As you can well imagine, during my forty-plus years broadcasting in Suffolk I have interviewed hundreds, maybe even thousands of musicians. For the most part, my music guests are delightful people who are usually very accommodating and help in my ongoing efforts to make great radio. However, some do go through the motions while a handful have been so rude and disengaged that I vowed never to interview them again.
One of my favourite guests of the year so far is the veteran singer-songwriter Bridget St. John. Last month New York-based Bridget paid a return visit to the John Peel Centre in Stowmarket. Back in the late 1960s she became one of the first acts to sign to John Peel’s Dandelion label. Down the decades Bridget has remained good friends with Peel’s widow Sheila so it makes perfect sense for her to play at the venue named after one of this country’s finest broadcasters.
Prior to her latest performance in the old Corn Exchange building in downtown Stowmarket Bridget popped into Broadcasting House in Ipswich to record an interview for my BBC Radio Suffolk show that teatime. She could not have been more charming and was clearly pleased that I had invited her in to talk about her long career. My day was made when Bridget asked me if I’d like a copy of the box set which pulls together all three of her Dandelion albums as well as her various BBC performances between 1968 and 1972. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse and she kindly signed it for me. Bridget will, of course, be welcome back any time.
Another great-value guest of mine over the years has been the prog-rock legend Rick Wakeman who lives on the Suffolk/Norfolk border. The veteran keyboards maestro is out on tour again, this time to promote his Piano Odyssey album. This latest release follows his very successful Piano Portraits CD which came out last year. That CD made chart history. It was the first solo piano album to enter the UK Top 10. It included his magnificent version of Bowie’s Life On Mars which Rick played on during the Hunky Dory sessions.
This autumn’s concerts will be based on both albums and sees Rick visit the Kings Lynn Corn Exchange on Friday, October 4 and then the following week he drops in at the Ipswich Corn Exchange (11/10). In December the show morphs into a Christmas Piano Odyssey concert which comes to the Cambridge Corn Exchange on Tuesday, December 18.
Rick Wakeman remains one of our great raconteurs as well so expect plenty of laughs alongside his impeccable piano playing. I’m hoping Rick will be popping into BBC Radio Suffolk for a chat ahead of his Ipswich show.