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Jay McCreary

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Penky Through The Ages

This is pretty much where it all began for me. This picture was taken in CR1 at Piccadilly Radio's original building in the Piazza, Piccadilly, back in 1978. (I was about two years old at the time!!!)

I spent most of my time back then in Studio 3, which was where the ads were made. I started out as the assistant to Piccadilly's Production 'Wizard', Steve England. Steve was a fantastic bloke to work for. He'd been a 'Pirate Radio' DJ on Radios Caroline and Atlantis....and, I seem to recall, Swinging Radio England, too! Steve taught me so many fundamental things about radio at that important formative time in my career and I've got a great deal to thank him for.

He was my mentor as a presenter. His Saturday morning programme on Piccadilly was amazing....it was FULL of quirky radio stuff and unusual jingles.

In between writing, voicing and producing commercials I grew a moustache and started pestering the Programme Director on a daily basis....urging him to give me a try on the air. He was a giant of a man called Colin Walters whom the presenters often referred to on the radio as "He Who Shall Be Obeyed"!

I would keep dropping demo cassettes on his desk and he'd damn me with faint praise, sayng "....not bad for a kid", or "come back to me when your voice has broken, Penky".

Eventually, though, he succumbed and gave me a 'pilot' show in the middle of the night. It can't have been too bad because, a few weeks later, I'd embarked upon my first regular weekly show - '261 Magic Music' which went out between 6 and 8pm on Saturdays.

In some ways 'Magic Music' lives on to this very day, as The Revolution's Saturday Night Crusin' show is very much in the same mould.

Piccadilly, later re-branded as Key 103, was very kind to me. I was lucky enough to climb the ladder to the very top, with one of Colin's successors, Mark Story, affording me the great privilidge of hosting the 'flagship' Key 103 Breakfast Show for a number of very happy years. That's when I started experimenting with 'wind-up' phone calls. Mark and I thought they might help generate 'talkability' as they'd never been done before on local radio. Man, we were right!! Back then I had three times the audience of my nearest rival, BBC Radio 1.

It was my success in Manchester that led to the journey to London and 95.8 Capital Radio where I presented the mid-morning show and frequently sat-in for the great Chris Tarrant on Breakfast. Then came National Radio with Virgin where I took over from Chris Evans on Breakfast. (Ed: Steve's far too modest to add that he increased Evans' audience by 300,000).

TV followed, of course, but I've always remained true to my roots - and my first love of RADIO.

Now that I'm back in Greater Manchester...and with my very own radio station....I'm planning to put back into the industry some of what I've taken out of it over the years.

I'll be looking for tomorrow's radio 'stars' who might benefit from the kind of lucky break I got 30 years ago. Keep a lookout for the 'Steve Penk Bursary' - a rare opportunity for a young, enthusiastic and talented personality to start that long climb to the top of this great profession.


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