a
Teddy Boy’s head. Ringo couldn’t stop laughing, the audience were laughing and clapping and I guess that first turned me on to the power of an audience.”
Three years later Tony, by now a successful DJ, introduced The Beatles on stage at a gig in Oldham in 1963 as their first number one, Please Please Me was announced.
“I was the last person to hear The Beatles live because after this, all you would hear at a Beatles concert was screaming,” recalls Tony, who has written an autobiography The
Royal Ruler And The Railway DJ (alongside reminiscences from Czech DJ Jan Sestak) which has had interest from Hollywood.
After leaving school, Tony briefly trained as a jockey alongside Willie Carson. But he ended up a star jockey of a different sort.
He became singer with an Oldham group called The Jasons and later a solo singer and DJ.
UNUSUALLY he worked in TV before he went into radio, presenting a Bristol-based pop show, Discs A Gogo, where guests included Sonny and Cher and Tom Jones. One guest
was Tony Blackburn who talked about his life as a pirate DJ on Radio Caroline – which Tony soon joined and developed his on-air persona of the Royal Ruler – a nod to fellow
pirate DJ Emperor Rosko.
Tony has fond memories as a pirate of the airwaves off the Isle of Man… “I can’t tell you how exciting it was. I wish I could get in a Tardis for a few weeks and experience it again.
“It was an idyllic life for a guy who loved music, young, a bachelor – it was the 1960s, transistor radios had just come out, The Beatles were gods and all these great records, The
Stones, Bob Dylan, The Kinks – and we were the boys playing them for the first time.”
When pirate radio was made illegal in 1967, Tony joined “fabulous” Radio Luxembourg. Popular with youngsters in the UK and all over Europe, where “208” had a 100 million
audience, the quick-witted Royal Ruler became a celebrity, with personal appearances and a column in the teenage girls’ magazine Fab 208. He even promoted a keep-fi t device
called the Star Disco Trimmer with Cliff Richard.
At first, to protect his bachelor image, he was advised to keep quiet about his girlfriend and future wife, childhood sweetheart Christine (they’ve been married for 47 years and have
All the stars came to Luxembourg but Tony’s greatest memory was meeting Elvis Presley in Las Vegas in 1972 and then introducing him live on stage before his show.
“It was an overwhelming thing for me as an Elvis fan and I suppose the greatest thing in my life,” says Tony. “To see Elvis clapping and walking towards me as I introduced him.”
TONY’S Luxembourg early- 1970s heyday coincided with the teen idol era and he compered the Osmonds’ British shows while David Cassidy – who recently revealed he has
dementia – became a friend. “It is such sad news,” Tony says. “He is a lovely guy, a good mate. I feel sorry for people at that deep end of fan mania, they find themselves in a
goldfish bowl. It all became a bit much for him.”
Another chum is Sir Paul McCartney who asked Tony to compere a Buddy Holly-themed event he and his late wife Linda held annually for 10 years. Linda converted Tony to
vegetarianism. “Every time she saw me she’d ask, ‘Are you still vegetarian, Tony?’”
The young Noel Edmonds, who also worked at Luxembourg, is recalled by Tony as a lothario and, even then, a practical joker who tried to fake his own death as a prank on his
unamused flatmate, fellow DJ Kid Jensen. Jensen meanwhile, apparently caught the eye of the bisexual David Bowie for a while but batted off his overtures, according to Tony.
Tony worked at 208 until 1983 – “It had had its day” – having ended up as programme director. He left for pastures new in the UK, pioneering DJ mixtapes, founding (and selling) DJ
magazine Mixmag and setting up the music organisation DMC, which runs a DJ competition. He moved into TV production and makes documentaries.
He hasn’t worked on radio for years but feels the genre is in the doldrums and doesn’t cater to the older – but still pop-loving – population. “There should be a channel for the over
50s, playing music from Presley to the 1970s,” he says.
“Too many radio DJs are actors and comedians. We need proper DJs who care for the industry. I think the future is the return of personality DJs like Kenny Everett who think quickly
and who are really into the music.” Could the Royal Ruler one day return to the airwaves?
The Royal Ruler And The Railway DJ by Tony Prince and Jan Sestak (DMC Publishing, £20) is available at amazon.co.uk