Book: Dancehalls, Glitterballs and DJs
Chapter: A Night at the London Palladium
In 1922 the BBC began to broadcast on the wireless. At first, it used only live performances, but soon it was also broadcasting music from gramophone records and developing a mutually beneficial relationship with the gramophone industry. Early broadcasts of recorded music were staid and boring, until the BBC began to employ presenters who made their own choice of records and spoke about them enthusiastically on air. The first of these was Christopher Stone, who, as a young army officer in France, had taken solace with his fellow soldiers from a small collection of discs and a battered gramophone.
By the mid-1920s Stone was presenting his own selection of musical recordings and some years later he would gain the title of The First Disc Jockey – a term imported from the USA in the late 1940s – Daniel Moore having never achieved popular recognition. Despite accusations that he was being bribed by record companies, Stone broadcast for many years and also appeared on stage. At the height of his fame he performed at the London Palladium, using a gramophone to show, among other things, how to play a disc backwards, making him an early example of the turntablist. Such a radical new approach to the machine was far from universally loved, however, and Stone’s stage career was short-lived. Christopher Stone was not immediately followed by a host of ‘personality presenters,’ so the first pirate radio broadcasters appeared, with the entertainment of their listeners high on their lists of priorities even if those listeners could be counted in dozens rather than hundreds of thousands.