Ooh, Gary Davies. Where have you been? It seems just moments ago (even if it was the early 1980s) that you were the Radio 1 poster boy, all young, free and single, smooth chat and Don Johnson jacket. And then suddenly, in 1993, we never heard from you again. Ever.

Until now. And you’re back on the road playing records in a Radio 2 roadshow. So, what about the bit in the middle, Gary? The missing 20 years?

It transpires that the radio presenter was sacked by the BBC, all part of a cull of older presenters of the time. But where the likes of major talents such as Steve Wright and Simon Mayo migrated onto Radio 2, Gary Davies dropped off the air waves.

It was a surprise to his fans. They knew the young man from Chorlton in Manchester had dreamed of a radio career with the BBC before he even landed DJ work at the Placemate nightclub. He had laid out a plan to take him into Radio 1 that involved stints at Radio Piccadilly (“Great fun, but just a training ground”) and Radio Luxembourg. Radio 1 was Davies’ Holy Grail, and he managed to find it. Then, after 11 years spinning discs, the needle was lifted on his career.

The Herald: Gary Davies brings the 80s live show to Glasgow Gary Davies brings the 80s live show to Glasgow (Image: Supplied)

However, perhaps astonishingly, Davies insists he didn’t spend his nights crying to the radio gods in the hope they would take him back. “When I left Radio 1, I managed to start up a couple of music businesses,” he explains. “I had a promotions business and I set up a music publishing business and I really loved doing this. You see, I wasn’t really missing radio; I’d had a great time, but it was time to move on. And I’ve always been the type of person to go with the flow. This new career felt right.”

It may sound a little hard to hear, given that Davies, in the 80s, was almost as well known as the pop stars he presented on Top of the Pops. Radio 1 was heady, fantastic and glamorous. He became pals with Deacon Blue and Jason Donovan. Davies’ last roadshow in 1982 saw more than 80,000 people turn up.

“There is no doubt that being at Radio 1 for those 11 years were the best of my life. But when you join Radio 1 you know that it’s a young person’s radio station, and you’re unlikely to go beyond the age of 40.”

Did he feel he’d pushed himself in the direction of the exit door given his being marketed as the face of youth, the good-looking young man out on the town, who most likely lives in a nightclub and has a girlfriend in every Radio 1 roadshow town?

“Well, to be honest, that image was one that I created. It all stemmed from the time I joined Radio 1 and Doreen Davies, who was second in command, called me in to see her and said, ‘Who is Gary Davies?’ She pointed out that Mike Read had his guitar playing in the morning, and Steve Wright was funny and wacky, but she wondered who I was.”

Gary Davies came up with his own USP. “I was the lad from Manchester, living in a tiny bedroom in his sister’s flat, single. And she told me to play on it - and that’s how the persona developed.”


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Not half. He was now part of the biggest radio station in the world. “For the first three years I still pinched myself every day. I couldn’t believe I was there, working with all my DJ heroes. I’d be walking down the corridor and Kid Jensen would call out ‘Hey, Gary!’ and I couldn’t believe it.’ I almost felt not worthy. It was surreal.”

He had to find his way in this wonderful new radio world. “My first ever interview was Cliff Richard, who was so lovely and down to earth, and my second was Siouxsie and the Banshees, who sat down and refused to answer any questions. They were trying to be so cool, I guess.

"What makes it funny was a couple of months ago I was interviewing Boy George and mentioned that he seemed much calmer these days. He said to me: ‘What I’ve learned is that it doesn’t really pay to be nasty. People always remember that. It’s better to be remembered as a nice guy.’

"And I butted in and said: ‘Funny you should say that . . .’ And I told him the Siouxsie story, and how I remembered it to this day. But as I’m telling him this, he rolls up his arm and reveals a Siouxsie and the Banshees tattoo. He then tells me she is one of his heroes.”

Davies laughs. “Although he did admit that she could be a bit difficult at times.”

Davies also had to negotiate the pitfalls of television. After his first TOTP appearance the producer told his agent he wouldn’t be using the young DJ again. Davies had looked like a rabbit in the headlights, his voice soaring three octaves above soprano. Thankfully, a few months later, the producer gave him another chance, and Davies went on to present more shows in the 80s than any other Radio 1 jock.

Yet, there’s another reason why Gary Davies was so sanguine about leaving the ‘best radio job in the world.’ Where do you go after being in heaven with the gods of radio? At the time, Radio 2 wasn’t seen as an option. “Over the years, Radio 2 has become Radio 1. But back then the gap between the stations was massive in terms of output. I was way too young for Radio 2. My feeling was to leave Radio 1 on a high.”

He adds; “Yes, I did a few shows for the likes of Virgin after that, but it was very much a sideline. My main focus was trying to build up my business interests (such as a publishing company, discovering the likes of Corinne Bailey Rae.)”

The Herald: Siouxsie SiouxSiouxsie Sioux (Image: free)

Indeed, it was just a few months after selling his publishing company he received a shock call. “It was from Radio 2 asking me if I wanted to sit in for Sara Cox on Sounds of the Eighties.”

He said yes, immediately. But Gary Davies underlines the argument he wasn’t hell bent on playing records until he dropped off life’s playlist. As such, at 66, he doesn’t seem himself as a radio survivor at all, certainly not a Tony Blackburn or a Johnny Walker.

“Coming back into radio after 20-odd years way was never part of my plan,” he says of his weekend radio show and new tour. “This was always my dream job, but I never expected to be back doing it again, especially not at this level, so that’s a fantastic bonus.”

What he’s doing is going with the flow. “It was only after going back on air after such a long time away, that I realised how much I missed it. And I have to say it’s just as much fun as it was then.”

BBC Radio 2 Sounds of the 80s: The Live Tour with Gary Davies, the O2 Academy, Glasgow, May 4.