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OBITUARY: Peter Young (1951-2018)

Peter Young
Photo courtesy of JazzFM

Peter Jones writes: 

Highly respected radio presenter and disc jockey Peter Young died on Thursday evening 1 November  after a long battle with diabetes. Known as ‘PY’, he was a warm, funny and extremely knowledgeable presence for many years on Radio Mercury, Capital Radio and finally Jazz FM, where he spent 27 years before retiring due to ill-health in July 2017.

PY specialized in soul, funk and jazz. His Soul Cellar show was a home for the music of black America of all eras, but mainly centred on the 60s and 70s output of record labels like Stax, Chess, Phila­del­phia, Atlantic and Motown.

Born in 1951, Young bought his first soul record – Stevie Wonder’s Fingertips – at the age of 12 from Edgware Electrics. It was the enthusiasm and sense of fun he heard in the voice of future colleague the DJ Alan Freeman that inspired him to try his hand at radio.

Broadcaster and fellow Jazz FM presenter Jez Nelson said on Thursday: “My relationship with Peter was growing up listening to him, starting way back at the launch of Capital Radio. The two passions in my own life have always been music and broadcasting, and I remember listening to his show The Soul Cellar and thinking, My God, this guy’s incredible. He played soul on mainstream legal radio at a time when no one else was doing it except the pirates.”

Michael Vitti was instrumental in hiring Peter Young in 1990 for the nascent JazzFM, but initially found it difficult to locate him because he didn’t own a mobile phone. “Eventually I tracked him down via Helen Mayhew if I recall and said ‘how about it?’ It was a very easy conversation to have. He didn’t care about money, all he wanted was a really long programme and the opportunity to ply his trade on a Saturday afternoon. The only provision: ‘Please don’t tell me what to play!’”

After Jazz FM began, Young was on-air on Sundays from 3 to 6pm. Later he transferred to Saturdays from 2 to 6pm. “That’s progress!” he told his supporters.

“It was a magical time when a bunch of music fanatics from different generations was thrown together,” said Jez Nelson, recalling the early days at the station. “Chris Phillips and I were in our mid-20s, there was George Reid who was in his 50s, and Peter, who was somewhere in the middle.

“I learned so much from him. He was meticulously well-organized. He would come into the station carrying two plastic bags full of CDs. Then he’d spend hours and hours just planning his show, and gradually disappearing behind this huge pile of CDs.

“He was famous on-air for being hilarious and self-effacing. But off-air he was just the same. If you congratulated him on a great show, he’d just shrug it off, because he was genuinely a very humble guy. It was all about the music, for him.”

Many of Peter Young’s friends and colleague, including Jeff Young, Chris Philips, Mike Chadwick, Lynn Parsons and Andy Jacobs have paid tribute on social media.

LINK: Tributes to Peter Young on the JazzFM website

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