Radio people around the world have reacted to our discovery of what happened to Radio London's Chuck Blair.

Mary Payne's own comments are in green.
(The most up-to-date information is on our 2011 page.)

From Ron O'Quinn, ex-Radio England

I was terrible saddened to hear that Chuck had passed away. I wish that I could add some more details to the puzzle of who he really was, but I can't. I do not remember him from the 66 Beatle Tour. Kenny Everett and I were the only pirates that I was aware of on the tour.
Best regards, Ron

(If Rick was not on the Beatles tour with Ron, it seems unlikely that he ever compered such a tour. However, I think it is still extremely plausible that he knew the group, as so many of the jocks did in 1966. Chris Elliot's book The Wonderful Radio London Story refers, on page 193, to a 1966 Christmas show,'Fame In '67', starring Georgie Fame. This show was a co-promotion between Radio London and Brian Epstein. Chuck might well have been involved and could have encountered the Beatles through Brian. Chuck was on the Galaxy over Christmas, but came ashore on Dec 28th for the New Year, while the show was still running. Does anyone recall seeing the show?

In the CV, Rick also mentions hosting a coast-to-coast teen show, 'Where the Action Is'. John Harrison, an expert on old US TV music shows, tells me that Dick Clark was the show's only host, and that he only ever did voice-overs, never appearing on screen. (This has also been confirmed by Howie Castle.) I suppose it's possible Rick could have been involved in some other way with the show's production. 'Where the Action Is' ran from 1965 to early 1967, which means any involvement by Rick would have to have been during the show's first year. John owns an out-of-print book about 'Where the Action Is', which contains no mention of Rick's name, but then, which of his many names would he have used?)

Carleton says: As far as the world tour, likewise this is memory, but I distinctly remember Rick talking about the Beatles appearing in New York at Shea Stadium. I have never heard of the TV show until you mentioned it, nor did Rick ever say anything about doing a TV show. Rick did not make favorable comments about Dick Clark, so I do not know if they had any type of a working relationship at all.

From Steve Young, ex-Caroline

Regarding Chuck Blair. When I knew him he was working for Radio England. As far as I recall he came from WBZ in Boston before becoming a "Pirate". I only spent one evening with Chuck, in the company of a group of fellow jocks, when we all dined at an Italian restaurant in London. Chuck loved pasta and ate enough to feed the entire population of Italy. He had a bit of a gruff exterior but was, I believe, a very caring guy beneath that facade. I'm sorry to hear of his passing and I do thank you for the advance notice.
All the best, Steve Young

(I've checked with the current General Manager of WBZ radio in Boston, who says nobody at the station recalls Rick. However, we ARE talking about 34 years ago, and we have no idea what name Rick worked under at that time.)

Carleton confirms: Yes, he did love Italian food – and in copious amounts!

(Chris HAS managed to establish contact with Paul Draisey, former manager of WAGE, who is the first person we have been able to track down in American radio who remembers Rick. This is Paul's message, received Thursday 24th February:)

Greetings from Virginia. Your e-mail regarding Rick Phillips / Chuck Blair was forwarded to me from WAGE Radio in Leesburg, Virginia. I was the General Manager of WAGE until 1987 and Rick/Chuck worked for me as a part-time announcer.
What a talent. I knew that he had worked on the "Pirate Ships" of the 60s and had handled some of the early interviews, etc. of The Beatles.
After working for us for several years, he left the station and opened a restaurant in Leesburg. He made the best crab cakes that you have ever had!
I am very sorry to learn from your e-mail that he died in 1989. I would be glad to provide any other information that I can.
Paul Draisey

Update, March 19th 2000

Chris and I had been worried that other people wouldn't find this story as fascinating as us, but from the response we've had, it seems they do!

From Lars Holm in Sweden

Hi There! Have with greatest interest been following your search for Chuck Blair. Sad to learn that he has passed away. In case you don't know, he was with radio station WPTR in Albany prior to joining Radio's England/London. At least there is a "Chuck Blair" jingle included in the PAMS Series 30 package made for WPTR, which would have been in use around 65/66. Incidentally, the Johnnie Walker Sonovox jingle was pinched from the same package. Regards, Lars Holm

Then a Swinging Radio England shipmate solved the mystery of how those jingles got aboard the Laissez-Faire and how Rick got the name 'Chuck Blair'...

From Frank Laseter in North Carolina

I am glad you found out about Chuck Blair.... but sorry to hear of his death. When I saw the picture, the memories started coming back. Chuck arrived at SRE just before Ron, Jerry and I came back to the states. He was a world class BS artist, but that was a large part of what made him such an entertaining guy. Many of his stories were just that ... stories, but as I said, very entertaining..... He was a damn nice person from what I remember in the brief time I knew him. By the way, he got his air name, the same way as several other SRE air personalities, such as Johnnie Walker. We used DJ names from WPTR... I brought tapes of the DJ jingles from there, when I came over from Albany, New York. Those jingles were from the same PAMS package as the SRE jingles.

Best regards, Frank Laseter aka Larry Dean

(So Frank is the guy responsible for christening both Johnnie Walker AND Chuck Blair! (Just think, if Chuck had chosen 'Johnnie Walker' we'd have had Chuck Blair presenting shows on BBC Radio Two!) Many thanks to Frank for the info. Now all we need to know is what Rick had been calling himself on US radio prior to that.)

Per Alarud in Sweden had also got his Junior Detective Kit out!

Hi Mary, I just got a call from a lady in the city of Boras, who looked at the birth records in Boras. Sorry, but there was no Richard Phillips, or similar name, born in Boras on 16th February 1934 – she said. So, I guess that link was not correct. And as you mentioned, if he moved to the US in 1937, he could hardly speak Swedish, unless some of his parents were Swedish. Do let me know what you can come up to, in this interesting "chase". If there are any more links to Sweden, don't hesitate to ask me for assistance.

I did some reading as well, Keith Skues's book. (Pop Went the Pirates – 1994) There (P251) you can read that Chuck's father was working in Boras. His work involved a lot of travelling and he was transferred to the US in 1937. Now I have to find which company that could have been. Boras (is) was a typical city connected with clothing and weaving. Were there any similar activities in Swampscot?

Regards, Per

Peter Alex's book, Who's Who In British Radio' (1966), actually says Chuck is 'of Swedish-American Indian-English ancestry.' Of course, nowadays, this would be written as 'Swedish-Native American-English'. Maybe he had a Swedish grandparent? So far, I have very little information about Swampscot. I believe it's quite a small place near Boston. I have checked the Mormon Family History site for records in Massachusetts searching for Richard Phillips and similar and have also drawn a blank. It would be very useful if we knew the names of Rick's parents. There has to be another name for him that we have yet to unearth.

Next, we heard from a Big L shipmate, of Chuck's, Keith Skues

Hi Mary,
Kind of you to e-mail me. Always delighted to hear from you, but this time it was sad news you imparted. I was deeply upset to learn of the passing of CHUCK BLAIR and that we have lost another old stalwart of the watery wireless days. I am amazed that none of the original Big L DJs knew of this. We tend to get bad news relayed wherever the person is/was. Full credit to you with your investigative mind in finding out the facts. You certainly have done a great job in reconstructing his life when he was living and working in the UK, including actuality (well, a letter) scanned into your Website.
I cannot recall any of the story Carleton mentions about Big L jocks making fun over a British official/MP referring to his sexual peculiarities. However, I was not party to much of what was happening in Curzon Street, London, but I think we would have been alerted to the fact so as not to mention it on air. Do we have a time scale here? Month/year?

Lots of Love, Keith xxx

Carleton responds to a recording of Chuck on Big L, which we had sent him with pages photocopied from various books

Thank you so much for the tape and copies of information regarding Chuck Blair. After listening to the tape, I do believe it was Chuck Blair who I always knew as Rick Phillips. I cannot believe the picture on page 59 of the bio (from 'Who's Who In Pop Radio') as I do not really think it looks like Chuck at all nor did I know all of the information contained in some of the bio on page 59.

(The picture IS rather dark, and did not copy very well, but I don't have any doubts that it's Chuck. The book is not renowned for its accuracy.)

Now the picture of Chuck on page 172, (The Wonderful Radio London Story ) which DOES look like Rick, brought back memories how Rick HATED to wear a tie and often sported a turtleneck and jacket instead of a dress shirt and tie.

The picture of Chuck Blair on page 236 (right) is reproduced from 'Pop Went the Pirates', by kind permission of Keith Skues)

Carleton continues:

The photo from Page 236 looks like the one that was on the poster to which I alluded earlier "Who Is Radio London's Chuck Blair? Just Ask Any Of His ?,000 Listeners". This poster was on one of the walls in the "taproom" or bar area of the restaurant which because of Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control regulations could not be referred to as a "pub"!

(There have to be other Big L jocks who recall that poster. However, I do wonder if it might have been an promotional advert placed in a music paper that Chuck enlarged and framed.)

I will digest and think some more about the information you were so kind to forward. Thank you again and I will be in touch at a later time.

Update, March 26th 2000

Amazing Memory Man, Peter Young writes:

I have a footnote to the Chuck Blair story which may be of interest to your listeners. A few weeks after the closure of Big L, but before the start of Radio One, Chuck made his last ever appearance on British radio with the briefest of brief moments on the BBC Light Programme. It was on one of those Lunchtime Band Shows live from The Playhouse, 'Monday Monday' introduced by Dave Cash. On this occasion hanging around the studio were Tony Blackburn, Ed Stewart and Chuck. At some point during the broadcast Dave had a chat with Tony and Ed asking them what they'd been up to in the last few weeks. Tony said he was presenting 'Midday Spin' on the Light Programme and looking forward to the start of Radio One, etc. Ed came out with much the same – getting ready to present 'Happening Sunday' on the new network, etc. Then Dave turned to Chuck and said, "And what have you been doing?" Chuck's reply was, "Well as you heard, Tony Blackburn's been doing 'Midday Spin'. I've been doing all day nothing!" At which point Dave gave an embarrassed chuckle and moved swiftly on. This, to the best of my knowledge, is the very last time Chuck Blair was heard on the UK airwaves. One presumes he did an audition for the BBC but wasn't successful.
I actually heard this broadcast myself so I know it to be true.

Love, PY

(As Radio One was launched on September 30th 1967, this last appearance must have taken place in late August or early-to-mid September. From what Carleton said, Chuck was in his element on Big L. He made some superb trailers and jingles, and was extremely popular. The station's demise clearly hit him pretty hard, and Chuck was clearly absolutely choked-up when he presented his last breakfast show. I have now confirmed from an old diary that the CV with the note that Chuck wrote to me about being 'off to join Caroline' was delivered to me on Sept 21st. This means the letter must have been sent to me only weeks before he returned to the States. I'm guessing that he might have had trouble remaining in the country after he came off the Galaxy. All the visas in Chuck's passport – issued in 1966, when he came to the UK to join Radio England – were for one month's duration, on condition that he did not obtain work. This would not have posed a problem while he was on the ships, of course. Chuck never made it to Caroline, so I wonder what happened? The last customs stamp in that passport is dated Oct '67, either the 7th or 27th, and is franked Orly in France, which presumably is when Chuck reverted to being Rick and left for the States...)

April 30 2000

In early April, I had sent a message to the Philbrook Family Association website, hoping that I might find some leads there about our mystery man. On April 11th, Robert Philbrook sent the following reply:


Thank you for your e-mail to the Philbrick & Philbrook Family Association.
Our current database doesn't contain any information on the person that you are looking for. However, I have forwarded you message to our Discusssion Group and perhaps someone else will be able to help. We will keep your inquiry in our files for future reference.

Best of Luck!

Robert W. Philbrook, Director, Philbrick & Philbrook Family Association

Unfortunately, no further info was received from that group.

On April 29, I sent a non-progress report to Carleton, which triggered another thought in his memory banks. Carleton wrote:

It was my understanding Rick had a brother that worked for the US Federal Government such as Secret Service or Treasury Dept., so there should be a lead there.

Sept 17th 2000

Brian Long sent the following:

The nearest I got to Chuck Blair when researching 'The London Sound' was when I found the sister of Lady Penelope - Chuck's girlfriend, Jill Smith. Jill emigrated to South Africa and was no longer in touch with her estranged family. Her sister had some things she left behind. Among them were items that Chuck had given her, principally a box of photographs and some records. It was evident that some of the records came from Radio England and others from Radio London. Some of the Big L ones still bore the stickers showing their position in the Fab Forty. The photographs were mainly press photos, but there were about half-a-dozen taken on board the Laissez-Faire. I was told – although they could not be produced – that somewhere were hand-written lyrics for T-shirt commercials that Chuck composed with Tony Blackburn.

The fact that Jill emigrated to South Africa, (although we do not know when this was) possibly fuelled the rumour that Chuck was working out there. Jill (described in his last show as "very, very dear to me") and Chuck were very likely driven apart when he was obliged to leave the UK only months later.

Sept 24th 2000

Per Alarud kindly pointed out that in a recent issue of 'Offshore Echoes', there appeared a reproduction of a 1966 article about the Radio England/Britain Radio Launch party. It says: "Master of Ceremonies was Jay Kay, alias Chuck Blair, an American DJ who had only days before arrived to take a spell of duty aboard Olga Patrica." Amazed to be confronted by yet another alias for Chuck, I asked the opinion of some of the jocks who were on the ship with him.

Jerry Smithwick says:

Hi Mary,
I must say, you have done a commendable job of unraveling much of the mystery surrounding Chuck Blair. I only wish I could help. I have been racking my brain trying to remember the details of the big introductory party at the London Hilton for Radio England/Britain Radio. I do remember most of the activities as described in the press account which was reprinted in "Offshore Echoes", but am drawing a blank at the moment regarding Jay Kay.

I think the best explanation I can give at the moment would be that when Jay/Chuck was hired, I think by Don Pierson (Pier/Vick Ltd) (although Jay may have been hired by Ron O'Quinn), Jay Kay was probably the name that he was using in the U.S. just prior to coming to England. That would not have been unusual since O'Quinn was working in Miami as Jack Armstrong; Frank Laseter was in New York State working as Larry Dean; and I was in Gainesville, Georgia working as Jerry James. Often times in the US a DJ got a new name when moving from one radio station to another. O'Quinn and I simply decided to use our real names.

As information on your site indicates, Chuck took or was given the name Chuck Blair from the jingle package that Larry/Frank brought with him as did Johnny Walker, Boom Boom, etc.

One of the problems that I have is that I was not in London during the time that most of the staff was being hired. I actually sailed from Miami on the Olga Patricia once the outfitting for the two radio stations was completed. The trip turned into an extended sailing venture when the mast (reworked to be the tower) collapsed at sea between New York and Bermuda. We had to put in at the Azore Islands for several days and then limped on to Lisbon for 2, maybe 3, weeks of repairs before sailing on to our site in the North Sea off Harwich.

I will make a real effort to find and sort through everything I have relating to Radio England to see if any clues surface. I do have faint memories of Chuck. I remember that he was a very likeable guy and a Bulls--- artist extraordinaire (as I remember, Frank/Larry Dean had the same recollection of Chuck). I remember that while on the ship, spirited conversations occurred concerning some of the claims that Chuck made regarding what he had or had not done while in radio in the States!

Please understand these comments are not made to tarnish Chuck in any way, I am simply relating my memory of him.

Best regards, Jerry

December 2001

During the year 2001, I (Mary) succeeded, with the kind assistance of Mike Corrigan, in obtaining new documentary evidence concerning Rick Phillips from the US Social Security records, which confirms his full name as Richard EARL Philbrook and his place of birth as Massachusetts. Between Rick's birth and death, he changed both his second name and surname. Why or how the names 'Erven' and 'Phillips' were acquired, has not been established.

This latest SS info had not been included on the site until now, as I had been hoping I might obtain a little more feedback from someone who might be related to Rick. Unfortunately, this has not been forthcoming, so I am disclosing only as much information as I feel is appropriate. I am always very discreet as to what I include on the site, as I appreciate that Rick has at least two children somewhere, who may not have any knowledge as to what happened to their father. It is bound to be a shock to them to discover that he is deceased. Even Carleton's family was not told of Rick's death (Carleton's mother had divorced Rick by then) in order that they could make funeral arrangements. It was only later that they found out he had died.

October 2003

Contact was finally made with Chuck's Radio England colleague, Bill Berry. Bill writes:

Unfortunately I don't have a lot to add to the Chuck info. We worked together on the ship for a brief time when he was promoted to an on-shore position in the Curzon Street office. He "suited-up" for work each day and I think he was in sales. If memory serves (and it doesn't always) he may have been instrumental in nailing the Wheat-A-Bix (how do you spell that?) account. I can still remember that damn commercial as we played it about a thousand times a day on Radio England/Britain Radio. Chuck was a likeable conniver and I always suspected he arranged a life-time supply of the stuff for himself.

Chuck 'suiting-up' and working in sales was another aspect of his offshore radio career with which we had been unfamiliar. But from the comments others have made, it seems he would have excelled as a salesman!
April 2005

George Hare, who was the land-based agent for Caroline North, has kindly provided a copy of a memo he sent to Terry Bates on August 11th, 1967. The document proves that Chuck Blair had applied to work for Caroline post-August 14th and the Radio London closedown.

It reads: "Here are a few names of disc jockeys who are acceptable. They will be contacting the Amsterdam Office."

The first named DJ is Iven Walker, from London, the second is Chuck, his address given as the already-familar one in Harpenden. The memo goes on to note that Chuck is, "On London at the moment. Off about 21st Aug. Salary to be discussed. To contact Amsterdam."

A third name on the memo (not shown) is 'Mark Anthony', who appears to have come from Cornwall.

July 2014

Peter Foster had an early-morning encounter with Chuck:

In 1967, as an 18-year-old trainee accountant I used to work away from home at Harlow, Essex and stayed at a hotel called The George in Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire. Myself together with colleagues and other regular guests at the hotel used to stay up until the early hours of the morning, drinking and chatting in the hotel bar. One early morning in the summer of 1967 at around 2am a guest arrived at the hotel. He introduced himself as Chuck Blair, a DJ from the pirate radio station Radio London, which we all knew was located on a ship moored a few miles off the Essex coast. He explained that he had finished his 'stint' or tour of duty as a DJ on the ship and had come ashore for some rest and recuperation! I judged his age to be around the early thirties and I recall that he wore a black leather jacket and was slightly overweight. He was very confident and he spent some time in our company – his drink was Glenfiddich single malt scotch whisky, I recall. We discussed mainly the pop scene and his life on the ship and I particularly remember asking him what his favourite group was and he replied that his favourite group was The Human Instinct. I recall that the hotel manager, a man named Barry Purcell, cooked Chuck a massive t-bone steak, notwithstanding the time of night!
I was a fan of pirate radio and it was a big thrill for me to meet the face behind one of the voices.

Webmaster's note:
Human Instinct is one of New Zealand's most popular bands and original member Maurice Greer still tours with its 21st Century line-up. As the Four Fours, the band played support to the Rolling Stones on their 1966 tour of the country. In August of that year, they came to the UK, changing their name en route to the Human Instinct.
Where Chuck Blair became a fan is unknown, but they supported many top acts on the London scene, including the Jeff Beck Band, Small Faces, Spencer Davis Group, Moody Blues, Manfred Mann and Cat Stevens.
Their single 'Can't Stop Around', written by then-lead vocalist Dave Hartstone, was released on Mercury in December 1966. It was chosen as Norm St John's pick for December 4th (the week Chuck joined Radio London) and retained on the climber list for a second week, but did not make the Fab Forty. 'Can't Stop Around' spent the same two weeks at the lower end of the City Sixty.
Their subsequent releases did not make the Big L playlist, although in March '67, the band appeared at a Big L Night at the Upper Cut Club hosted by Mike Lennox.

(The most up-to-date information concerning the family history and the various names that the enigmatic DJ used are on our 2011 page.)

Chuck's 1967 CV and info The incredible story of how we found Chuck
Feedback from our story about finding Chuck Chuck's final show on Big L
Chuck shares his 'will' with Big L listeners Seventies photographs taken by Chuck's family
2011: much more information comes to light 2013: Bill Russo woked with Rick/Chuck on WSJR
2013: Page 1 of Chuck's memorabilia 2013: Page 2 of Chuck's memorabilia

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