Profile: Les Ross MBE: Les got the radio bug at the age of 11 and wrote to Radio Luxembourg to get advice. There was no reply but this didn't deter him and he joined the local music scene instead. Aged 17, he won a DJ competition run by the Birmingham Evening Mail beating a local rival into third place. That local rival was a Peter Dee - you'll know him better as Johnnie Walker Part of his prize was an audition for Radio Luxembourg but this never happened!!! Organisers of the DJ competition took pity on him and offered him his first gig - at the Mecca Ballroom in Birmingham - working twice a week. After this, he moved on to the Birmingham Rollerskating Rink where he played five nights a week. This still wasn't a proper job though - his first 'proper job; was working for IBM Computers, then as an administrator at Witton Park Cemetery. Nice!
His first full time pro-DJ job came in 1970 at a new Birmingham City Centre nightclub. And this is where he was discovered! A contract was offered to him by BBC Radio Birmingham in 1970 and he joined John Henry in a unique double header. A popular man was Les, and the contract was replaced with a full time post presenting the Breakfast Show which started at 5:00am. With the advent of BRMB in 1974, one of the first ILR stations, Les applied and was rejected! So having received an offer of work from Radio Tees he joined them for the launch in the summer of 1975 and stayed there for nine months working on their Breakfast show, again to huge success and wide acclaim.
His name spoonerised by the man himself, Dead Loss started working for BRMB Birmingham on 29th March 1976. - it was a tough decision to leave RRadio Tees - but make the move he did! At this time, the country's PM was Harold Wilson and we were buying Brotherhood of Man's Eurovision-winning "Save Your Kisses For Me" by the shed load to take it to number one. Of the first 19 ILR stations licenced, not all were yet running - BRMB was, but in nearby Wolverhampton, Beacon Radio 303 was running it's test transmissions of 'sunshine music' with a looming launch of April 1976. In the 1970's, he was also asked to present a show for ATV, called 'Revolver' - a show which required Les to know a bit about cookery and music. BRMB celebrated it's second birthday in February by announcing a new breakfast show presenter. Leslie Ross. He went on to win the 'Independent Radio Personality of the Year Award 1985', 'Top Breakfast Show 1986, 1994, & 1990' and in 1997, Les received a Sony Award and an MBE for his services to broadcasting.
Radio has changed immensely since the advent of commercial radio. Serving the public was very much the main watch word then with long periods of speech, 24 hours of airtime and minimal needle time. Les has seen many changes in his time at BRMB. Needle time was abolished when the IBA was scrapped and this led to a requirement for the scrapping of simulcasting on AM and FM. County Sound in Guildford set the precedent and BRMB were closely behind, launching XTRA-AM in April 1989. Les moved from FM to AM for four years, bringing his audience with him and adding to it on Mercia Sound's AM frequency which also carried XTRA, leaving other presenters to carry out a near impossible task of replacing Les on FM breakfast.
BRMB was then owned by the much missed Midlands Radio plc which was swallowed up by GWR who then flogged the Birmingham FMer on to Capital who wanted it for their 'Capital Cities' portfolio. Once 'Capitalised', a major revamp saw Les return to 96.4 FM BRMB in August of 1993. As expected, ratings zoomed to dizzy heights and within the next 52 weeks, the station's share was well over 20%. XTRA's audience did the opposite and plummeted despite Tony Butler being poached from BBC Radio WM as a replacement.
Les has fitted in with the mould of 'double-header' breakfast shows with the likes of Suzi Becker and Tammy Gooding providing the female side. Spontaneity ruled at all times and in all ways. The 'you say something funny then I will' crap on most other stations breakfast shows is probably the reason why Les' retirement from BRMB is such a sad thing. Serials were part of our cereal with the hilarious 'Yesterday Never Comes' and the superb weekend feature of phone calls 'Round the World'.
And so just over 26 years passed and
Friday 27th September 2002 saw Les' final BRMB breakfast show not from the
studio but from Birmingham International railway station. The show built
up to Les hopping on a 9 o'clock train to symbolise the end. Chris
Tarrant once said, "He is naturally incredibly funny and the definitive
voice of Birmingham." His services to radio were rewarded
by the Queen honouring him with the MBE, and he got a Special Award in 2001's
NTL Commercial Radio
Awards too. It said "He's always true to himself, always amusing, always professional, always popular, impossible to imitate and never bettered."
On his retirement, BRMB Programme Controller Adam Bridge said "Les Ross has been the voice of breakfast radio in Birmingham and BRMB for almost 27 years which is an outstanding achievement and he is, by a considerable margin, the longest serving breakfast presenter in one location in the UK. I have personally worked with Les for 5 years and he is a great broadcaster - I will miss him - as will everyone at BRMB and the listeners. His humour and wit have been an essential part of the Birmingham scene for almost 40 years - he was a teenage personality on the local music circuit. Over the years Les has been recognised both by awards from the industry and accolades from his broadcast peers as well as an MBE for his services to radio. We all wish Les the very best for the future."
Whereabouts: We predicted Les would move to SAGA or possibly Capital Gold Birmingham. The Birmingham Evening Mail reported in it's 27th September edition that Les was to start work for SAGA. We said it first here on AIRCHECK! It's not rocket science we appreciate but we don't care! We still said it first! Les took over the SAGA West Midlands Breakfast Show from David Hamilton on 6th January 2003 when David moved to the new East Midlands sister station SAGA 106.6, upon it's 2003 launch 11th February.
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