Chicago radio DJ tunes in to South Shields

Duke Ellington and his big band.
Duke Ellington and his big band.

Music has always had the ability to cross borders, to spread from land to land and people to people, irrespective of language and culture.

This has been especially true of the “swapping” of sounds across the Atlantic, between ourselves and the United States of America.

Over the years, they have given us, among other styles of music, the blues, big band swing, rock ’n’ roll and so much more, while we’ve sent back the Beatles and the Mersey beat along with punk and such rock and pop “royalty” as the Rolling Stones, Cream, Led Zeppelin, Yes, Elton John, the Spice Girls and, more recently, Adele.

So it was great to hear from a ‘music man’ from across the pond, who got in touch to tell us about his passion – the big band sound.

His name is Denny Farrell, who hosts a radio show in Chicago, in Illinois.

“You have a very interesting paper from what I can see,” wrote Denny.

“I do a radio programme dedicated to all of the great music of the 1920s, through to the big bands working today in 2018.

“I found your website checking on an old friend of mine Frank Wappat. And I was sorry to hear of his demise a few years back.”

Frank, who died in 2014, was a radio personality, disc jockey and singer from Hebburn.

In 1999 he won a Sony Radio Academy Award for his Master Joe Peterson programme (a 1930s music hall star) and a second in 2000 for investigative journalism into the death of Chick Henderson, later publishing a biography.

Denny, meanwhile, not only attracts an audience in the USA but also here in the UK.

“I receive several emails weekly from your country, requesting various big band classics.

“I have been on radio many years now, and I am one of three announcer inducted into the Big Band Hall of Fame. The rest are musicians like Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Harry James and so on.

“I can be heard on a small station known as, Forrest FM in your country.

“Anyway, I thought that I would contact you. If you are interested in doing a short story I would be honoured.”

It was great to hear from Denny, perhaps you have heard his show (www.LateNightChicagoRadio.com) or have even contact him with a request. If so, please let me know.

Also, what are your memories of the big bands who, in their heyday, produced such foot-stomping and sentimental music? Did you get to see any of the “swinging”stars who became such household names when radio ruled the roost?

Meanwhile, an old photo (featured recently) of a grounded barrage balloon, prompted reader Arthur Meeks to get in touch with his memories of these floating air defenders.

“I was a boy during the war and I remember when one of these barrage balloons got shot down, there was a race between the police and the local women to get to it first. They, and the ARP wardens, used to run like hell to get to the balloon before the women who used to take scissors with them so that they could cut up the balloon to make shopping bags and rain hats out of the material.”

Mr Meeks was brought up near the docks, and so witnessed a number of raids by the German Luftwaffe, as he goes on to explain.

“The docks were a target for the German bombers, and I remember my grandfather taking us outside to look at the lights.”

Another reader, Tim Hudson, emailed regarding an appeal for information regarding an old paddle steamer, The Duchess of Montrose.

The appeal came from Robert Newman who found the photo, along with that of his grandfather, in boxes left by his gran.

“This ship ran for many years around the Clyde estuary,” said Mr Hudson, “(I sailed on it in the 50s). It had several sisters. It ran to Glasgow Broomilaw to places like Rothesay, Arran Campbelltown etc.”