Nicky Horne's Top 10 Rock DJs

Alan Freed
Alan Freed, the man who came up with the term 'rock'n'roll' (Image credit: Getty Images)

It’s hard to choose pure rock radio DJs. Which is why all of the people on this list played both rock music as well as other types of music. But these are 10 DJs I admire and have done for many years. What they all have in common is their honesty, integrity and authenticity.

Tommy Vance

By a country mile, he is number one this list. We knew each other from the early days of Capital Radio. The two of us first met in 1973. Tommy was a big mate of Dave Cash, who auditioned me for a job at Capitol. He did a lot of different shows at the station. For instance, when I first knew him Tommy was doing the morning show, co-presenting with Joan Shelton. But his passion was always for rock. And eventually he did the rock show on Capitol. And, of course, we all know him from the Friday Rock Show on Radio 1.

He and his producer Tony Wilson were a great combination on Radio 1. Tony was an extra pair of ears, which was so important top that show, and a brilliant producer. He introduced Tommy to a lot of new music that he then championed. You cannot overestimate what Tommy did for rock.

Alan Freeman

‘Fluff’ was a friend to me long before we got to work together at Capital. When I first went to Radio 1, I had a map a record plugger had drawn for me on a serviette. And on one Sunday, I went along to Broadcasting House, using this map as a guide. In those days, there was no security as such. So, I walked in, waved at the doorman, went up the stairs and got as far as the Continuity Suite. ‘Fluff’ was in there, rehearsing for Pick Of The Pops. I was 17 years old, and asked him would he mind if I sat in and watched him perform. He said, ‘Not arf’, and so I did that every Sunday from then on for ages. What a consummate presenter.

Jim Ladd

Jim was on KLOS and the inspiration for the Tom Petty song The Last DJ. Jim was a freeform type of DJ. He would play anything he wanted, and sometimes he could go an hour without ever saying a word on air. But they way he mixed songs together was just genius. It was amazing, and showed what could be done. He was also the voice of the DJ on the Roger Waters album Radio K.A.O.S..

Tom Petty

If you have never heard his show on SiriusXM, then I strongly urge you to check it out. He has one of the most laconic voices ever on the radio, and he plays all kinds of music on the show. But what shines through is that genuine love for what he’s doing.

Roger Scott

Roger was my boss when I was on the United Biscuit Network – the radio station that was literally in a biscuit factory. We first met in 1971, and Roger was the guy who later on relentlessly urged me to audition for Capital. He got a job there before I did, but encouraged me to try out for them. Roger’s afternoon drive-time show brought so many new artists to people’s attention. He could play whatever he wanted, with no restrictions, and did so much for many bands’ careers.

Wolfman Jack

Now, here was a real maverick. He broadcast from a station just across the Mexican border from the States (XERB), and because it was just over the border, there were no power restrictions, so you could hear him all the way up in Canada. He was the guy who inspired The Doors’ song Texas Radio And The Big Beat.

I once interviewed Wolfman Jack, and he told me a story about the station changed owners, and the new people wanted him to adhere to a strict playlist. But he wouldn’t do that. So, one time when he knew the owners were coming down to the station to force him into the playlist routine, he barricaded himself into the studio, armed with a shotgun. And he did take a pot shot at the them, when they arrived! He had an amazing following – huge. And was a true one off.

Alan Freed

How can you not include this guy? He coined the phrase ‘rock’n’roll’, and was a massive inspiration for a lot of bands. Young musicians would listen to what he played on air, and because of this wanted to pick up an instrument and play. He made a big difference to music.

Emperor Rosko

I was his roadie for the Rosko Road Show, and I moved into his flat as his assistant when I was 18. He would play every kind of music- he had a free hand. Every day he would listen to every record that came in to radio 1. Some weeks that would literally run into hundreds. A giant.

Tom Donahue

This is really the guy who invented freeform FM radio in America. He was a true pioneer on KSAN. He subsequently became a programme director on KMPX, and encouraged DJs to play exciting new music. The respect he had among bands was so huge that when he resigned from KMPX, the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead told the station they could no longer play their music on air! That’s how much he meant to them.

Scott Muni

In New York, he was king. Whenever bands came to the city, they would make straight for WNEW-FM, where he was broadcasting. He was an astonishing broadcaster, and had that ability to talk to you on air as if you were the only one listening who mattered to him. He was a big champion of the British Music Invasion, and a broadcasting great.

The Friday Night Rock Show, curated and presented by Nicky Horne, is currently being broadcast on Vintage TV. Nicky was speaking with Malcolm Dome.

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