Big Lil's Promotions Manager Gordon Sheppard's Scrapbook
The late Gordon Sheppard, who died in July 2020, worked as Radio London's Promotions Manager throughout the station's life. Here are two pages of wonderful memories and photos from his personal collection that he kindly sent us in 2003.

My involvement with Radio London began when I did a deal with Philip Birch, the managing director of Radlon Sales Ltd, the European company responsible for the station. At the time, I was employed by Charlie Watkins, the owner and MD of Watkins Electric Music Ltd, manufacturers of guitars, electric organs, and amplifiers, etc. (The company also made the famous tape-loop reverb unit, 'The Watkins Copycat' which just about every up-and-coming band had! – Chris)

As the Works Director of WEM, my job was to promote WEM and its products. The deal I did with Philip enabled me to mount new promotions on behalf of Big L. This meant I was able to use the contacts I established in the music business for the benefit of WEM. Two of WEM's biggest contracts secured in this way were the supply of all the amplification equipment for the Byrds tour of the UK, and for the Isle of Wight Concert.

I, and my lovely secretary Brenda Cogdell, were responsible for all the station's on-shore activity. When you entered the door at 17 Curzon Street, the Promotions Dept was just to your left. It housed two desks, my own and Brenda's. When we created far too much activity, we were moved to the basement!

RIGHT: This picture is of myself (far right) and (centre) Philip Birch, MD of Radlon Sales Ltd. We were on the tender on our way out to the MV Galaxy. On this trip, we were taking Charlie Watkins of WEM (and the gentleman on the left of the photo, who was Charlie's accountant).

About a month after I started working with Phil Birch, (above, right) I left WEM to join Big L full-time as its promotions manager and remained till the end, in '67.

My job required that I was more out of Curzon Street than in it and I was always far too busy to chat. My assistant Brenda Cogdell knew more about the office than me. I not only had to create promotions for Big L. I had to create revenue as well. Big L promotions department was run on a 'no budget' basis. It was my job to organise activities that not only promoted Big L, but produced cash as well. For instance, all the Big L Nights at Wimbledon Palais, Greenford, Lowestoft and Ramsgate etc. I set up the deals with the owners of the dance-halls. We would promote the "Big L Night Out" on air, for 60% receipts of the gate. Weekends I used to drive around collecting the cash. Every promotion we did had to make money in some way, either producing cash or advertising. That's why I was mostly out of the office. Wheeling and dealing all the time.

In addition to other Radio London promotions, I ran the Marquee Big L Saturday Club. David Bowie's band The Buzz was the resident live act playing there on Saturday afternoons. I can claim that I was one of the very first to recognise David's superb talent. He was a nice, bright young lad, a great singer and performer, and we liked him a lot. Big L didn't believe in paying its artists big performance fees; it promoted them on-air instead. David Bowie used to play for me for 15 a gig. I wonder if he remembers me now?

David opened the Big L show (live) and he closed the show with a full half-hour live performance each week. On one occasion, he quickly packed up, as we all did, to shoot off to Wimbledon Palais to perform there as well, in the Big L Saturday Night Out. Every artist appearing at the Big L Saturday Club at the Marquee, and the shows at Wimbledon Palais, Greenford Middlesex, Lowestoft and Ramsgate, mimed to their records and all signed autographs. I personally introduced every artist and ensured that they carried out this task. No one ever let me down.

(LEFT) This is my assistant/secretary Brenda Cogdell. You will know the guy with the whiskers! I can't remember who the other guy is, but I do remember that both Brenda and he were with me, the day we took the directors of WEM out to the ship. I think the picture must have been taken on the tender as we approached Radio Caroline. You can just see a chubby Tony Blackburn in the background and I'm fairly positive Tony wasn't yet working for Big L at the time.

LEFT: Mark Roman poses in full Empire ruling regalia to publicise the programme launch. Ben Toney awarded Mark the programme after Tony Blackburn turned down his kind offer of the 'Empire package'. This came complete with a change of name and social status, plus a wardrobe full of togas and sandals and a copy of 'The Idiot's Guide To Ruling Empires'.

It seems Tony may have had a lucky escape! Gordon recalls:
"For Mark Roman's first week ashore after the launch of his Roman Empire show, we sent him out like this! I can't remember where the photo was taken, but it might be the stairs leading to the basement in 17 Curzon Street."

Thanks for your website. It's terrific and you have put a lot of work into it, I can see. I have asked my daughter to dig out all the pictures that she may have from Big L days and if there is anything good I will send them.

Meanwhile I am studying the superb records of Alan Field's Fab 40 Charts. I am having a ball!

Keith 'Cardboard Shoes' Skues sent me an email yesterday and today, I had a long chat on the phone with Duncan Johnson.

I am living all those great days again!


Gordon J Sheppard

Text and photographs © Gordon Sheppard

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