Radio Luxembourg was exotic, if a little frustrating. The sound would fade in and out according to the mood of the signal but the thought of someone playing records in a far off place and me hearing it in a council flat in Belfast was awesome.
Over the years, I grew to enjoy, love and admire some of the presenters because of their voices, their patter, their individualism and their love of music.
I am thinking about Alan Freeman, Kenny Everett, John Peel, Roger Scott, Johnny Walker, Bob Harris, Paul Gambaccini and more. Radio Caroline and later Radio One had more than their fair share of ten-a-penny record spinners but the aforementioned examples had that extra ingredient that just appealed to me.
I moved away from Belfast in the mid-70s, the days well before playback facilities, so I have little knowledge of radio back home in those days. I knew of it but I wasn't part of it as a listener. But now, with the marvels of iPlayer et al, the world is my jukebox, and BBC Radio Ulster is more often than not the soundtrack to my day.
There are many fine (what a wimpy word), nay, excellent presenters on Radio Ulster but I want to say a few words about Ralph McLean.
I don't know Ralph personally (I did bump into him in HMV, Belfast a while ago and said hello) but I do know him from his exemplary radio shows and occasional television appearances. You can get a bit more about him via these links:
and by searching around the BBC Radio Ulster websitehttp://www.bbc.co.uk/radioulster
Ralph can be heard on Radio Ulster between 8pm and 10pm on Wednesdays (Local Voices), Thursdays (Rock and Soul) and Fridays (Country & Roots) and what do you get? You get a fan, an enthusiastic fan, a knowledgeable fan, a fan that can relate to an audience hungry for the familiar tracks but also keen to hear what surprises he has found buried in the archives, on b-sides or on forgotten LPs. You get a fan of just about every musical genre. You get a genuine fan.
You get a sublime ambassador for Northern Irish talent introducing favourites who return regularly to perform live and first-timers given a leg up by someone who cares about who they are and what they do. Local Voices is an extremely important show because it showcases the positive side, the creative vibe of Belfast and wider Northern Ireland.
You get a man who knows people. He has met a litany of the greatest performers in the world and when their gigs include Northern Ireland, a Ralph McLean radio show is on their list of stopping off points because they know they'll get a warm welcome and be in the company of a safe pair of hands.
Earlier, I mentioned some names of broadcasters that live fondly in my mind and I add Ralph McLean to that list without reservation. I am sure there are others I could mention but I'm writing off the top of my head.
His shows have entertained, informed and inspired me, and I'm certain I'm not alone in that regard.
Thank you, Ralph. Keep doing what you do.