Duncan Johnson

Real Name:
Duncan Johnson
Duncan Johnson was born in Toronto, Canada, on August 17, 1938. After a number of brief but varied jobs Duncan, in 1960, joined a small radio station in Swift Currents, Saskatchewan. He explains: “I was hitch-hiking around Canada at the time. In fact I had a go at most things - the most strenuous was that of a logger out in the bush on Vancouver Island. I wanted to work behind a microphone and I met this guy who was an oil magnate and operated a radio station in Lethbridge, Alberta. I asked him for a job and he refused, but he did inform me that in Swift Currents there was a radio station which would employ anybody … and they gave me a job!” There he learned the basics of broadcasting, but only stayed with them for six months, before getting the job he originally wanted on CJOC in Lethbridge. He stayed with them for 18 months. He sent a tape of one of his shows to a former colleague who had moved to a station in Bermuda, which resulted in Duncan being offered a job there and eighteen months in the sun!

In August 1963 he and two other jocks crossed the Atlantic to Britain, having heard that commercial radio was big in London. However, when they arrived – there was no work – infact there was no commercial radio! He compèred some gigs, including an early Rolling Stones tour, and did voice-over work until he saw a newspaper article about the impending arrival of a new radio station. That was of course, Radio London. Duncan tracked it down and by February 1965 had became Big L’s eighth DJ. He mainly covered for whichever presenter was on shore-leave but, when the broadcasting hours were extended to 2 am, he presented a late night, middle-of-the-road/easy listening/big band show London After Midnight. Duncan left Radio London in the summer of 1966 to join UKGM, which was set to become Britain’s Better Music Station offering a middle-of-the-road sound and was to be beamed from one of the war time defence forts in the Thames estuary. However, tragic circumstances prevented UKGM from going on air – and Duncan was out of work. “I then went in for modeling and recorded a few radio and TV commercials. I did some work for the old BBC Light Programme. Together with a friend, I set up a photographic studio (which carried on into the 70s & included working with David Bowie & Jethro Tull).

In 1967, when Radio One launched, Duncan was included on the list of original presenters and hosted the ‘Midday Spin’ (Noon to 1 p.m.) show. However, that show, was initially only used to try out potential presenters and it had a different host every day of the week. Duncan presented the Tuesday edition. After about the fourth week, it was announced that he would be taken off the show because he didn't have the bright upbeat image that Radio One was looking for. He was the first DJ to be weeded- out in this way, and the story made the news. Duncan had however already “told a lady in the contracts department I could not afford to work for £28 a programme and she replied, "'celebrity broadcasters' are expected to get the majority of their income from other than BBC sources".

In 1968 he married an English girl, Lynne Grout in the ‘rag trade’, so was well-off for clothes (they divorced in 1988 & between 1977 & 1984 they ran a clothing business in Epsom). In 1968 he also made a record, “The Big Architect”, which was not a hit but did have the distinction of being voted one of the “World's Worst Records” by listeners to Kenny Everett’s Capital Radio programme. In 1970 another opportunity to return to radio came up with the launch of Radio Northsea International.. As Duncan explains: “Rodney Collins who worked for the Record Mirror at the time, who I had met during my days of Radio London said to me one day "you should go out and work on Radio Northsea. I can fix you up with it, I've been in contact with the bloke". I said, "I'm not too sure about that" and he said "well come out there with me because I'm going out". We meet Roger Day at Gatwick and we flew over to Holland. We arrived in Scheveningen, stayed overnight in a hotel because it was too stormy to get out to this boat. Then the Swiss man in charge of it said "well you're not staying in the hotel another night because I'm not paying for you to stay there so you're getting on the boat". So we had a twelve hour journey across the North Sea. Rodney Collins turned absolutely green and said "I can't take any more" and he let go and I grabbed hold of him by the “scruff of the neck” and held him on the boat because he would have slipped off otherwise. After that when it calmed down a bit I fell asleep, rolled up somewhere in a corner. We had twelve hours of that and I thought "this must be absolute madness.

Duncan however, stayed with RNI for six weeks and describes his time with the station as “an adventure, but difficult for a 6' 3" fella to fit into a 6' 0" bunk.”

Following editorial work for ‘Record Mirror’ and some sports work on BBC Radio London, in August 1971, he joined EMI. Officially he was label manager for RAK and Purple records, but he was also supposed to look out for new talent and although claims he wasn’t very good at it, quotes one success – the Simon Park Orchestra and the Van der Valk TV theme ‘Eye Level’. He says: "No-one wanted the record. It was my secretary Barbara who finally convinced me it would sell. She said her mother fell in love with the music. She was proved right. It sold a million copies. Sadly, I was not on commission".

In September 1973, Duncan joined Radio Luxembourg as Production Manager and subsequently moved to Capital in Easter 1976, staying there for 8 years before in October 1984 joined Invicta Radio. He quit Invicta in 1988 and moved to Kent and is now financial controller for an advertising agency.
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Duncan Johnson Discography Tracks

Singles & EPs

SRL 1002 Duncan Johnson The Big Architect / Memories Of A Boy(7", Single) Spark SRL 1002 UK 1968 Sell This Version

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