Chuck Blair

On Saturday, January 22nd 2000, Chris and I had been working on updating our page about Chuck Blair. We had always been puzzled by the fact that nobody who had worked with Chuck on Radio England or Radio London had any clues as to his whereabouts, and that feeding his name into Internet search engines only resulted in a return to our Radio London site. We decided to update existing page to include more information about Chuck, so it might jog a few memories. Incredibly on Monday, January 24th, before the new page was ready to go on the site, Mary received the following e-mail

"I may have information regarding Chuck Blair. My late mother married a man in 1976 who had recently moved to Virginia from Florida after a nasty divorce. He had numerous posters containing his picture and other celebrities of the "British Invasion" era, as well as posters about Radio London and Chuck Blair. The stories he would tell of going to the radio ship, broadcasting, the shows and ongoing battles with the British government officials were amazing. I also remember how upset and out and out melancholy he became after John Lennon was shot. He did not have the money to fly up for the funeral. Mom said he had been on the phone with an old Radio London person with whom he rarely spoke and was going to borrow money to go to John's funeral. I also remember that he became upset when Yoko Ono "closed" the service to invitation only. My mother and he separated and were divorced in the late 1980's. I was advised he had died of a heart attack while living near the University of Maryland.
Carleton Penn III

Naturally, this was stunning news, although we still couldn't be absolutely certain if the man who was Carleton's stepfather had been the DJ we knew as Chuck Blair. Before we could unleash this information on the world, we needed to try and check a few more facts. We immediately posted the newly-updated page on the website and asked Carleton to take a look and decide if any of the details tied in with what he had been told about his stepfather. Since then, we have exchanged several e-mails with Carleton, which I have edited together to tell the story so far, inserting my own comments, in green.

Carleton writes:

Thank you for your prompt response. I read your 1967 resume (from the website) and a lot of the information comports to what Chuck Blair, who I always knew as Rick Phillips, always said and what documentation he had at the time. My mother died in 1993 and, unfortunately, she would have been the one to fill in a lot of the gaps. Rick had told my mother he was in the military in Korea, was on the radio in the upper New York area as well as New England, I want to say Boston. He had a degree from the University of Maryland, liked acting, spoke of appearing in various plays, was accomplished on the piano and was a Master (if that's what you call it) in bridge. Rick also wrote stories and poems - some were hilarious. At one time, he even wrote scripts for the show MASH, but did not sell any in Hollywood, as this was during a strike or other production slowdown. Rick spoke Italian and other foreign languages, constantly was smiling and good-natured, spoke of his dog he had owned earlier, and obviously was an accomplished chef.

(Certainly, if Chuck Blair used a different name when he returned to the States, it would account for the difficulty in tracking him down.)

It is my understanding that Rick had come back from England to the Massachusetts area and eventually left and went south to Florida, where he was an executive chef for various places. I remember him talking of the Sarasota area. I do not know if he went through the nasty divorce in Florida or Mass., but it was my understanding he had at least one daughter and possibly another child of the marriage.

(The above clip from Disc and Music Echo, dated March 68, corroborates the information that Chuck initially returned to Massachusetts.)

Rick eventually came here to Leesburg, Va. where he was the chef for the Green Tree restaurant, when it developed its excellent reputation. Rick did not get along with the restaurant owner, as few in town did, and eventually left the Green Tree and started the Black Oak in 1977. Rick and my mother were married in Maryland on Christmas Eve in 1976. The Black Oak did okay, but Rick had a heart attack in the restaurant and was told by the doctors to sell it, as the stress and long hours were killing him; I was the Manager during this time until I went to law school in 1978. The restaurant was eventually sold and Rick did numerous things over the years.

He worked for a while at a restaurant in Leesburg and eventually went to work for a company that had a location in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for a couple of tours. You might find it amusing that the job came to a conclusion when he and another were caught making some alcoholic drink which is strictly forbidden in Saudi and he was shipped home!

(Could this be the source of the rumour that Chuck was working in South Africa? Same initials – different country.)

Rick attempted writing, which he loved, but he always came back to being a chef.

Except for a very brief show on WAGE radio in Leesburg, the only mention of Chuck Blair were posters and other momentoes from the "glory years" of the 60s and Radio London. I recall he had to produce his broadcaster's license to be on the air at WAGE, so maybe they have a copy of the license on file.

My mother and Rick were divorced here in Leesburg in the late 1980s. Rick stayed in the area for awhile and then could not be found despite some efforts. I eventually received a call from one of his housemates who advised me that Rick had died of a heart attack in August 1989, in Hyattsville, Md. where he cooked for a fraternity or other group house. NO ONE from Maryland, either the police or the Maryland authorities ever attempted to contact my mother or me until after Rick's death or to ask about funeral instructions, etc. The death certificate information was given by a housemate.

(Rick's death certificate is issued in the name of Richard Erven Phillips, with his date of birth given as 16th February 1934, which would have made him 33, not 31, in 1967. His occupation, is given as 'Radio DJ'. Were there discrepancies in the information given to the authorities by a roommate who scarcely knew him?)

I had always understood that Rick was born in England and came to an area outside of Boston, Mass. when he was an infant. Likewise, I never heard Rick give his middle name as Erven (I'd always believed it to be Edward), or mention that he was born in 1934. Quite the contrary, I remember it really bothered my former stepmother that Rick was younger than she, born in 35 or 36. He was also younger than my mother who was born in 1929.

(Later, Carleton discovered Rick's passport, issued in 1966, when he came to the UK to work for Radio England. The date of birth corroborates with that given on the death certificate, and the birthplace is given as Boston, Mass. The NAME, however, is Richard Erven PHILBROOK! This begs the question, did Rick at some point legally change his name? There is, however, absolutely no doubt that the man in the passport photograph is the man we knew and loved as Big L's Chuck Blair.)

I do not know about Rick changing name to Phillips; however, he and most of his papers were in the name of Phillips. When married to mom in 1976, his name was Richard E. Phillips.

(Why was Rick's place of birth given as Sweden on the 1967 CV? It seems pointless to have included this information if it was untrue. I inquired of the Swedish embassy if the name 'Erven' was Swedish, but the lady who answered was unfamiliar with it. I asked Carleton if he had any notion where the name Charles Richardson might have originated. Was it simply a derivation of Rick's Christian name?)

I have no answer about Charles Richardson as I had never heard that name before receiving your e-mail the other day. Rick found work, albeit not financially rewarding, as a chef, but he talked of the old days as a broadcaster. I wonder if it was this roommate who listed Rick's career as being a "DJ" which I cannot see Rick calling himself as he would have used 'broadcaster' or some other title. Does anyone who worked on the radio ships with Rick have any of the posters to which I referred earlier? I definitely remember at least two that were in the bar area of the restaurant, as well as numerous pictures of recording personalities, although not all were "stars". The posters were along the line of "Who is Chuck Blair?.... Just ask any of his ...?,000 listeners." And there was another about Radio London. Surely, someone must remember those?

It would also be great if you can find a photo of Rick, as the couple I have are not good or clear.

The stories that Rick told of his days in England were incredible! So much so that some guys would tell Rick he was full of it, but he swore they were true. He told of the ongoing problems with the British government, I want to say the Postmaster General.

Rick's favorite of the Beatles was John Lennon. He told the story of how he and John wanted to go to some pub, outside London as I recall, and it was some distance away. John stopped a guy on a motorcycle, asked him how much for the bike and was told a price three or four times its real value. John told him he wanted it. The guy wanted to know where to bring the bike the next day and John said, "No, get off now, I want it now!" He paid him for the bike and he and Rick then rode to this pub, which was closed. They woke up the owner who opened it for John. The group they had been partying with then came out to this pub and partied through the night till the morning. It REALLY upset Rick when John Lennon was killed. As to who he phoned, I do not have Rick's old address book or anything to help toward that end at all. Rick just wanted to be left alone and was so depressed he did not want to talk about it despite our attempts.

I do not know how many times I tried to get Rick to write of his stories with Radio London or his memories. I recall one time when things were stretched for money and asked Rick why on earth he wouldn't write a book or go back into broadcasting. He considered his time at Radio London the time when he was one of the best broadcasters in the world and nothing would ever compare to those years in England. When I asked him about writing a book or contacting others, after a few drinks, he replied that he considered himself a failure and was ashamed to contact the others (he had known) at Radio London that were doing so much better than he.

Likewise, I had attempted to research Chuck Blair on the Internet as well as Radio London and the radio ships off England to no avail. Until yesterday. Any information you can provide would be appreciated. Rick told me that he was the MC on one of the Beatles' world tours. The stories, you had to hear some of the stories.

Is there any way to see if anyone remembers an incident in a hotel or someplace, where the Troggs were playing 'Wild Thing' over and over and over again? Of course Rick had other words for the song that someone else suggested. Likewise there was one about Jimi Hendrix coming into a bar/pub wearing a fur coat or jacket. I am sorry not to have more details, but these stories are from 20 plus years ago and are to the best of my recollection.

(Carleton also mentions an incidence of Big L jocks making fun over a British official or MP, inferring homosexuality, which was an illegal activity in the UK until the late Sixties.)

Please advise if my recollections have stirred any memories or anyone else can verify or recall the same, or best of all if they were there too and remembered an incident. I still have a number of stories Rick related, which explains why I was after him for so long to write a book, manuscript or something of his recollections.

Anything else I can do, please advise.

Carleton Penn III

Naturally Chris and I were very pleased to receive news after searching for so long, but extremely sad to hear that Rick had died so young. We had never given up hope of contacting him and talking to him about his days on Big L. What a terrible shame it is that Carleton never managed to persuade Rick to commit his stories to paper. Still, we now know some of the story, and maybe our other ex-offshore friends will be able to fill in a few gaps, both for us and for Carleton.

'Who is Chuck Blair', indeed? Will anyone ever, really know?

See fellow jock Ian Damon's Scrapbook Page for a quayside photograph himself with Chuck

If you have any info concerning Chuck that you would either like to share with us (it will not necessarily appear on the website), or wish us to pass on privately to Carleton, please contact Mary:

(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
2019: Martin Hadlow in Australia adds a personal contribution to the saga  

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