Personal tribute by Mary Payne (All links are below this eulogy.)
On September 12th, 2020, Willy Walker (who lives in Florida) notified us that he had received the very sad news that Mike Lennox had passed away in Mexico during the previous week, a victim of the Covid-19 pandemic. The news came from their old friend Softly, who had been contacted by Mike's sister.
Softly was virtually a member of the Big L team and knew Mike well. As Duncan Johnson once explained: "Softly used to accompany Mike Lennox, Stewpot or me to all the Sixties record company receptions, so much so that he attended more than any of us. We always had to go back to the ship and of course, he didn't! Many of the record company people assumed he was part of the Radio London staff and once he and Penny Valentine became an item, he was invited everywhere."
Willy Walker had first met Mike and Duncan in Bermuda, when they were both working in Radio ZBM. Around 1964, Mike and Duncan ended up in the UK, acting in minor film roles. The following year, they both ended up working as Radio London DJs, with Duncan recommending Mike for the job. "Duncan and I first worked together at a radio station in Bermuda," Mike recalled, "Then he was the one who arranged the life-changing interview for me with Ben Toney at Big L." A job with Big L brought a change of name to Mike Lennox and an acquired nickname, 'The Marshall', presumably from his penchant for wearing a stetson. Mike and Duncan's friend Willy was persuaded to join them aboard the Galaxy in 1966.
Mike explained about the close-knit group of friends who were known as 'The Uncles'. "Duncan, Stewpot, Willy, Tommy Vance, Softly and I were close friends and sometime flat-mates, for many years. Duncan gained the nickname 'Shag' after he started addressing many of us as Shag or Shagnasty and somehow that was reversed and we began to call him Shag all the time."
Right: 1988, an avuncular gathering at 'Stewpot Mansion': Stewpot, Mike, Ian Damon, Mitch, Tony Brandon, Willy, Duncan. Photo courtesy of Mitch
Willy Walker recalled the 'BBC Grey', a suit belonging to Duncan that he, Duncan or Mike would wear to attend modelling auditions. They all worked as models prior to their radio days.
Mike and Ed Stewart enjoyed a high time together while working for Big L. Their misdemeanours in a yellow Lotus Elan that caused them to be hauled over the coals by MD Philip Birch, are related in our Brands Hatch feature.
Stewpot (whom The Uncles nicknamed 'The Duke of Wimbers' – Wimbledon) recalled the time when he and Mike were compères for some of the shows during Radio London's Georgie Fame nationwide tour of Autumn 66.
The 1966 Georgie Fame Tour Programme, with DJ line-up and Mike's listing, kindly supplied by Joe McCarty
Apparently Mike didn't actually see much of the tour! His partner-in-crime Stewpot related,"I have vivid memories of meeting Pete Stringfellow at The Mojo, his first club in Sheffield, with Georgie Fame, Eric Burdon and John Mayall. There were lots and lots of lovely girls there. (Heaven!) Our agent, Harold Davison, had given Mike and myself £50 each to go and buy some decent clothes and we were well kitted out by Cecil Gee in London's Shaftesbury Avenue.
Mike and I both wore contact lenses and after one particularly drunken night, neither of us could remember where we had put them. Eventually, I found mine underneath the girl I had pulled that night, but Mike never found his. They probably fell down the plughole. He walked around in a daze for much of the tour!"
|Richard John Neil, who runs a magazine about classic stock car racing kindly sent a photo where Mike takes the flag, winning a match race against Ed Stewart at Wimbledon. The car is that of three-times British Champion Derek Fiske and the car was immortalised by Corgi Toys.|
Mike was Knees Club member #16 and on July 9th, 1966, my friend and Club Official Lynn met him at the Radio London Club afternoon at the Marquee Club. Lynn asked Mike, who was hosting the show, if he would marry her because he was the only person who could get her up in the mornings. He said 'Yes'.
Jan 31 1967 was to have been Mike's last day on Big L, but he returned in the first week of June and broadcast till the closedown. He continued to host many of the station's onshore events at venues like the Rhodes Centre, Bishop's Stortford, Greenford's Starlite Ballroom, and London's Upper Cut Club, even after the closure of Radio London.
The famous Getty Images photo of the Radio London DJs coming ashore from the mv Galaxy on the tender Ocean Cock, after the station closedown at 1500, August 14th 1967. Mike is far left, next to Pete Drummond and John Peel wearing their trendy psychedelic gear.
In the previous month, during his early-evening show, Mike had aired his disapproval of flower power and psychedelia and criticised Peel's popular programme The Perfumed Garden, with its hippy philosophies.
Post-MOA, the three Big L pals and flatmates, Mike, Duncan and Stewpot, all joined the BBC. When the Corporation launched Radios One (attempting to imitate the sound of Radio London) and Two in September, there was no shortage of ex-pirates to choose from. Short-term contracts tended to be offered and auditions were mandatory.
Unsurprisingly, Mike chose to audition for a pop show, while Duncan went for a late evening programme, thinking his deep voice was better suited to that time. "Perhaps the BBC hierarchy thought we were interchangeable," Duncan related, "But whatever the reason, we were offered the opposite to what either of us had wanted. I told a lady in the contracts department I could not afford to work for £28 a programme and she replied, "'celebrity broadcasters' are expected to get the majority of their income from other than BBC sources".
Duncan said Stewpot was the first of the trio to have his programme pulled after only 4 weeks, although he was offered another contract at the time. Duncan stayed for 6 weeks and presented 'Crack the Clue' for 13 weeks.
Stephen Chesney recalls: "Although his Friday night Late Night Extra slot ended in February 1968, Mike was back on Radio 1 between July 1971 and March 1972, presenting on a rota basis the weekday tea time review show What`s New? and providing holiday cover for Johnnie Walker and Tony Brandon on their daily shows."
Mike also attempted, unsuccessfully, to launch a singing career with a Decca single, 'Images of You'.
Ironically, one way in which Mike and friends supplemented their 'celebrity broadcaster' incomes was by appearing at the popular Big L nights, which continued at the Starlite Ballroom in Greenford, Middlesex until December '67, when they were renamed Radio One Nights. 'Fab' Alan Field remembesr one of Mike's earlier gigs: "I saw Mike once at a Big L night at the Starlite Ballroom in Greenford. It must have been around October '66. I was 14, and way too scared of getting chucked out for being underage to break cover and say 'hi'! I could see he was a nice guy though, and very popular with the crowd."
Mike returned to Canada in 1972 and eventually became a property developer.
In 1990, Chris Edwards of Offshore Echoes met and interviewed Mike when he and Willy Walker were in London, staying at Tommy Vance's home in Maida Vale. Many thanks to Chris for the photo.
In 2007, The Marshall was in Australia and visited Norm St John in Brisbane. (Thanks to Norm for the photo)
"I had the pleasure in working with Mike on Radio London. He was a very talented guy from Canada and I enjoyed his shows. In 2007, Mike visited me in Brisbane, Australia and we had several days together visiting The Gold Coast. I was very saddened to learn that Mike had passed away in Mexico from COVID 19. He will be sadly missed by all who knew him.
Yet another added to that big gig upstairs. Rest In Peace Mike. "
Norman St John
In 2008 Mike met up with fellow Canadian (and fellow pirate) Steve Young in Vancouver. As Steve was on Radio Caroline, they had encountered each other only once previously, while travelling ashore on the tender that served both the Galaxy and the Mi Amigo. The pair found they had much more in common than just renegade broadcasting, but sadly never got to meet up again. Mike moved from Vancouver to Mexico to work on a seaside holiday complex development.
Steve said, "Sorry the photo isn't a lot better, I had to take it myself with the old 'extended arm' trick." We're pleased to have it, Steve.
Marshall Mike was invited to the Offshore 50 Reunion in London in 2017, but unfortunately felt unable to attend as he no longer enjoyed travelling.
We did not hear from The Marshall very often, but he clearly appreciated the Radio London website. In October 2018, he wrote:
Mary, you are doing a wonderful job with your website and all things related to those pirate radio days. I have spent many hours through the ensuing years catching up with all things past and present.
I now live in a small Mexican beach town on the Sea of Cortez... in good health, renovating my house/garden, learning Spanish and taking morning walks with my dog Suzie.
Cheers and best regards, Thanks for all you do! Marshall Mike
When Mike wrote his tribute to Duncan in 2018, he said, "If there is a life after, I'm sure the Uncles will reconvene to share time-altered memories of good times spent."
We hope Mike is happily reunited now with Stewpot, Duncan and Tommy.
MP3 of 'Images of You'
Minimemories Page 10 Mike wrote a music paper column, 'The Day I had all of London town taped for Sound'
The Big L Bonfire Night, where The Marshall was 'moseying around a Roman candle'.