"True talent management creates successful careers, real life affirming changes. Then, as in art, once the thing is made you let it go."
Two proud, too busy to eat, pot-less idealists, Eddie 'Ears' Gordon and Steve 'Wolfie' Wallis with American Soul singing star Major Harris of "Love Won't Let Me Wait" Grammy Fame in the Soul Bowl, 69 High Street, Gravesend 1983. We brought a great deal of real talent to that town over those years folks... Thank you Howdy Binning for believing in our ideas and promises.
In 1983 I started a DJ management company, with Steve Wolfe, called C.A.M.P.A.R. which stood for Creative Agency Management Promotion And Representation. We soon got tired of repeating that mouthful every time the phone rang so abbreviated it to CAMPAR. We should have added the word 'Ideas' at the end to then have the name CAMPARI, but seriously we were full of ideas and that company soon had a roster of DJ's including Radio London's Robbie Vincent, Radio London's Jeff Young, Radio Kent's Rod Lucas. Flicks DJ Colin Hudd and a local Radio aspiring DJ called Pete Tong who personally requested my services for his career after I had out-polled him in a local Gravesend Reporter newspaper article for Best Local DJ by five times more votes. Just one of those strange ironies in life...
With CAMPAR we created the first dance DJ Agency which as a business now 24 years later is a very profitable way of earning a living if you have the right talent. I went on to manage Jeff Young until he took a Radio DJ hiatus to concentrate on his Director of A&R role a MCA Records (now Universal). I later in life attended meetings at a company called CAA (Creative Artists Agency) in Hollywood, California. So the name of our agency was in the ether of the Universe it seems...
Jeff became BBC Radio 1's first dance DJ from Dec '87 to '92. He started the real push of dance into mainstream media and deserves the credit for being the original ground-breaking pioneer. The guy who many people should thank and should be awarded an MBE.
I can still remember, vividly, the sunny lunchtime in October 1987 Jeff and I sitting outside a Cafe in Leicester Square, London as he told me he was thinking about writing to the then Controller of BBC Radio 1, Johnny Beerling, about the station having a dance show. What did I think ???. "Well Johnny Beerling's daughter, Julie, was a regular attendee at a lot of our gigs across the South East of England in those days, so he would have a very strong potential thumbs-up from her if her father asks who Jeff Young is. Go for it." Was my earnest reply.
In terms of management, over 20 years, I was to Tong's career what Brian Epstein was to The Beatles. The brains behind his BBC Radio 30 year career.
Pete Tong was managed by me from 1984 until 2004, after he drove round to my house in Northfleet and asked me to be his manager. We'd never spoken before that moment. I was DJing a great deal with the BBC Radio 1 DJs at the time around the South East of England and also had a full page music column in the UK's biggest selling weekly newspaper The Kent Messenger as well as putting on cool gigs around town.
I had my own DJ engines in overdrive but we shook hands on 10% commission and I set about building opportunies for him. I liked the music he played, thought he was a bit socially awkward but a lot of performers are once they are not on stage where they come alive. Besides I was a bit of a solo guy myself sometimes, so we began the journey with a lot of coverage in The Kent Messenger..
We were both passionate about seeing how far we could push the boundaries of dance music around the world, something that we succeeded with beyond all our expectations with the BBC Millennium crossing the globe playing dance music all day on that never to be lived again moment in history the 2000 Millennium.
I personally persuaded Jeff Young to recommend Tong to BBC Radio 1 when Jeff told me, after a painful bout of shingles due to burning the career-candle at both ends, that he was stepping down from the Radio 1 Friday 6pm show in 1992. In truth Jeff was extremely reluctant to recommend Tong to the BBC after he hadn't bothered to thank Jeff for personally lining up the Capital Radio Saturday Night show for him with Richard Park in 1988. Richard Park had just agreed for Jeff to join the station but Jeff chose the BBC instead of Capital, leaving the 95.8fm door open for Tong to start the Saturday Soul Session.
Anyway, back to the history in 1992, I persisted on Tong's behalf "if you leave it to the Beeb to choose a DJ for that slot you've established they'll give it to some Dave-Double-Decks DJ with no credibility and all your hard pioneering work will be lost these last 4 years, lets keep building on the platform you've created." Jeff relented, much to his honour.
So what would Tong's career and life have been without Jeff's chivalry and me persuading him to seriously put Pete forward to the BBC Controller ?
In 1992 Jeff told the BBC about this guy on Capital Radio, they had never heard of him. If you don't believe all this, ask Jeff, it's the absolute truth.
After Tong got the BBC Radio 1 Friday night slot I then mapped out the UK for him to visit all the major UK cities to bring the audience to his show, to put a face to the voice on the radio then personally drove him to every possible dance music club in every town in the UK to build his Radio 1 audience. Bring the audience to the show..
It wasn't easy, in fact it was hard going at first as BBC Radio 1 DJs were viewed as very uncool thanks to Harry Enfield 'Smashie & Nicey' characters on his hit TV show - it left an impression that would result in some big name DJ's losing their gigs on the station around that time. Dave Lee Travis and Simon Bates included.
Identifying Back to Basics in Leeds and Venus in Nottingham as two potential spots I get knocked back on the first call with Dave Beer saying "I don't need no fooking Radio 1 DJ in my club, we play house music mate, not hits."
I then decide to drive the 280 miles round-trip from SW13, London to Venus in Nottingham to speak to the promoter James Bailie in person, I already knew Jonathan Woodliffe, a fantastic DJ from Rock City, who was co-promoting the night so I should get Pete in there as Jon will know of him from London Records, his day time gig and from his days writing for Blues & Soul.
Venus blows my calculating mind - its everything we started in the 80's, two rooms of different dance music, big sound, unique decor, a crowd that are having a great time but its so much better because of how the Venus-ites are dressed - after years of seeing punters in jeans, baggy t-shirts and boots or trainers, the Nottingham crowd are dressed to kill, everything from the music to the decor and attitude is super cool.
The fashion and design syllabus at Nottingham University is the best in the country so half the clothes being worn in Venus are self made and after a night of 'ecstatic' dancing, they are falling off, half naked but with huge smiles on their faces. Amazing scenes.
James Bailie agrees to try our "Radio 1 lad" on the say so of Jonathan and a date is set. I drive back to London thinking "I'm going back to Venus with or without Pete" - its love at first sight.
On the night of Tong's Venus debut the first thing James Bailie says to me as we pull up in Pete's 320i BMW is that the place is already full and hundreds of University girls have turned up to see who this guy Tong is. He does his set. After we hang out with James and the motion is set - we're going to hit every cool club in every town in the UK.
James Bailie lets other promoters know of Tong's pulling power and the calls from me are accepted, we start teaming up with the best promoters all over the country.
Russell and Pete at Progress in Derby, Brian Andrews and Charlie Chester at The Arena in Middlesborough, Lakota in Bristol, Jeff Oates at Renaissance in Stoke and Mansfield, Nigel Blunt in Birmingham, Paul Taylor at Angels in Bolton, Jon Hill at Golden in Stoke, the legendary Ryan brothers at Moneypenny's, Chuff Chuff in Birmingham, Richard Carr at Slinky in Bournemouth, John Digweed in Hastings, Darren, James, Gill and Jim at Cream in Liverpool, David Vincent at Sankey Soap in Manchester, Ricky McGowan at Colours in Edinburgh, the Reid brothers at The Tunnel in Glasgow, The Arches in Glasgow, The Warehouse in Leeds, the Leadmill in Sheffield, Pacha in Rotherham, Scott and Simon at Gatecrasher in Sheffield, the two Barry's at Sugar Shack in Middles-borough - every weekend up the M1, M6, M62, M4 anywhere but London except for the odd Friday night at the Gallery or the Ministry of Sound.
Once that mission was complete I then put him on international Radio in Ibiza, where he told me very firmly he didn't want to play "I'll be in a goldfish bowl" was the comment. Well he is still playing there some 24 years later as well as touring the UK with his Ibiza Classics Show, so he certainly did well out of that bit of persuasion.
I also put him on the World stage with a DJ management company I formed in 2000 called IMD to get his first USA gigs in New York. Had to bend Mike Bindra's arm to book Tong at Twilo in the Big Apple. Tong came back to London after the date with "I've found myself an American manager."
To put things into perspective. There are some people you meet in life who suck all the oxygen out of the room for themselves, irrespective of the damage they leave in their trail. I kept my dignity and focus, the other should have kept his ego in his pants, not in my wife's, after years of personally making sure he was safely home to his wife and 3 young children. My Olivia's well-being and future was ignored. I don't believe that people are inherently bad, they are really less evolved human beings, they don't have the compassion to know that their dishonesty is the most damaging to those closest to them. Their family, friends and the people who created incredible platforms for their careers...
On Wikipedia Tong keeps altering 'his' history, embellishing it with nonsense. For example Steve Wolfe came up with the now infamous phrase "Its all gone Pete Tong" one night at Kent's Invicta Radio during Tong's weekly Sunday Soul show when the studio phones all rang at the same time for tickets to a weekender competition, Tong cursed while the mic was still on and Wolfie calmed things down with that catchphrase "eh its all gone Pete Tong" in cockney rhyming slang - Wolfie was from the Old Kent Road, SE London, its in his vernacular - but on Tong's online history it was Mark & Lard on BBC Radio 1 - total rubbish! Just ask Wolfie, who Tong ignores now...
I saw first hand the cold way he treated countless people, Jeff Young, Danny Rampling, Mark Goodier, Froggy, his junior school buddy Tim, Josie James, the Gravesend guys Tony, John and Terry who originally got him into soul/disco/funk music instead of playing Status Quo and Smokey as the O.H.M.S. Roadshow (you can make up your own words to those initials) in New Ash Green, Kent.
After 20 years of defending him I realised that I didn't like him as a person. You should never manage someone who you can't stand being in the same room as. Especially after he totally reneged on our handshake agreement with the Essential Mix Show, which was my idea, directed and produced by me for the first 8 years on BBC Radio 1. An ok DJ but a terribly unfaithful guy, to everybody.
There are some DJs in the world that are real a-holes as people but then you hear somebody say, "My God, DJ (?) totally took the roof off at his gig last night". Then you think, we'll at least they can do that. I have never seen or heard somebody say that after a Tong gig, never. A means to an end, no more...
(Below) Tong (44), May 2004 with my then young (27) impressionable wife Rachel, romancing alone on a gig in Tokyo, Japan. Best Man at our Wedding just over 3 years earlier too. Sep 2004 divorce starts with her employing Tong's own divorce lawyers. Get the picture? Like I said earlier, an un-evolved human being.. Who still can't face me 15 years later.. "Cheat Tong" as we know him.
I still advice some very good DJ's today but in an advisory sense. I also played a significant part in the careers of DJ's Judge Jules, Paul Oakenfold, Carl Cox, Danny Rampling, Fergie and Seb Fontaine in my BBC Radio 1 capacity of finding new talent for the station and Danny Howard currently on every Friday night at 11pm.
My ideas, including the Essential Mix Show, BBC Radio 1 live in Ibiza for the weekend and broadcasts from clubs around the world including the One World Millennium and the UK Love Parade events introduced by myself (more info on these on the site) all left their indelible mark on today's dance music world and boosted many people's career's for years. Especially Tong's, who would not be 'its all gone Pete Tong' but 'where's Tong gone' without the BBC. That's just the reality.
Having started the world's first Dance DJ Agency with Steve and to go on to build one of the world's biggest DJ's with nearly 20 years loyalty, taking him from $200 a gig to $300'000 for one nights DJing - I'm satisfied with my work in that field as one of the Top 10 influencers in the world of dance music, something I've loved since I was a young teenager learning to dance to disco music..
The cut and pasted information below
is from one of the many differing Tong career history's posted on the world wide web. This one is closest to the facts.
Invicta Radio started up in Kent in 1984, Tong joined them to host a
regular soul show, where assisted by local Kent journalist/promoter
Eddie Gordon of The Kent Messenger he built up a big Kent county
profile. Tong stayed at Invicta until 1987. He was then hired by Capital
Radio in 1988 at the suggestion of DJ Jeff Young to present a weekly
dance program. DJ Jeff Young having initially been offered the slot by
Capital went to BBC Radio 1 to broadcast a weekly Friday night show
called The Big Beat.
In 1992 Tong featured on national radio after his manager Eddie Gordon talked the then departing DJ Jeff Young into suggesting him to BBC Radio 1 as the ideal replacement for the "hot" Friday night slot. Tong began his long stint as the host of the Essential Selection.
The Essential Selection was a BBC Radio 1 show on Friday nights from 6:00pm-9:00pm in the UK, although this has now been changed. The show is now simply known as Pete Tong and its new time slot is 7:00pm-9:00pm on Fridays. It showcases the latest dance music, with the focus being on house, and informs listeners what club nights are on around the United Kingdom that weekend.
It is endorsed by Radio 1 as the official
start to the weekend. It attracts one of the highest audiences for a
dance radio show in the UK. Pete Tong also hosts a one hour show on
Radio 1 on Thursday nights 9:00pm-10:00pm called Pete Tong's In New
Music We Trust. Since 1993 Pete has been associated with Radio 1's
Essential Mix which airs 2:00am-4:00am on Saturday night/Sunday
morning. He is now the station's second longest serving DJ (after Annie
That very important chat, in 1992, with my main client DJ Jeff Young, the departing BBC Radio 1 DJ, about passing the baton on to Pete to protect the ground-breaking work he had established on the National Radio Station was indeed the essential bit of work for Mr. Tong's career and life onwards...
So onto more positive things.......
Good Morning Eddie,
I have uploaded Knox New York Deep and Soulful 28 - AKA my debut show on www.d3ep.com, this evening at midnight. You made me prepare for this moment, a year and a half ago. And look at this!!! I am just blown away. From here, the most amazing doors will open. I'm reaching out with big, cross country hug and a huge thank you. I would not be here without your help. Add me to the list of Eddie Gordon success stories, because you have done it again.
Best Graham (KNOX) - New York DJ/Producer. July 14th 2017.
DJ Nakadia from Thailand, Ibiza, Berlin (below)