Pete Collins

My teenage years during the 1960’s developed my taste in music by first picking up on Motown and then getting into the stuff coming out from other big-league soul/rhythm & blues record labels like Stax, Chess, Checker and Atlantic. Also followed a lot of the early British r&b influenced artistes like Georgie Fame, Zoot Money, Long John Baldry, Graham Bond and Brian Auger. First club nights were at the Lotus Ballroom in Forest Gate on Saturdays which had a DJ only. That was quite unusual because the Musicians Union had a stranglehold in the big venues like the Ilford Palais at that time and we only had records played during the breaks between live bands. Great old club, made a lot of friends there from the East and West Hams and Barking area. We had quite the little mod crew going for a while, suited and booted and on the dance floor every weekend.

This all changed towards the end of the decade as we started to grow out of our teens. As was fairly common back then I married fairly young in 1971, moved away from my parents and started to lose track of my old musically inclined friends. My missus was also from the mod scene but was more into the fashion aspect of it than the musical side so I regrettably also started to lose the music since many of the new friends we made weren’t really fans of the tunes I liked. Long story short, married life wasn’t for me so I got divorced in 1978.

Fortunately, disco music was the big thing in clubs in the late 70’s and as I was out and socialising again I rediscovered that old passion I had for music. Started collecting vinyl again and going to local pubs where DJ’s were playing my kind of music. Got talking to one of them who, like me, worked at Marconi. He suggested I should have a go at getting some gear and to set myself up as a mobile DJ. I followed that suggestion and as a proper mobile DJ I did all the weddings, engagements, 21st and 18th birthdays and the local social clubs. Made quite a bit of money from that game which allowed me to buy tons more expensive vinyl and to branch out into doing soul nights myself. This took me into the early 1980’s when I began being noticed.

I was never really a nightclub DJ back then, more of a ‘dabbler’ in the soul DJ world for want of a better description. I made a small circle of new friends who also were soul fans and we started to go to some of the live concerts in London around 1981 to 1986, EW&F, Shalamar, Bill Withers etc. plus I organised a regular crowd for the Boogie Bus to the Zero 6. 1986 saw another big change for me in that I gave up a very lucrative full-time career in computer engineering to go be a DJ in Greece. Unfortunately, that fizzled out after a couple of seasons as everyone was moving away from the boogie type dance floor tunes to acid house (which I detested with a vengeance!) so I came back to the UK only to find that the soul scene was almost dead on its feet.

Along with a few other of the old soul stalwarts I soldiered on with varied levels of success and had fairly lengthy residencies at the Charles III in Billericay and Silks in Wickford. By now this was the early part of the 1990’s and I had somehow become involved in pirate FM radio which had started in London and had migrated into the home counties. This is where I first met Crackers nightclub legend Mark Roman on a station called Inner City Radio. Mark was chummy with another station in East London called Stomp (or was it Concept at the time? My memory isn’t what it used to be!) and so I eventually got to know Scott, Keith and the rest of the Stomp gang as well. Mark eventually shut ICR down so that we could make a proper bid for a local transmitter licence in Colchester which unfortunately we lost to an established radio organisation from Suffolk.

I then gave up DJ work completely and just went back to being boring old computer tech Pete again for a while. Fate, however intervened once again. Stomp had never really gone away and were at the time running the early days of what is now the famous Boating Club Thames soul cruises. I attended a couple of those. Through my day job I bumped into Alan Harding at the printer’s he worked at whilst I was there for a Mac repair call out. We recognised each other from the soul boats and had a little chin-wag about it being a small world and didn’t think any more of it. Around that period, I was sharing a flat with my sister whilst looking for a place of my own. Turned out that the guy who had the downstairs flat was a bit of an old soul boy and at the time was going to the Soul Heaven nights at the Berwick Manor so I tagged along with him too. Blow me down if Alan and a whole big soul crowd from Rainham weren’t there too so I ended up being a regular and getting to know them all better.

This crowd also regularly attended the newly revived Caister weekenders so I tagged along too as a punter. During one of these visits I happened upon Scott who at the time was organising and running the on-site radio. Knowing me from old he asked if I would be prepared to help out by covering a couple of graveyard (very early morning) slots. I’ve always preferred radio to live so obviously accepted and things sort of went on from there. I remained on the radio even after Scott stopped doing it and eventually was offered the chance to do the live stages at Caister twice yearly and also be warm up DJ at Soul Heaven monthly events. I somehow became a little bit popular and worked at several high-profile events and weekenders over the period 2003 to 2017 when I stopped live DJ work apart from one or two surprise appearances every year.

I’m one of the current Stomp Radio team and present a weekly Friday afternoon show. Love doing it because means I get the chance to play my favourite music while the planning and production for the show helps keep an active mind.

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