INTERVIEW NO. 684 – INTERVIEWEE - PETE MURRAY
Date 10th May 2016
INTERVIEWER – MIKE DICK
CAMERA DAVID SMITH
Transcriber – Linda Hall-Shaw
MIKE DICK: The copyright of this recording is vested in the British Entertainment History Project. The name of the interviewee is Pete Murray, OBE, radio DJ, TV presenter, stage, screen and TV actor. The date is 10 May 2016. This is Interview No. 684 and my name is Mike Dick. OK Pete, can you tell me where and when you were born?
PETE MURRAY: Yes, I was born in Hackney in London. I believe in the London Hospital there and it was on 19 September 1925.
MIKE DICK: What are your earliest memories?
PETE MURRAY: Well, I don’t have any memories of Hackney as such. Most of my memories come from Chiswick, although I did … my grandfather had a public house in, well I suppose they called it Custom House at that time – Plaistow, and I loved going there. (Time 01:02) (That was in the East End of London and I really loved that, I really loved that area very much and I loved playing with the kids there and we had a lot of fun but Chiswick really was my main memory and I used to love it there. MIKE DICK: Tell me a bit about your parents? What did your parents do? PETE MURRAY: Well, my Mother had ambitions to be an actress and she was in the chorus of a show with Jack Buchanan who was a big big star at that time and Jack Buchanan really wanted my Mother to go full blast at show business. By that time, she got married and my father disapproved of that whole idea, so she gave it up. So whatever inspiration I got, I got from her and every encouragement when I wanted to go into show business.
MIKE DICK: (Time 02:02) What about your Dad? What did your Dad do?
PETE MURRAY: He ran the pub for my grandfather in the East End so I didn’t see a lot of him but he had a rather tragic life in as much as that in the First World War in the Battle of the Somme he got gassed and I can see him now, I can hear him more coughing his guts out. It was terrible and I was absolutely appalled by the government at that time that when he died his ten shilling a week pension was stopped so that my Mother had absolutely nothing and I was pretty disgusted. We get disgusted with governments but I would certainly be double disgusted with that.
MIKE DICK: So, you moved to Chiswick then. What were the circumstances there then?
PETE MURRAY: How do you mean?
MIKE DICK: Sorry, you said you moved from Hackney to Chiswick.
PETE MURRAY: Well, I never remembered the move but we moved to Chiswick. (Time 03:00) That’s where my Mother wanted to live. She wanted to live in that area. She didn’t want to live in the East End of London where they’d, the whole family had been born.
MIKE DICK: Where did you go to school then?
PETE MURRAY: I went to school at a place called Gunnersbury School which was a prep school and I rather enjoyed that because I liked the scarlet caps and the scarlet socks at the top and the grey bottom. No, I liked that and, of course, my great thrill was wearing the red shirt to play football because … I used to come out in a rash every time I was going to play soccer, I was so excited about it and I was never really good. I was a bit of a thug really, I suppose you could say [laughter] but I really enjoyed my sport more than anything at that time.
MIKE DICK: You went to St. Paul’s School?
PETE MURRAY: I went to St. Paul’s. I went to Colet Court before then which was, or is still, (Time 04:00) the prep school for St. Paul’s and I only had one term there in the great building because we were evacuated to Crowthorne in Berkshire and that I didn’t enjoy at all. I didn’t enjoy my time at St. Paul’s at all.
MIKE DICK: Describe the evacuation, what the impact of …
PETE MURRAY: Well, the impact was purely and simply you packed up and went. I mean you see pictures of people getting on trains and things like that, in great numbers, but we went individually to the various evacuation centres and I was billeted with a schoolmaster called Mr. Richards and I suppose there must have been about fifteen of us there. (Time 05:00) Some boys were actually boarded with the warders of Broadmoor, which I think they did better than we did with Mr. Richards. [Laughter]
MIKE DICK: So, you said that you drew your theatrical, love of theatre from your Mum.
PETE MURRAY: I think so, yes.
MIKE DICK: How did you develop your acting skills then?
PETE MURRAY: Well I have to tell you, a lot of people find this hard to believe, but have you ever met a shy person, a very shy person. I am sure you have and that shy person sits in the corner of a party and any time anybody speaks to him they blush, or her, they blush. Well I was one of those. And the great thing that actually changed my life, the first time changed my life, was a mournful Mrs Gisborne (Time 06:00) who was a friend of my Mother’s when we were living in …we had a pub in Bayswater by this time and she was one of her customers and her daughter was going to the Royal Academy and she said “You know, Peter loves acting, do you think he could … why doesn’t he go to the RADA and try to get in to the RADA.” Now, you have to remember, I was so shy I couldn’t put two words together and I mean it. I was by then 15, 16, but some, I don’t know how, I did it but I went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in Gower Street and there was a receptionist her name was Vi, I can remember her name. She said “What can I do for you?” I said I want to become a student at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, blushing to the roots of my hair. She’d never had anybody, anybody, come to us and ask for a thing like that. She said “Just a minute I will get on to Sir Kenneth”. (Time 07:06) So, I went in to see Sir Kenneth Barnes who’s quite a character. He said “I have never heard of anything like this in my life boy”. He was related to the Vanbrugh Sisters who were a big act, stars, at that time. He said, “Well I”, he said, “Well, the War is on, we are very short of men, I’ll take you.” Prior to that he said “What did you do at school?” I said “No, I didn’t do anything.” I had never done anything at all. He said “Why?”. I said “Because I didn’t want to do anything in front of my friends, I’d be too shy”. Anyway, they gave me the … after the first term they said … He called me into his office. He said “I am afraid I am having to ask you to go. I don’t think you have a future as an actor”. I said “Well, will you give me one more chance?” (Time 08:03) I said “Because you said that to two other people who didn’t do too badly. Vivien Leigh and Charles Laughton who went on to win the Gold Medal.” So, he said “I have never had anybody talk to me like this before” … Gave me another chance. My great change in life was a man called Colin Chandler. When they did my This is Your Life on television, the one regret was that he wasn’t on it. He couldn’t do it. But he … I got to know him very slightly. He was married to the wardrobe mistress of the Royal Academy and he was responsible for building the sets but he was given to me as a director for the … you know, you play a turn and you do it in front of an audience (Time 09:01) and he said to me he said “I saw you in your public performance last term and you weren’t very good.” He said “But I think you have got something.” Now that is psychology. If only we could get more of that in life, a lot more people would be more successful. And so, he believed in me, why? I don’t know. “I am going to give you a very, very difficult part. John Gielgud played this when he was a young man, it’s called Musical Chairs.” It was a difficult part and at the RADA you are not allowed to applaud. All the other people when you do your public performance, everybody in all the other classes come and watch. It got into the theatre. You are not allowed to applaud. You are not allowed to show any emotion at all. (Time 09:58) Well I got a standing ovation to which Sir Kenneth Barnes said “I’ve never seen this before ever”. That changed my life. That man changed my life from a whimpering shy idiot into somebody that had been given … I am not saying that I am still not shy, I am in certain circumstances but it got rid of the worst symptoms of shyness. That man …I have everything to be thankful, everything
MIKE DICK: He gave you that confidence.
PETE MURRAY: Well, he believed in me. And then I got a scholarship. It’s not bad for a bloke that was going to be chucked out.
MIKE DICK: Who were your contemporaries at that time? Who else was around?
PETE MURRAY: Richard Attenborough was there. He was then coming to the end of his time there and Bryan Forbes who later became better known as a director. He wasn’t a particularly good actor but he was a good director. (Time 10:57 )
MIKE DICK: You went on to win a RADA award then.
PETE MURRAY: Yes, I wasn’t intended to, it was intended to go to the girl who played St. Joan. I was playing Dunois in this particular play by Bernard Shaw and she just wasn’t good enough to get an award I’m afraid. So, I got a bronze medal you know. There are three medals, gold, silver and bronze but it really wasn’t intended for me.
MIKE DICK: It was presented by?
PETE MURRAY: The Queen Mother, yes. She came to see the play and she was very nice. (Time 11:58) I was shaking like a leaf. I don’t know why, but I was.
MIKE DICK: Tell me a bit about how you first got into films then.
PETE MURRAY: Well, that was basically because an agent called Herbert de Leon saw me in this play. You know a lot of agents come to the … what they call the Medal Shows and he saw me as a prospect. I went to see him. In the mean-time Robert Atkins who directed St. Joan, who ran the Regents Park open air Shakespeare, wanted me to join his company and I didn’t particularly want to do that and he said “Oh you have gone off with an agent” and all that. He was quite upset with me. (Time 12:54) Anyway, I went with Herbert de Leon and I never regretted. He was a wonderful man. He was one of the nicest men I have ever met and I will give you an example about that a little later on when I came back from America. He got me … eventually … trouble was I had to go into the RAF. I went into the RAF in 1943 and I came out in 1945 and he said “I think I’ve got a contract for you.” And I got a contract with The Rank Organisation which wasn’t a fortune but it kept me quite well and I was able to help my Mother and various things like that so I was glad to have that kind of contract. Probably, it might of held me back a little bit in as much as that filming wasn’t easy. (Time 13:58) You know, they put people under contract at nineteen years of age. It’s too early. I mean, what parts can you play except, you know “Hello Mummy” “Hello Daddy”, all those sort of parts.
MIKE DICK: What was your first one you did then?
PETE MURRAY: Pardon?
MIKE DICK: What was your first movie then?
PETE MURRAY: Oh well I … the first thing I ever did with a line was as an extra in a Tommy Handley film called “Time Flies”. That was the first thing I ever did and I had to say “You’re on next Miss Dall”. I can remember my lines. That is the only line I can remember. Yes, that was the first thing I ever did, but that was before I was with de Leon. That was when I was working as an extra.
MIKE DICK: Because you were doing things … I’ve got you down as young Mr. Pitt…
PETE MURRAY: Oh, that I was, was just in the crowd, just in the crowd. MIKE DICK: Can I, just one or two I want to go through them, First of the Few with David Niven …
PETE MURRAY: Well I [unclear] as an extra. I did extra work (Time 15:03) and I’m glad I did it.
MIKE DICK: And the other one was the Life of Colonel Blimp?
PETE MURRAY: Another one. I’ve actually got a picture of myself somewhere in there [Laughter]
MIKE DICK: It says you’re an extra in the crowd in BBC Bunker, is that…
PETE MURRAY: BBC?
MIKE DICK: BBC Bunker. That’s, That’s how its termed…
PETE MURRAY: I’ve never heard of that
MIKE DICK: That’s interesting …
PETE MURRAY: That’s a new one on me
MIKE DICK: I shall go and have a look at the film again … The other interesting one I thought was quite interesting, you did a BBC TV production in ’46 of Jane Eyre
PETE MURRAY: Of what?
MIKE DICK: Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre?
PETE MURRAY: No. MIKE DICK: You played the Reverend Wood. It may not be you, it maybe someone else
PETE MURRAY: It wasn’t me
MIKE DICK: It wasn’t you
PETE MURRAY: No, no.
MIKE DICK: These are things that are useful …
PETE MURRAY: I can tell you the first thing I ever did for the BBC…when I was 17 and just before I went in to the RAF, was I think it was called The Robinson Family (Time 16:00) on … it was on The World Service, where I was, would you believe, an American Army Major, and I pretended to be American while I was there. Because I mis-pronounced certain places which is [unclear) “What part of America are you from?” So, I had to drop it and say I am not an American. [Laughter]. But I got a lot of parts like than because my dialects were pretty good.
MIKE DICK: What was your forte? How would you describe in terms of your abilities? What, what …
PETE MURRAY: My dialects were better than anything. I’m pretty good at dialects.
MIKE DICK: Could we move into 1949 then when you first moved to Radio Luxembourg. What were the circumstances that brought you to …
PETE MURRAY: Oh well, I went in to see my agent. I had just come off a tour in a play and Mr. de Leon said to me (Time 17:02) “There’s a job going you might ….” “It’s only for three months” he said. “I don’t know whether you fancy it or not. It means working abroad”, he said, “in a place called Luxembourg. It’s for Radio Luxembourg”. I said I didn’t even know they were even … I knew they were on the air before the War. I didn’t know they were back on the air. He said “Oh yes, they are on five nights a week 10.30 until midnight and then they have a whole day on Sunday.” … which was on the longwave at that time. So, I said “Well what would I be doing?” He said “Well you have to play records and you have to be the continuity announcer.” “Ooh”, I said “I would rather like to do that.” He said “Well I know you like popular music.” So, I went along and I did a trial … I had never done anything like that before … at the London studios of Radio Luxembourg. (Time 18:00) I didn’t have too much opposition because the money was terrible. It was fifteen pounds a week in Luxembourg. Fifteen pounds a week and I had to find my own accommodation and everything. I lived damn well on fifteen pounds a week I can tell you. I had three meals a day. I stayed in this very nice small hotel and the lovely people looked after me. It was wonderful. And, as time went on we moved to the Medium Wave, or AM as it is now known. And I was getting a lot of commercials into my programme and they … the deal was that if you do a commercial in a programme we will pay the minimum of three pounds. Now when you are working doing three hour shows every other day that mounts up and it mounted up to quite a considerable amount of money, (Time 19:00) to the extent that at the end of my career there they suggested that I might take a pay cut [Laughter] because I was making more money than the chairman. But the extraordinary thing was things … funny things happen. My agent, de Leon, phoned me up from London and said look, Peter Brook. You know Peter Brook, he was enfant terrible at the time. He said “He is very interested in you being in the play with John Gielgud, The Winter’s Tale.” Well, I had never read The Winter’s Tale. So, he said, he said, “He would like you to do a reading.” I said “I can’t get away. I can’t get back to London.” He said “No, no, he is going to be in Brussels.” So I had to get a book out of the Luxembourg library of The Winter’s Tale which I had never read and I went to Brussels on the stage of the (Time 20:01 ) National Theatre Brussels. I did an audition and he said “It’s quite obvious you’ve never read this play.” I said “No you can’t read Shakespeare, you’ve got to be able to feel it.” He said “Well, what do you know?” and I said “Well I can remember a bit from the Scottish play, I can remember a bit from that.” He said “Well I don’t think…” He said “Well try that, try that.” Anyway he said “Oh yes, you can do that.” And then went to have … another lesson I learnt … We went to have lunch with a lot of Belgian actors, French speaking Belgian actors from the National Theatre and they were talking about all sorts of things, then they broke off because I couldn’t speak French, and said a few words. Then somebody said what did you think of The Old Vic’s production of She Stoops to Conquer? I hadn’t seen it but I didn’t dare say … I thought I can’t say… Then I went back to the old blushing again, I blushed to the roots of my hair and said “Oh I thought it was quite good”, then I realised they knew I wasn’t telling the truth. And that was the day I decided that if I didn’t understand anything, if I didn’t know anything, I would never try to prove that I knew something that I didn’t know and I learnt a big lesson from that particular escapade.
MIKE DICK: So you were in Luxembourg for what …
PETE MURRAY: 5 years
MIKE DICK: 5 years. You came back to Britain, what sort of changes did you see because you obviously ...
PETE MURRAY: I had come back on holiday. But the changes are awful because you think … (Time 22:00) you come back and you see somebody in the street and they say “Hello Pete, how are you?” and then you realise they don’t even realise I have been away. That’s the awful part about it. You haven’t seen somebody for five years and they still think you are around.
MIKE DICK: You mention the theatre work that you were able to include when you were in Luxembourg. Were there any other aspects of your career that you could develop during that period?
PETE MURRAY: Not really no. I mean prior to going there I’d been in America, doing a play in America. There is a funny story about that because … We are going back, transposing a bit here but I auditioned for the Scottish Play (You know why we cannot mention that). And Michael Redgrave …(Time 22:59) I have to say that he was pretty wonderful to me … and you know everybody, all of the young actors in London at that time, wanted to be in this Scottish production to go to America … I mean really wonderful, and in the end, it was between me and another actor (I don’t know who that actor was I am sorry to say). And he came to me and he had the courtesy … because it is like a cattle market doing auditions. It is dreadful. And he said to me “I am terribly sorry, I would like to have taken you but I think the only reason I am taking the other actor is that he has more experience of Shakespeare than you. I said “I quite understand”. When I went to … about a month later I did another audition for a play called “Power Without Gory” (Time 22:56) which Dirk Bogart had played here, and again everybody was after it and I … To cut a long story short I got the part. We did a limited season in New York and it came to an end and by that time the Scottish Play was on in New York as well and they needed a replacement for the part I had auditioned for. Now America has got strict rules about British actors and American actors, quite understandably, but Clarence Derwent was the head of American Equity and he was originally from this country and he got to know me and he said “I can’t think of another actor here, an American actor that could play this part and I think … I know you’re not entitled you have to wait a certain number of months before you can work here again … but I think that circumstances are such that we could actually agree to you doing this part.” And, funnily enough there was Michael Redgrave who said “Oh, welcome back”. But then I was under contract to The Rank Organisation … Come home. I went home to nothing. It doesn’t matter. It was just one of those things that didn’t work out. (Time 25:26)
MIKE DICK: Cut there for a second I just want to take [Unclear]
PETE MURRAY: Yes, back in the UK
MIKE DICK: 55/56 yes?
PETE MURRAY: End of fifty … September ’55. Yes.
MIKE DICK: Yes, OK. You came back from … What did your experiences in Luxembourg teach you then?
PETE MURRAY: Sorry?
MIKE DICK: What did your experiences, you know, working with Radio Luxembourg teach you?
PETE MURRAY: Well it taught me one very good thing because when I first joined there, there was only one other Englishman there, a fellow called Geoffrey Everitt and he said to me when I said to him “I can’t do what you are doing just talking into a microphone and he said “If you use a script you will never be a broadcaster. You have to use scripts but if you rely on a script you won’t be a human being.” (Time 26:29 ) And that made a lot of sense to me. He said “You’ll make a lot of mistakes and you could go on for 30 or 40 years doing the same thing still making mistakes but you’re human.” And that made a lot of sense to me and I just worked it that way and as being a shy boy, going back again, I used to spend hours doing things in my room, talking to myself, so really when I went on the air it was just like I was talking to myself as a child. So, I just made things up and anything like that.
MIKE DICK: What kind of music would you have been playing at the time?
PETE MURRAY: Well, middle of the road music, very much so.
MIKE DICK: Give us some examples.
PETE MURRAY: Oh, there were people like Mitch Miller and his Chorus, Guy Mitchell … She wears yellow … I can’t remember the songs now. Joan Reagan was big and Jo Stafford. (Time 27:30) Mario Lanza was the hottest property. He was like … as far as the kids were concerned, he was like an Elvis Presley although he was singing opera style songs. He was a big star at that time.
MIKE DICK: You mentioned Elvis. I mean, what impact did Elvis have?
PETE MURRAY: Well Elvis came much later, Elvis came more later in the sixties. I mean the first time I heard anything about Rock ‘n’ Roll … because I got people coming to me … we picked our own records so we were quite strong in that respect and I believe that’s what should happen today. It is all done on computers so the music doesn’t reflect the tastes of the disc jockey at all. It reflects the taste of the computer which I think destroys it a lot because if you live or die by the music you play and if you play the wrong music, you get kicked out. (Time 28:30) But I don’t want to play somebody else’s music and get kicked out for what is it’s choice whether it be a good computer or otherwise. And, no the thing is …
MIKE DICK: You mention the first time you heard Rock ‘n’ Roll ...
PETE MURRAY: The first time I heard Rock ‘n’ Roll was this guy came in from America and he arrived, he said … he came to the studio. He had a big cigar on and he said (adopts a Marlon Brando type accent) “I have got the hottest thing here since show business started.” I said “What’s that?” He said (Marlon Brando accent) “Rock ‘n’ Roll.” I said “What’s Rock ‘n’ Roll?” He said (Marlon Brando accent) “You listen to this it is the hottest thing.” [Laughter] and it was Bill Haley and the Comets. So I said “It’s different. I must say it’s different.” And I played four records of that in a fifteen-minute interlude talking to him and he was right. (Time 29:37) I was the first person that ever-played Bill Haley.
MIKE DICK: Rock Around the Clock?
PETE MURRAY: Yes. Although it was in a film called Blackboard Jungle. You know, featured in that. You know that’s sing along stuff now. That’s sing along but when it became the hot property he promised it would be people were tearing up seats you know with excitement. This was, you know, today this terrible music that’s come on. Sing along today. Sing along, Rock Around the Clock, of course, See You Later Alligator.
MIKE DICK: So Luxembourg was, you know, pushing out the barriers, boundaries. PETE MURRAY: Well you see, if you think in terms of the BBC, they have a half hour programme a day at lunch time, (Time 30:35) record programme presented by Sam Costa or whoever. Then on Saturday nights they had Jack Jackson who did a very clever show with all sorts of voices, recorded voices he used, it was very effective, but that was the only one that sold records, Jack Jackson. So, when we came along, we were the only people selling records. They didn’t have to listen to Jack Jackson on a Saturday night although they should have done because it was a good programme. But they didn’t have to if they wanted to hear new records. We got them out before he did. So, the BBC really was in a way hide-bound in as much as they had a limit on the amount of what they called needle time which meant that they could only have a certain amount of records played because they wanted music played by live musicians and that was a deal they made with the Musicians’ Union. (Time 31:41) I quite understand why the Musicians’ Union did that but that, of course, has since been rescinded to the degree where I am sad to see some of the house orchestras disappear, particularly The Northern Dance Orchestra which I thought was outstanding.
MIKE DICK: So when you came back from Luxembourg to London
PETE MURRAY: I came back to nothing.
MIKE DICK: Right. So, what happened next?
PETE MURRAY: I got a job as assistant continuity announcer for the new ITV station, well, that had just come on … ATV at that time. And Bob Danvers Walker was the official and, of course, he was a famous new reader and news commentator, certainly as far as motion pictures were concerned, he did all the newsreels. I was quite honoured to be with him. Lovely chap. (Time 32:38) I didn’t do a thing. I never [unclear]… I got ten pounds a week for that. And, funny isn’t it [Laughter] people just, people that you knew suddenly disappeared, all the music publishers and music pluggers they just … I am not saying they didn’t want to know, I am just saying they haven’t got the time. (Time 33:01) Their time has to be with people who are actually doing something and can help them present their wares, whether it is their latest record or whatever, or latest song. So, I understood that, I mean, except for one man who never forgot me and took me out to lunch every week and I will never forget him, a fellow called Leslie Conn. Yes, a nice chap.
MIKE DICK: So how did you move …start to move towards …
PETE MURRAY: Well, what happened, I went down to Decca and they said we are going to do a programme on Radio Luxembourg. We are going to start with Jack Jackson and we want somebody else. Would you be interested? So, I said “Yes, anything” [laughter] “I want anything.” So, it meant not playing my own records, it meant playing their records, either … (Time 34:08) they had several labels, Brunswick, London, their own Decca label and a couple of others. So, it was quite an amalgamation of various record companies all in one go. So, I got that and eventually I got it for five days a week and I was making quite good money out of that. The thing that really blew me a bit was when I was offered a part in a musical. Oh, I hadn’t joined the BBC by then, I am going too far ahead. Stick with me and tell me …
MIKE DICK: So, with TV still very much in its infancy
PETE MURRAY: Yes, of course, it was.
MIKE DICK: The BBC came calling, though?
PETE MURRAY: No what happened, the one thing I really and truly hated on Radio Luxembourg was a show called People Are Funny. I thought it was dreadful. It was on television and when I was watching it with Bob Danvers Walker as a continuity announcer, or part-time one, (Time 35:19) I thought what a terrible programme. It was done by a fellow called Derek Roy. Oh, that was a terrible programme. Guess what … Derek Roy leaves. I’m offered it. You have got to take it, it’s a massive programme and it was a massive programme at the time. I took that over and, of course, because of the things we had to do to the public, it went up in Parliament … this has got to stop. You know, placing the public in embarrassing positions, you know, rather like the Candid Camera kind of thing.
So that was taken off the air and I lost that. But the big thing that happened to me in 1956 was getting the part of Richard Hilary in The Last Enemy and that again, all the actors were after it. And I had to meet the parents, Richard Hilary’s parents and his girlfriend and they gave the OK, so I got it through them. (Time 36:24) Peter Graham Scott was the director and a very good director. He later did the original … thing … I can’t remember what it is called …they have done a re-take … the one in Cornwall, what’s that called?
MIKE DICK: Poldark
PETE MURRAY: Yes, that’s right, Poldark he did that. Anyway, I did that and it was done under very difficult circumstances because there was a strike, and it was done live. There was a lot of filming in it, but most of it was live. It was very difficult to do because the lighting was terrible, everything. It was a tragedy really.
MIKE DICK: Where was this done?
PETE MURRAY: At Wembley. Anyway, it went out live. Apart from a bit of filming, you know, it was live. And the guy that lived next door to me was the showbiz editor at that time, later became editor of the Daily Mail, Peter Brittenden [Arthur Brittenden?] And he came to my door, knocked at my door and said “Have you seen the papers?” I said “No, I haven’t.” (Time 37:31) He said “Don’t you read the papers?” I said “Yes I …” He said “You don’t read the reviews?” I said “No, I never believe them. If they are good I don’t believe them. If they are bad, I do.” He said “Well you haven’t got any bad ones. Have a look at this lot.” If I had written them myself I couldn’t have written better than them. But, it was wonderful I was nominated as Actor of the Year. It was quite a good year, 1956. And at the end of 1956 I was hoping that I would get another job acting but that didn’t come along. It just didn’t. It is one of those extraordinary things. I don’t know why. It just didn’t happen. As I say, the write-ups I got were unbelievable. Anyway, I was still doing the Radio Luxembourg stuff. In 1956, he got me to go to the Shepherd’s Bush to have an interview about a new programme which was Six- Five Special. So, I went up to get the interview and I met Josephine Douglas and Jack Good and they said, I think, it is between you and two others. I said “I’m fine”. Well I got it. And the two others …(Time 39:14 ) one was David Jacobs who became a great friend of mine and the other one was, would you believe, Sean Connery. So, I said, when somebody told me that, which I didn’t know at the time, I’d have switched. I’d rather have been James Bond and he could have bloody Six-Five Special. [Laughter] Anytime, anytime. He was a wonderful James Bond too, the best.
MIKE DICK: So tell us a bit about Six-Five Special. It went out live at Lime Grove studios.
PETE MURRAY: Live, yes. It was a two-header really because we had two directors. One was Josephine Douglas who was very keen on youth and inspiring them to climb mountains and things like that. And Jack Good who was Rock ‘n’ Roll right from the word go.
MIKE DICK: Tell us a bit about Jack then.
PETE MURRAY: Jack was the most exciting person I have ever worked with. I was the compere. (Time 40:21) I don’t think I ever introduced anybody seriously because we did things like one day we did the whole thing …and, of course it was the first time they had an audience in shot … the whole thing was his idea, having the audience in the programme as much as anybody else on it. [Laughter] And he did the whole programme once with Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan in it, as an American army war film where we are behind the …(unclear) everything. It was genius because, apart from anything else, he was at Oxford University and he was president of the Oxford University Dramatic Society and one of the amazing things he did he had people coming down in baskets in that production of Julius Caesar. It was absolutely unbelievable. A brilliant man who went on to America and went to even greater heights. (Time 41:24)
MIKE DICK: It was the first time that on live TV that pop music was really …
PETE MURRAY: Oh yes, and funnily enough it appealed to everybody. It isn’t like a pop music programme that might appeal to one sector or another. There was something in it for everybody and that was the clever part about it.
MIKE DICK: Why was it called Six - Five Special?
PETE MURRAY: You know, I have no idea. Because it came on at five past six. That’s the reason, after the news programme I think.
MIKE DICK: The other interesting thing about it was they used to have Toddlers’ Truce with children … between five and six
PETE MURRAY: That’s right, that’s right
MIKE DICK: Sorry, six and seven they would have …
PETE MURRAY: Yes, that’s right you would have the …
MIKE DICK: And that was the first time the BBC started to …
PETE MURRAY: Yes that’s right
MIKE DICK: Bridge that gap
PETE MURRAY: Yeah.
MIKE DICK: The audiences were quite remarkable, 12 million people.
PETE MURRAY: I know, for that time of night unbelievable. I don’t think it has ever been beaten has it? I don’t think it has.
MIKE DICK: How much did you get paid for it? Do you remember?
PETE MURRAY: Thirty quid. (Time 42:32 )
MIKE DICK: You got more than Jack Good did
PETE MURRAY: [Coughs] I don’t know how much he got.
MIKE DICK: Eighteen pounds.
PETE MURRAY: Eighteen pounds. It wasn’t much. Mind you, I don’t know what thirty quid all that time ago is worth today. I can’t work those sort of things out.
MIKE DICK: Can you describe some of the artists who appeared on it.
PETE MURRAY: Well, the first ones were Lonnie Donegan, Tommy Steele. I think we had Dennis Lotis on, who was at that time one of the singers with the big Ted Heath band. I can’t really remember many of them, but then Don Lang came later because the original Six - Five Special signature tune was recorded by not Don Lang but by somebody else and I can’t remember his name now. (Time 43:22) But anyway, Tommy Steele and Lonnie Donegan were big at that time, very big. We had a bit of trouble with Lonnie Donegan because this was a relaxed programme and he insisted, at five past six in the evening, as a skiffle group, that he and his group would have dinner jackets on. There were murders over that. He got his own way but Jack Good was not a happy boy about that, not at all. Quite rightly because it was totally wrong for that time of day. You know, you can’t dress up like that in a dinner jacket. It was ridiculous.
MIKE DICK: To put it in context the first episode was on February 16th 1957.
PETE MURRAY: That’s correct.
MIKE DICK: But you were aware of the kind of impact the show was having?
PETE MURRAY: Not really. I’ll tell you the funniest thing. I thought after that everybody would recognise me. (Time 44:30) Now I used to play football in Regents Park with my son and Joan Collins’s brother, in Regents Park. And a guy comes up to me and he says … and I was playing with a friend of mine, another actor … He says “I have been watching you two” … Don’t forget I am doing Six - Five Special at the time. He doesn’t know who the hell I am … “I think you two got better form.” I said “Oh, that’s very kind of you to say so.” He said “Would you like to sign on. We call ourselves …” I can’t remember what they called themselves. I’ll think of it in a minute. It doesn’t matter. He said “You can sign on and …” Oh, I got more kick of signing that than anything you can tell. (Time 45:29) Anyway, we played in places like Hackney Marshes. I got kicked to death. They killed that fellow from television. … [unclear]. Sometime later we are going on, all of us, and other people, a massive one of those drive down to Torquay charity drives. Now I am on there with Freddie Mills who was a boxer and was also on the programme, champion boxer, and Josephine Douglas. They all knew them everywhere they went. I was ignored everywhere, everywhere I went, ignored, and I was getting depressed. Eventually, we get to another stop and this fellow says “I know you.” And I thought …[unclear] “I know you, you’re the outside left of the Scorchers.” which was the name of the team at Regents Park [laughter]
MIKE DICK: So it was interesting talking about the impact that Six - Five Special had because I was reading this book about the Beatles and they all watched that avidly.
PETE MURRAY: I know they did.
MIKE DICK: and every musician who came through skiffle, that’s where they all started
PETE MURRAY: Oh I know.
MIKE DICK: Inspiration. In real terms, in terms of music in this country that was a very very important programme to be involved in.
PETE MURRAY: It was. Yes, it inspired young people too. It was the first time young people had the chance to perform. I mean Tommy Steele was only 18 when he appeared. (Time 47:10)
MIKE DICK: The other interesting story is that Jack Good tried to get Elvis on the show as well. Did you know that?
PETE MURRAY: Oh, I know. He did everything to try to get Elvis on the show. But he also had people … He tried to get look alikes as well. He had a look alike for Bill Haley [laughter]. (Time 47:29) But they weren’t allowed anyway to come over here and perform. The Musicians’ Union would not allow American people. People like the well-known trombone player Jack Teagarden would appear but he couldn’t play his trombone because of the Musicians’ Union. This worked both ways. The same thing happened in America. The American Union wouldn’t have us.
MIKE DICK: Jack Good offered Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’s Manager
PETE MURRAY: He what?
MIKE DICK: Jack Good offered Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’s Manager, £100,000
PETE MURRAY: Did he really.
MIKE DICK: and Parker came back to him and said “That’s OK for me. Elvis is [Unclear]
PETE MURRAY: [Laughter] Yes, I say I can remember that.
MIKE DICK: What was the opposition on the other channels?
PETE MURRAY: You know, I don’t know. I have no idea but I don’t think there was any opposition to speak of. (Time 48:23) I don’t know what it was.
MIKE DICK: They would have given their right arm for it I would think.
PETE MURRAY: What?
MIKE DICK: They would have given their right arm. You were on 57 episodes I think.
PETE MURRAY: Yes.
MIKE DICK: What were the circumstances of your leaving then?
PETE MURRAY: The circumstances were that we did a … my agent at the time decided to put out a Six - Five Special Show wherever it went all around. The BBC said you can’t use that but we did and they said if you use that you are off. Now, they offered me to stay on. They sacked Jack Douglas and Freddie Mills, who had been regulars, and they offered me £75 a week which I would have been quite happy to stay on and do it but my agent said I wanted more so I lost the job. Prior to all this there had been this hassle with BBC Radio who wanted me to do a show. I went in to see Anna Instone, who was head of what they used to call, rather pompously, The Gramophone Department, (Time 49:32) and she said “We can offer you a job. You will have to give up your Radio Luxembourg recordings.” And I said “What are you going to offer me?” And she said “Well, we’ll offer you … You can have half an hour a week.” I said “How much are you going to pay for me?” “Thirty pounds.” I said well I am making a great … I am doing five shows a week for Radio Luxembourg. I am making a lot more than that. I am not prepared to give them up.
She said “You’re working for a record company or a group of record companies.” I said, “I know.” I said “I can’t give that up.” She said “You are on BBC Television, you must be on BBC Radio.” I said “Well I am sorry I can’t take it. I can’t give that up for something that’s minimal, to say the least.” And then she went to the other people, to EMI who had disc jockeys presenting their group of records and they asked EMI if they had an objection, (Time 50:32) and Phillips whether they had the objection to my appearing on BBC Radio although I was going to stay on Radio Luxembourg. There was no objection. I did my first programme … and I got a good programme too … I had a producer called Derek Chinnery who devised this whole idea of my having guests on the programme and interviewing them. It was his idea and it was very successful. It was called Pete’s Party and it went on at ten o’clock at night until two o’clock in the morning, the first time any radio station in this country had gone past midnight. I got a lot of first times and a lot of last times I might tell you but those were the first and I would like to talk about them. And I had on that programme, I think Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland. (Time 51:29) We only had big stars, every week, stars and they were mostly from … international stars as opposed to well-known and big in this country. You didn’t take somebody because they were on Coronation Street or anything like that. [Laughter] That wasn’t the scene.
MIKE DICK: What was the BBC like in those days then? Describe it.
PETE MURRAY: Well, they ’ll give you an idea. When, I had to … I didn’t script any of the stuff I did on my late-night programme but when I did a week on Housewife’s Choice and you have to write a script. I was pretty good at writing scripts phonetically quite well and you had to submit the script to the Assistant Head of the Gramophone Department, Douglas Lawrence. I got the script back … you know, they edit it and it said ‘See page six’. (Time 52:33) And I said something about “He is a very nice bloke”. They crossed bloke out and Mr. Lawrence had written right across the script “I think chap would be a more appropriate word.” That’s what the BBC was like. [Laughter] I can’t sum it up better than that.
MIKE DICK: You presented the UK section of the 1959 Eurovision Song Contest.
PETE MURRAY: Yes, I did. That was with Teddy Johnson and Pearl Carr “Sing Little Birdie” [Laughter] Dreadful. Yes, I did that. I did quite a number … I think I did three or four for the radio as well.
MIKE DICK: Again that was pretty early days of Eurovision. What was it like as a presenter having to deal with the technicalities. Shall we say
PETE MURRAY: Well I didn’t think much of it to be honest and I still don’t. (Time 53:30) I think it was better in those days because you were judged on the song not on the extravaganza that goes around, some of the people dressing up and all these things. It should be the song not necessarily the performance and its lost its whole meaning, whatsoever, in my opinion. Because there were some wonderful songs that never made the top and became standards. It’s amazing how many songs were successful.
MIKE DICK: And in your film career at that time? You were juggling all these different elements of your life, you were back with Michael Powell and Pressburger as well doing Peeping Tom. Was that part of your …
PETE MURRAY: No, no. Peeping Tom never.
MIKE DICK: Never, OK. I have got it down as 1960 [unclear]
PETE MURRAY: No I know what Peeping Tom was not in that. No. I did a lot of films for the Danzigers. About three or four. Crap reels …. We did them in about three weeks that sort of thing. One of them I had laryngitis. Well they said we will have to dub you in. I had to do the whole thing with laryngitis and when it was shown …(Time 54:42) I am very good at lip sync. I am used to doing that with commercials and things like that, lip sync and I had to go in and do the lip sync for them. When it came on the screen it was all out of … you know I was speaking one word and something else was coming out of there. It was dreadful.
MIKE DICK: Do you remember some of the titles?
PETE MURRAY: Oh god, no I can’t. I know I played an FBI …I only did these things because I always wanted to be an FBI man and I played an FBI man in one of them. [laughter]
MIKE DICK: Titles like Escorts for Hire
PETE MURRAY: Oh yes, that was when I was supposed to be a brilliant artist but I was a beatnik, filthy beatnik, and this lovely girl played by the late June Thorburn takes me under her wing and cleans me up. (Time 55:45) So, it is a My Fair Lady, My Fair Laddie rather than My Fair Lady. No, it was quite funny and when we were shooting in Chelsea, an exterior, there I was filthy dirty, muck in my hair and Maude Spector, who used to be a casting director for Rank, she said “Oh, hello Pete, how are you?” She didn’t know … there were no cameras around. She didn’t say what on earth has happened to you. [Laughter] Oh god. I thought really falling to pieces now.
MIKE DICK: The other title I was quite intrigued with was a Taste of Money. Do you remember that one? A taste of money 1960 it was.
PETE MURRAY: No, I can’t remember that.
MIKE DICK: I was just intrigued by the title more than anything.
PETE MURRAY: I can remember the title and I can remember doing it but I don’t know what the hell it was about. (Time 56:38)
MIKE DICK: Anyway, in 1959 there was another BBC TV show that came up called Juke Box Jury. Tell me about Juke Box Jury.
PETE MURRAY: Well that was … I was originally going to be the … they wanted me as the man in the seat but I was doing other things so I didn’t particularly want to be there every week. I was there most weeks but not every week. David Jacobs and I were great friends and there was murders over the whole thing because he was doing a late-night programme on Saturday nights and I was doing it on Sundays. We did an insult thing every week and rather they said ‘Don’t forget to listen to’, ‘No, I am not going to do that, don’t bother to listen to Pete Murray [Unclear]. So we assumed (Time 57:36) in our ego way that everybody knew what we were doing and it was fun. So, when we did this first one at the Shepherds Bush Empire in front of an audience … the audience knew because they were our people but people that didn’t know us were absolutely horrified. For example, I would say … He said something quite rude to me and I said I don’t understand you, you were never like this when you were running the toilets or something in Leicester Square, which had different connotations for a lot of people. I didn’t have that in mind but they did. Anyway there was terrible trouble over these banters that we had and Eric Maschwitz Head of Light Entertainment “I don’t know what I am going to do. We are getting calls and complaints.” Oh, god, terrible. (Time 58:43)
MIKE DICK: You worked with David on Juke Box Jury. Can you describe the format for future generations?
PETE MURRAY: Well they used to play … they played a record and you had to decide why you thought it was a miss or a hit. And the mistake they made with that programme, in my opinion, they would bring in people just for personality sake and they knew nothing about popular music at all. And the sort of things was such rubbish it was just ridiculous. Their reason … they thought over it, they didn’t want to be nasty so they made everything a hit. Anyway [Laughter] It was just ridiculous.
MIKE DICK: Who was producing it? Was it Bill Cotton?
PETE MURRAY: Well Bill Cotton did a few but there was different producers all the time. I don’t think any one person … I think Russell Turner did it for a while as well. I don’t know.
MIKE DICK: The first show was on 1 June 1959. Alma Cogan, Gary Miller and Susan Stranks.
PETE MURRAY: Yes, that’s right.
MIKE DICK: And you were the first Juke Box Juries …and it continued to 1967 and you were on the last one as well.
PETE MURRAY: That’s right, yes. (Time 59:54)
MIKE DICK: I notice that Alfred Hitchcock was a juror, staggered me completely …….
PETE MURRAY: I didn’t know that.
MIKE DICK: But people like Eric Sykes, Katie Boyle, Lulu, Cilla Black, I’m just trying to remember some of the …….
PETE MURRAY: Katie Boyle made the biggest faux pas of them all when they played a record by a singer called Toni Dalli and she says “I can’t stand these people who sing in Italian when they have no idea how to speak Italian.” When, of course, he was Italian. [Laughter]
MIKE DICK: In terms of TV again You also worked for ATV with Dora Bryan?
PETE MURRAY: Yes. That was called ‘Happily Ever After’ and unfortunately it was actually written by Americans and NBC, the National Broadcasting Company of America, (Time 1:00:56) actually sponsored the pilot we did for that. Now every station … that pilot was shown to every station…TV . There was a lot of them in those days, whereas there are only two now. It was shown to everyone and they all put in a bid for it, including the BBC. And Dora Bryan and I said please take the BBC. We will take less money and we’ll do it on the BBC. And, no, they wouldn’t.
MIKE DICK: Why was that then?
PETE MURRAY: They got more money from ABC. Now the point was ….
MIKE DICK: Sorry, what I meant Pete was why did you want to do it on the BBC?
PETE MURRAY: I will tell you why, I think the production would have been better. (Time 1:01:53) Secondly, ABC at that time it went on at 7.30. Fine. Down here it went on at midnight. Now that was because there was this jealousy of prime time. Thames wanted their own programmes at that time. Nothing against us, but you ain’t going there and picking our best time. So, that wouldn’t happen today because ITV is one company and so it should have been from the very beginning, except for opt outs. There should always be opt outs. But it actually knocked us sideways because you can’t build up … I mean in one place it was four o’clock in the afternoon or midnight or … You can’t build up … you don’t have an audience figure. The only audience figure you’ve got is in Manchester where you got a good audience figure.
MIKE DICK: What were your memories of working with Dora, then?
PETE MURRAY: Oh, she was wonderful and wonderful to be with. (Time 1:03:02) A very amusing woman. And we did it all in Manchester and the guy that directed it was Philip Jones who I’d known. He actually was one of the people who employed me at Radio Luxembourg because he worked in the London office. He actually devised one of the best programmes on Radio Luxembourg which I used to do with my cohort player, Peter Madren called Smash Hits. Where we used to have records and smash them. And the reason was people would write these unbelievable letters as to why they hated a song and they were so funny I can’t tell you. We had to record it because we couldn’t stop laughing. Mick Jagger said to me one day “I used to listen to you on Radio Luxembourg, Smash Hits” he said “The best programme ever that was.” [Laughter]
MIKE DICK: Well on the stage front, you starred in the musical Scarpa.
PETE MURRAY: Yes
MIKE DICK: Tell me about that
PETE MURRAY: Well that was a musical of a very successful play called Seagulls Over Sorento, and in it, we had Edward Woodward played the Scotsman, (Time 1:04:25) and David Hughes and myself. I played the part of Ronald Shiner, the cockney seaman. And it wasn’t exactly a thrilling review by the critics. One of the things they objected to was it being an all male musical, that went against us from the word go. I mean it was the time of homophobia and everything. And it didn’t deserve the kind of criticism it got. In fact, Jack Hilton who owned the theatre, he was the big impresario, Jack Hilton. He actually loved the show so much, when we weren’t doing well he didn’t charge any fees for the theatre, and also got us to do a whole big excerpt on Sunday Night at The Palladium. It didn’t do us any good, it flopped. [laughter]
MIKE DICK: Its one o’clock. Shall we cut it there just now
END OF VIDEO TAPE ONE
VIDEO TAPE TWO
MIKE DICK: So we’ve been talking about all these different facets of your career, how did you manage to juggle all these elements in …
PETE MURRAY: I don’t know really. One of the worst things I ever did was when John Whitney, who later became a very important man on, if you like, the ombudsman side of television … I don’t know, I don’t remember what it was called, I don’t remember, but he was, he was a man who decided if things were right or wrong. And prior to that, he invited me to do a programme, which was the only programme that was ever serialised, serialised? Not serialised, it’s not the right word, which was ever taken by every single ship, so I’m the only legal person who has only ever worked for a ship, I was on all the ships. (Time 01:09) T here were murders over that. The BBC threatened to sack me, Radio Luxembourg threatened to sack me, the whole cabush, I was working for ITV and BBC at the same time, they threatened to sack me. I have to thank the Daily Mirror for saving my life. Because in their leading article they wrote the BBC, The British Blackmail Corporation, and they dropped it all. Because I would be working for an illegal organisation. That was stopped right in the middle of doing a show with the, I think, The Small Faces, which included Rod Stewart I think, if I’m not mistaken, I think I’m right in saying in Bradford. (Time 02:08) The Musician’s Union came in and said they are not allowed to do this because they were playing live, they weren’t records, they were playing live. We went to all sorts of places to do these shows, and they decided that was it. That was the end of the programme.
MIKE DICK: We’ve reached the stage of the 60’s. No, we’re talking about the early ’60s at the moment. Describe how Britain had changed as a country …
PETE MURRAY: It had changed completely because youth took over, that’s really what it really was. And that’s largely down to The Beatles. The Beatles changed the whole way of life. It changed the whole scene of music, and they had this incredible ability of writing songs that would last, and the amazing thing is nobody wanted The Beatles, they went to Decca, (Time 03:10) Brian Epstein took them to Decca, to there, there, and the most unsuccessful record label was Parlophone, run by George Martin. And George Martin had a couple of minor hits with Matt Munro, and that was about it, and a couple of funny things with Peter Sellers, right, and there was another guy called Dick James who had been a singer, he sang the song for Robin Hood, and he became a music plugger for Sidney Bron, Eleanor Bron’s father, and he said “I’m going to start up my own publishing business.” I said “You’re going to lose everything.” He said “No I’ve got to try.” I said “You’ve got to have standards, you’ve got to have songs that last, you can’t just have hit records, they won’t keep you alive, (Time 04:12) you know it won’t pay your rent.” So, there’s two things happened, Epstein went to George Martin who had nothing and they went to Sid James the only music publisher that would take them. So, what happened? Dick James took …OK he had the hits, but he had standards as well. The songs lasted. Money coming in all the time. George Martin took the Beatles and we know the rest but nobody else would touch them.
MIKE DICK: Where did you first meet them then?
PETE MURRAY: I first met them doing a show called Thank Your Lucky Stars in Birmingham, which I did for a period of time. I did the first series, Brian Matthew took over, then I did the second series then Brian Mathew went back and I was doing something else. (Time 05:07) The funny thing was that when I was doing it … I did this for ABC, ABC Television and ATV did Lucky Stars and ABC had the half an hour before that and I did a series with an actress called Heather Sears who was … She had made a film, a big film, with Joan Crawford in America. She was a big star at that time. I don’t remember much about that series. I don’t even know what I played in it. That went on at 6.30, or maybe 6 o’clock and Lucky Stars at 6.30. I wouldn’t be too sure about the time and they insisted when I was doing this Heather Sears thing that I would be called Peter rather than Pete. (Time 06:10) So, there we have ‘Peter Murray’ in this particular series with Heather Sears and following along by ‘Pete Murray’ doing Lucky Stars. That became … they had leading articles about it in the papers as to why … what a snob I was I called myself Peter. It was nothing to do with me at all. It was the decision of the television company. You can’t argue with that. I had to be Peter Murray as the actor. Anyway, that is just one of the things that happened but the funny thing is that they followed each other. [Laughter] [pause] You haven’t got that in your notes.
MIKE DICK: I have.
PETE MURRAY: Oh, you have. Have I gone out of sequence?
MIKE DICK: No, you haven’t, absolutely perfect … you’re reading my script.
PETE MURRAY: Oh, I’m sorry
MIKE DICK: I think the next major thing, I guess is Top of the Tops because that … Thank Your Lucky Stars was the forerunner …
PETE MURRAY: Yes that’s right (Time 07:15)
MIKE DICK: And then Top of The Pops. The BBC had to respond to it
PETE MURRAY: Yes that’s right. Well Johnny Stewart came to see me about Top of the Pops … “This is what I’m gonna do”, and I really didn’t want to get involved with another … At this time, I was hoping that my acting career could overcome the image of a disc jockey. That’s what’s actually been my hang up as far as acting was concerned. And so, I said to him … He said “I want you to do Top of the Pops”. I said well … He said “It’s on every week.” I said “I don’t want to do every week. I’ll do it maybe once a month.” So, he got in David Jacobs, Alan Freeman and Jimmy Savile. That’s how it all started and Jimmy Savile did the first one. (Time 08:04)
MIKE DICK: It was done from Manchester wasn’t it?
PETE MURRAY: Pardon
MIKE DICK: … it was done from Manchester
PETE MURRAY: In Manchester at a disused Baptist Church if I remember rightly
MIKE DICK: Studio A, Dickenson Road
PETE MURRAY: That’s right. It was an old church.
MIKE DICK: Again, what do you get out of these memories of that
PETE MURRAY: Well, I can tell you a few stories about girls trying to get tickets. And I had a driver called Harry Mansfield, who was not young by any stretch of the imagination. I can’t be too deferential because he was a bit seedy. He is long gone now and I am sorry if I have to say that and I have hurt his relatives in any way but he wasn’t exactly a pin-up boy and the sort of things these girls offered … I am talking about fourteen-year old girls …to him to get tickets to Top of the Pops, unbelievable. Unbelievable. (Time 09:13) You think what is happening today, it was happening then. Very much so. He had nothing to do with that I hasten to add.
MIKE DICK: Musically again, it was quite an important era as well
PETE MURRAY: Yes, it was the era of Tom Jones, when Tom Jones came on and did It’s Not Unusual, I’m not sure of the date of that, whether it would have been in the first series or not but I got into a bit of trouble about that because I said “I’m going to introduce you to a man who is going to be not a pop star but a star and there is a subtle difference between the two, a big difference between the two. Tom Jones could fill Las Vegas. He could fill anywhere and he was a performer. (Time 10:06) Tom Jones could do anything. I wrote his first sleeve notes for his first album on which he did some beautiful standard songs and beautifully done that Nat King Cole would have been proud of, I am telling you. That man has more talent than most of them. He was a performer. The others … Oh, I think Mick Jagger is a performer to be fair, although he is with a group, he is a performer in no uncertain terms but not many of them are performers. The Beatles really weren’t performers. They were great songwriters and they put over their numbers very well but because of their looks and their youth they became international stars. Pop stars and that is the difference between a star and a pop star.
MIKE DICK: Dusty Springfield was around at the same time, as well.
PETE MURRAY: She was a star. (Time 11:10) In every sense of the meaning. Probably one of the best that I think we have ever had, I mean we have had good singers like Shirley Bassey and people like that but Dusty Springfield, like Tom Jones, could do anything. She could sing anything. She could do soul, she could do romantic songs. She could do anything. She was great.
MIKE DICK: It was interesting because it was such a creative time and I don’t think it has ever been really surpassed. All these kind of … musicians
PETE MURRAY: I certainly think more creative than it’s today…
MIKE DICK: I’m just trying to put my finger on … maybe you can put your finger on what it was that created this… huge impact
PETE MURRAY: Well, with due respect, even though it was pops, they were pop songs, they were songs you could remember. They were melodic. Even if they were, I mean The Kinks wrote some fantastic songs. I think Ray Davies is a very underrated song writer. (Time 12:10) I think the brothers who were … I can’t remember their name, I can’t believe I can’t remember their names. The ones that come from Australia … the Bee Gees.
MIKE DICK: The Gibb brothers.
PETE MURRAY: They were talented beyond means. They wrote great songs. I think these good song writers like Ray Davies and the Bee Gees lost out in their recognition because of the supremacy of The Beatles and the turn out of The Beatles was considerable.
MIKE DICK: Talking about the sort of music element. What were your personal creative types of music.
PETE MURRAY: My personal music … If you’re asking me what my personal music is?
MIKE DICK: I don’t mean now I mean at that sort of time.
PETE MURRAY: Oh, you mean of those sort of people. Oh right (Time 13:12)
MIKE DICK: I am not describing it particularly well. You’d be playing lots and lots of music on TV radio, etc. When you went home at night what sort of music would you be playing?
PETE MURRAY: When I went home at night.
MIKE DICK: Yes.
PETE MURRAY: Oh, do you know something, I have never played a record at home. Is that a terrible admission? Only to listen to a new record to see if I could use it for my programme. That is the only time I listen to records. I have never listened to a music station ever. I like Radio 4 and LBC that type of … I like current affairs more than I do music. Oh, I love music don’t misunderstand me. I love … I probably if I was going to listen to music, I would listen to … I know a lot of people would disagree with me but I love Wagner. (Time 14:12) A lot of people would say that, oh he was a Nazi but really you can’t judge a musician on his political … if he was a Nazi I am sorry he was but at the same time that can’t dissuade me from liking his music. I find it dramatic and exciting.
MIKE DICK: Back to Top of the Pops. So, you are working with Alan Freeman, David Jacobs and Jimmy…
PETE MURRAY: Not actually working with them…
MIKE DICK: No I meant that was the main rotation…
PETE MURRY: Yes that’s right, yes
MIKE DICK: The main rotation of … on Top of the Pops. Describe these characters …
PETE MURRAY: What David Jacobs?…
MIKE DICK: Alan Freeman what was …
PETE MURRAY: Well, Alan Freeman was the most outgoing man and a very, very … He was one of my favourites, I really liked Alan. And in a totally different way was David Jacobs. We were great, great friends, we were all great friends. We often … we played in two … a couple of films together as ourselves. (Time 15:18) We were on Sunday Night at The Palladium, as ourselves. We were the three top people. In those days we were lucky, there was no competition, nowadays to be a disc jockey, there are so many, it’s very hard on them to really make a name for themselves. And they do, of course, but not to the degree that we had, we were sort of, if you like, we were stars at the time. We really were I mean I am not saying that being big headed, it’s because we had the world at our feet. We had all the best programmes and I mean, I used to say about Alan Freeman, he did Pick of The Pops, he’s the only man that could introduce rubbish and make it sound fantastic. He was a very exciting disc jockey presenting that type of programme. Outstanding. Much better than anybody else. (Time 16:17)
MIKE DICK: You talk about fame. How did you cope with fame?
PETE MURRAY: Pardon?
MIKE DICK: How did you cope with fame?
PETE MURRAY: I never really looked at myself as famous, because I was always astonished when you know, I found, what I found difficult … and the only time I objected to anything was when I would be on a train and sleeping and somebody kicked my foot and said “Here, sign this.” Now I did find that a bit strong. I didn’t like it in a restaurant, but on a train, fast asleep, I thought that was a bit cheeky. I didn’t like that. But no, I’ve never … I suppose the thing is that I think I kept my feet on the ground, that’s one thing I have always done, because my view was that nothing lasts for ever, and one day you are going to be nothing. (Time 17:21) And you are going to meet the people you met on the way up and maybe you were rude to them so I was never rude to anybody. Not because … I didn’t like being rude to anybody, there were times when sometimes somebody really, you know, a director or producer, got on your nerves a bit. One man who I had great difficulty with … and later on they all said how awful it must have been for you … was a radio producer and I got a wonderful book from a woman in Edinburgh when I was doing a show there, Open House. And it was one of these books that identify people by their birth signs and it was the best book because it showed negative and positive. (Time 18:24) I came out as a definite negative Virgo [Laughter]. This guy came out as a negative Aries. It made me … because it was so accurate, it made me understand him and I was able to cope with it. So, I have a lot to thank that lady in Edinburgh, more than you can ever imagine.
MIKE DICK: Pursuing this little line about fame. What kind of circles were you moving in, what kind of doors did it open for you?
PETE MURRAY: Well, wherever you went, if you went to a restaurant they treated you unbelievably well, which they should do with everybody but it was unbelievable. All the doors were open everywhere you went, ‘Oh come in.’ Now all the doors are shut. [Laughter]
MIKE DICK: The other thing I guess I would like to know. What satisfaction did you get from your career at that moment in time? (Time 19:35)
PETE MURRAY: I enjoyed making hits. I always … I can remember there was a [Unclear] called Danny Williams who made an album. He got a hit with Moon River. Didn’t go as far as Andy Williams but he did quite well.
MIKE DICK: It was pretty high.
PETE MURRAY: Yes, he was in … He was a guy from Cape Town and I thought he was very great. He sang a bit like Johnny Mathis if I remember rightly. He did an album and there was a track on that album I said “That could be a hit”. “Pete your past it, you don’t know what you are talking about.” “That’s a hit record, that’s a hit record. Put it out as a single.” They didn’t and they wouldn’t and that song I turned over with Herb Alpert and it was a hit “This Guy’s in Love with You”. (Time 20:33) And I have done that many a time. I did that with a singer called Malcolm Roberts. He did a song for the Brazil Festival and they recorded and I said “You’ve made that the B side, that’s the wrong side.” “No, no, Phil Solomon who has got the record company scratched all that side so that people can’t play it. I said “I’m going play it.” Because you can’t scratch my copy and that was a hit. Yeah [Laughter]
MIKE DICK: You mentioned Jimi Hendrix, tell me about that experience, I am trying to get the chronology right let’s put it to 67/68 is it, are we talking that late, Hendrix?
PETE MURRAY: It might have been yes, I think probably about ’68 that would have been or ’69 (Time 21:36). Oh yes well, by that time, when they first did Top of The Pops they were miming to records, we’ve discussed that, and they recorded backing tracks, they had backing tracks which they, … ridiculous, if you were on three weeks you had to do different backing … you had to re-record the backing track each time you appeared on it. Absolutely barmy, but there you are, that was the rule. And on this occasion I’m sitting, I had just introduced Jimi Hendrix, and I’m sitting there reading a paper, and I suddenly see myself on the screen, and I think to myself something’s wrong, and I say “I think something’s wrong”, and I’ll tell you what that something is, they’re playing the wrong backing track, (Time 22:34) and the backing track they were playing was to Alan Price’s Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear, the look on Jimi Hendrix’s face was something I shall never forget as long as I live. I said “They’ve got the wrong track on, our apologies, we’ll sort it out in a minute.” and I went back to reading the paper [Laughter]
MIKE DICK: Were you live?
PETE MURRAY: What, live? Oh yeah, live. [laughter] Nearly dead. [laughter]
MIKE DICK: In the mid-sixties now. In terms of radio, I guess it was the era of the pirate radio ships.
PETE MURRAY: That had dissipated, yes.
MIKE DICK: What was your opinion about that?
PETE MURRAY: I think it was sad in a way, I mean, I used to listen to Radio London, a lot of people listened to the radio but Radio London for me was the best. I’ll tell you why it was the best because the best (Time 23:37 )… I always said I think being a disc jockey, you’re living off other people’s talent, you’re introducing records, you’re living off other people’s talent, until I listened to Radio London, and the amazing, incredible Kenny Everett, who I thought was the funniest man I have ever heard on radio. Funnier that all the comedians, and he used to do a programme on Radio London with Dave Cash called Kenny and Cash. Fantastic. They were fantastic together; Dave Cash was a great feed for him. I was driving around a lot in those days, opening shops and things like that, and when he … I hated being away from London, because it was only in London or South-East area, so I couldn’t wait to hear Kenny Everett, that’s how good I thought he was. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. (Time 24:45) And when he came back to England he had nothing, and somehow, I don’t know how, I got him round to my flat and said “I’ve got to help you, I’ve got to help you, you are so fantastic”, so I had a word with the people I worked with on Luxembourg, the Decca Company, and they said no, no, no we don’t want him, I said “This guy’s fantastic, you’ve got to use him, you’ve got to use him”, anyway they agreed to give him one programme a week, big deal. He was quite grateful for that, then he went on to [laughter] he went on Juke Box Jury, and when they played any of the records that he was plugging for Decca he slagged them all off, and they sacked him. But then I didn’t have any more contact with him because I did what I did because I admired him. I don’t help people for what I can get out of them. Anybody will tell you that, that’s one of my saving graces of everything, and his agent thought I was trying to nobble him. (Time 26:01) So, I didn’t bother any more. I had to give up, I can’t get involved with things like that. It’s the last thing that I would have done.
MIKE DICK: September ’67
PETE MURRAY: Yeah?
MIKE DICK: The BBC radio starts…
PETE MURRAY: Radio One
MIKE DICK: Tell us about that
PETE MURRAY: I was on Radio One and Two at the beginning of that, and it was quite funny, a lot of the people that wrote about the first thing they all congratulated me on my programme and nobody else [laughter] but mine was half Radio Two you see, so it was the people that liked Frank Sinatra, so to speak.
MIKE DICK: So it was precipitated by the pirate radio stations
PETE MURRAY: Yes, it was all done through Harold Wilson. Yes, Radio One
MIKE DICK: Now we have got the beginning of Open House.
PETE MURRAY: Yes (Time 27:08)
MIKE DICK: How did that …
PETE MURRAY: The original idea of Open House, it followed Housewives’ Choice, where they always used a different person to introduce Housewives’ Choice every week, that I would have guests on my programme who would read out requests. That was the original idea. But then it turned into and pretty immediately what I’d been doing on late night programme, I interviewed people, which was something I really enjoyed doing, and I enjoyed the challenge. I enjoyed the challenge of having difficult people on there. I can remember one actor who always gave terrible trouble to anybody like Parkinson or anybody but I just knew when he came in like he didn’t want to be there. So, I said “Tell me about the fishing you do in Florida” Straight away … he didn’t want to talk about … I got him on that and from then on, good as gold. The other thing I did with a girl called Rita Tushingham, and she was, and that was to be on television that was, but it’s a significant point, and on the rehearsal, she was schtum, nothing, so I remembered something in my head, then I said to her “Your team aren’t doing too well at the moment, are they?” “What do you mean?” She shot up like a ….(Time 29:04) [telephone rings] [pause]
MIKE DICK: We were talking about Open House, tell me about some of the people you had on that show.
PETE MURRAY: Well we started off with Cliff Richard., but that really wasn’t when I was doing the interviewing. The interviewing came later, it evolved, you couldn’t just have people coming in and reading this next record’s for Mrs. Brown in wherever she lived, so it turned into an interview thing. And you had to use psychology with a lot of people, particularly with people that really didn’t want to talk. A lot of actors are very shy, I can tell you so many. Some of them are very hard drinkers or were hard drinkers and are now gone, that were shy and they were drinking because they were shy. And they were drinking because they are in a profession that, even when they are successful, is still and always will be insecure. It has to be insecure because there is no security, you are just as good as your last film or your last play and if you start running into a few bum films or bum plays nobody wants you. (Time 30:34)
MIKE DICK: Did you have a great empathy with them?
PETE MURRAY: Oh I did. I think the fact that I was so shy when I was young gave me that empathy and it was very important that I had that empathy and I was able to use it and understand people. Now we had all sorts of people on the programme and I think I am right in saying that I was the first person to ever have a politician on the programme. And the first one, wasn’t a politician but she happened to be the wife, and a very lovely wife she was too, to Harold Wilson, that’s Mary Wilson. I put her on the programme and even had a recording of the cat they had, purring. I used that one. I said to Harold “Do you want to come on?” He said “No, no, Mary will come, Mary will do it.” She was terrific and, of course, she read one of her poems which wasn’t bad at all. One politician stands out in mind and that is Ted Heath and I have never met anybody as uptight as him. (Time 31:47) He was like a rod. Now sometimes you can be lucky and I was lucky because I was doing a personal appearance and the driver said to me “I drive Ted Heath.” “Oh” I said “Has he got any idiosyncrasies?” He said yes and he told me this idiosyncrasy and I used it on the air. I said “I want to ask you a very personal question” but, of course he thought that I was going to say ‘Are you gay’ or something like that. [impersonates Ted Heath’s “Mm mm”] I said “I have got on very good authority that you cannot under any circumstances pass a fish and chip shop without going in [impersonates Ted Heath’s laughter] and it was true he could not pass … he was mad about fish and chips. (Time 32:54) This driver gave me a line that I could use that would loosen the man up – perfect. [Laughter] Thank you driver.
MIKE DICK: You got out and about with the Open House series.
PETE MURRAY: Yes.
MIKE DICK: It was on for ten years. Describe …
PETE MURRAY: I was very pleased actually and very honoured that at the end of it all to be invited to places like … I went three times to the London Palladium, I did every Ladbrokes and Top Rank bingo hall in the country taking the show around. One of the most amazing ones is in Scotland. (Time 33:48) I am doing this Ladbrokes … I had to play Celtic and Glasgow you know that don’t you and this was a mixed one. The great job of doing a personal appearance in a bingo hall is that they want to get back to playing the bingo. I just had a little bit of fun with them – five minutes. They made me wear a kilt. You have got to wear a kilt. I said No. They went out and bought a kilt for me. I said “Well I don’t want to insult anybody.” “No, no, they’ll love it.” So, I wore a kilt And I love it I must say. I have still got it. As I got to get up and went to go and I said goodbye to them I … it brings tears to my eyes now, it really does … they sang “Will Ye No Come Back Again.” It was really quite something. (Time 34:49)
MIKE DICK: Fantastic.
PETE MURRAY: That really … Because they don’t like English men up there [Laughter] [adopts Scottish accent] “I don’t like Englishmen” [Laughter] That was … when you consider that Des O’Connor fainted on the stage of the Empire Theatre because he was so frightened. [Laughter]
MIKE DICK: Talking about your acting at this time, you had a series Mum’s Boys with Bernard Bresslaw and Irene Handl
PETE MURRAY: Yes, that was with that wonderful, wonderful woman Irene Handl and Bernard Bresslaw and I played her sons. She was fantastic. I remember seeing her … I had seen her in a film when I was young called … I don’t remember what it was called … and she played a maid with no dialogue, no dialogue at all and she stole the whole film, stole it. (Time 35:52) She was an unbelievable woman. She treated Bernard and I like her sons. I mean, and so funny. Now that went to number one, certainly in the London ratings and they said we’ll be doing another series. Six weeks and it was off. We never got another chance and yet it was very popular. What do you do? That’s the story of my life. [Laughter]
MIKE DICK: But in ’73 and ’76 you were voted BBC Radio Personality of the Year
PETE MURRAY: Yes. That was The Variety Club.
MIKE DICK: Those are important things in terms of getting some feedback and also appreciation of the kind of work that you were doing. You were pushing the boundaries of broadcasting as well
PETE MURRAY: I was very honoured to be honoured in such a way (Time 37:00)
MIKE DICK: There’s one person we haven’t talked about. You talked with great affection about ‘Fluff’ Freeman and Kenny Everett and people like that. The one person we haven’t mentioned yet is Jimmy Saville. Tell me about Jimmy.
PETE MURRAY: Jimmy Saville I first met through an Irish friend of mine, I was going out to play football for The Showbiz 11, in Nottingham, he said I’ll come up with you and we’ll go and stay with Jimmy Saville, I said “Who’s he? “He’s the manager of the Locarno in Leeds. He’s got an E Type Jag and a Rolls Royce.”, I said “How can he do that as a manager of a … “ Anyway, we went up there, and prior to the football game we went to Jimmy Saville’s house and you had to know … it was like being in a Safari Park the grass was as high as a mountain. We got in there and we were sitting on crates … (Time 38:03) and we’re staying with this man. Anyway, his chatting away … He has got a few girls in there … “I love Jim” they kept saying “I love Jim”. [Imitates Jimmy Savile] “They all love me, ha ha ha.” So, no question of anything happening whatsoever. No knowledge of him at all. We went out for a meal. He didn’t pay for it because everything he got for nothing, for some reason or other. Then we went to the Locarno Ballroom and he was playing the hits of the day. He said [Jimmy Saville accent] “That’s enough of that, that’s enough of that, that’s enough of that. I want you all to be very quiet, quite now, quieten down, Jim has spoken, quieten down.” And he put on Tchaikovsky and they stood there stunned, listening. (Time 39:08) Now if anybody else would had done that they would have thrown things at them. They would have thrown things at me if I had done it, but not him. Now I will tell you something about Jimmy Saville, whatever has been said about him, he was very charming. You see people …You introduce him to people and they go “Urgh, urgh, what a horrible man”. Five minutes got them charmed, all of them. Look at the people he charmed, Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair. Charmed them to death. Charmed even to the degree of the then Cardinal in Westminster. (Time 39:58) To the degree that the Cardinal recommended him to the most prestigious club in London, The Athenaeum, to which he was accepted. The Cardinal was not a fool but he was taken in by this man completely. I honestly believed that Jimmy Saville was quite certain that at some future date, maybe in many years to come, thought he was going to become a saint. I honestly believe that. He really did believe it. He did a lot of good work in raising money for charity but is has been suggested that by doing this charity work, it was a way of hiding behind that charity. (Time 40:59 ) In other words, I know people have said to the Press many times in the past, maybe ten, twenty years ago, “You know he has dubious sexual activities”. They said “Yes we know” and they said “Well, why don’t you write about them. They said “We can’t because of the charity work he is doing”. That’s part of the reason he did that.
MIKE DICK: Did you work alongside him in lots of different things …
PETE MURRAY: No I didn’t really. I think the only time we actually were on a television or a radio show to gether was when we were all on Juke Box Jury. Yeah.
MIKE DICK: Did you ever figure out what made him tick?
PETE MURRAY: I just thought he was a very clever, indeed devious, man. I can remember some of the things he said … (Time 42:03) One of the things that really disturbed me more than anything, and I don’t know why he did it but we were in Television Centre, and I was in my dressing room, and he came into my dressing room and he said [adopts Jimmy Saville accent] “We’ve got to get all these bloody immigrants out, all these bloody blacks.” I said “You can’t …what are you talking about. You can’t talk like that Jimmy.” I said “You have got people outside here listening to what you are saying. You can’t talk like that. It’s so wrong, you can’t think like that.” But he was obviously, I don’t know, he wasn’t a drinker, he didn’t drink, and he wasn’t drunk, and he wasn’t on drugs. Why did he come in and talk to me like that? (Time 42:57) I couldn’t believe it. He was very anti immigrants. It’s something I found … That’s the most strange thing about him because he was so careful about what he said. He was so clever about the way he manipulated people. Why did he come in to me, at the top of his voice making those sort of statements?
MIKE DICK: How was he regarded within the profession, shall we say?
PETE MURRAY: Well within, the people that knew him, no, except a few people trying to emulate him. Of course, the BBC hierarchy thought he was God. (Time 43:53) They actually thought he was a saint. [Laughter] They really do and they had no perspective in that respect whatsoever. No perspective at all. I mean, on one occasion, one of the studio managers said he went into one of the heads in the hierarchy and said he’d been interfering with a girl. “Oh”, he said “It’s just Jimmy fooling around, don’t take any notice of that.” And, of course, he was very clever with the police. I think he entertained them quite a lot in many ways. And you go back to I think it was 1959 when he was first had up for possible paedophilia. When you think of how many years he got away with it, it’s incredible. How he had the open door to Broadmoor. He had the open door to, various hospitals, like the hospital in Leeds. (Time 45:02) I mean, it is just incredible.
MIKE DICK: I think we will move on to more positive things shall we say.
PETE MURRAY: Yes.
MIKE DICK: Open House, I think opened, in terms of broadcasting, doors for you, I’m thinking in terms of mid-week and more serious types …
PETE MURRAY: Yes, I did a bit of mid-week as well, I didn’t have the …. I had to give that up because quite frankly doing all these other things I really couldn’t cope with that. There was so much research I had to do, and that’s not my way of working, I like to work off the cuff.
MIKE DICK: It’s one of the questions I wanted to ask about that was how you put the show together, because it was such a change of direction …
PETE MURRAY: What, Open House you mean?
MIKE DICK: No I meant working on Mid-Week
PETE MURRAY: I had to learn. I had a lot of research to do and I had a lot of research done for me, and I had to read so much. (Time 46:03) I had to keep people in control in as much as that they all wanted to talk at once and I’m quite strict on that, and I was quite good at that … but I probably wasn’t, not really, I didn’t have wide enough knowledge to really cope with that, in my opinion. I wasn’t happy doing it, I wasn’t relaxed doing it, there are so many things to think about, keeping people in order, making sure that I stopped them if I thought they were saying the wrong sort of thing, not necessarily disagreeing with what they said but because I thought it might have been out of context or out of order you know.
MIKE DICK: Were you happy with that sort of move or was it …
PETE MURRAY: I would have been happy to do it later. I don’t think I was right for it at the time. I would be quite happy to do it now, but of course nobody wants an old fool like me on the radio [laughter]
MIKE DICK: What were the circumstances behind you leaving the BBC in ’83 then
PETE MURRAY: Well, I’m afraid it was political, a big mistake. (Time 47:12 ) Very big mistake. At that time, I mean I have always been very friendly with Harold Wilson. I mean he was responsible for me having my OBE, and at that time I thought that Britain was in a very dangerous situation, very dangerous politically. Neil Kinnock was unable to control his party and it was riddled with people who I think if they got their way would have destroyed the country for everybody, working class, everybody, it’s nothing to do with that, just people that weren’t right for governing this country, so I gave my support to Mrs. Thatcher, which I regret enormously because nobody in showbusiness should get involved in politics. Nobody, whether it’s left or right, no way. But I thought, at that time and I think, I might be right at that time she was right for the country. (Time 48:19) The fact that she became, like most of them do, they lose reality completely, and she did. Lost all reality. But that’s the sad part about politics, it often happens. But really, I’m not a Conservative, I’m not a Labour, I’m not Liberal, I’m nothing. I agree with many things at this time that Jeremy Corbyn, a lot of thing I agree with him, a lot of things I disagree with him. I’m afraid I don’t like Mr. Cameron at all. [laughter] I think he is a typical PR man.
MIKE DICK: So you moved to LBC
PETE MURRAY: I loved that
MIKE DICK: Tell me about that …
PETE MURRAY: Well I had some very embarrassing moments on that. (Time 49:10) One of the first interviews I had to do was with the Vice President of Nicaragua, so I said to my producer “Where’s the Vice President of Nicaragua?” “Oh” he said, “We’re doing it on the line.” “We’re doing it on the line” I said, “Why? …” He said “Don’t worry about it, we’re doing it on the line.” Anyway, he came on. “Good evening Luciano Ferrate” or whatever his name was he said “Good evening to you sir.” and I asked him a couple of questions, and he didn’t like the questions much, and I gave him a couple more and he said “I thank you very much” I said “Pardon”, he said “Thank you very much, I have to go now.” “Well, you’re on for an hour.” Now I’m hysterical. No records to play or anything. “You’re on for an hour.” “No, I have to go, adios amigo.” Off he goes. (Time 50:11) Put the commercials on, that’s all we could do. I said “What are we going to do?” As luck would have it we had our diplomatic correspondent there, who happened to be there at that late time of night – amazing that he should be there – so I quickly rush him in. I said “What do you know about Nicaragua?” He said “Bugger all”. I said “Oh Christ” I said “You should do, you’re a diplomat.” He said “I don’t know anything about Nicaragua.” So, I said we have to talk about the Presidential election. So, we did that for the next hour with calls from the public. [Laughter] Another time I had Phillip Hodson who dealt with bereavement and personal problems, sexual or otherwise. Normally if you spoke to anybody we called them Charles of Chelsea, or Charles of Tottenham or whatever but with this particular excerpt of the programme we didn’t identify anybody by where they lived. (Time 51:21) And this man came on … I had heard him on LBC before he came on and said “Good Evening, Mr. Hodson.” He said “I’d like to tell you about a bit of a problem I’ve got at the moment. Five years ago, I lost me wife, she was 84.” He said “Oh I’m sorry to hear that is that why you are calling about bereavement?” “No, no” He said “No, I’m 84 now, she were five years older than me, ’cos she died at 84.” “Oh” he said “Well how can I help you?” Well, he said, “I find it very difficult to bring this subject up, with somebody I don’t know” he said “but you’re a sympathetic man, I just want to know if it’s alright for me to masturbate.” He said “Oh yes, yes if you really want to.” He said “How often do you think I can do it? He said “Well you don’t want to overdo it, you’ re 84 years of age.” (Time 52:27) He said “Two or three times a day?” “Well yes, amazing if you really want to but I think you have got to think in terms of your heart and don’t get too excited with masturbation.” So, I couldn’t resist it, I had to but in before he left, I said “I want to ask you a question Charles. When your wife was alive five years ago at 84 when she died were you having sex?” He said “Right up to about three days before she kicked it.” I said “Really” He said “Mind you Pete boy it wasn’t easy. I said “Why was that?” He said “She had arthritis, I had terrible trouble turning her over.” [Laughter] That was one of my first programmes on LBC. You get a variety on that I tell you. [Laughter]
MIKE DICK: We’ll cut there for a second. You did This Is Your Life. Tell me how that happened. (Time 53:41)
PETE MURRAY: Well, I had no idea about it at all. And I had I don’t know what… Marjorie Wallace was in the studio at the time and she was Miss World and having an affair … I didn’t know whether the affair had started with Georgie Best or not but it wasn’t far off and Eamon Andrews appeared and I assumed it was for Marjorie Wallace and I pointed to her and said “There she is” I said. “Oh, it’s you.” But I was very disappointed with that, I would have like my man from the RADA to have been on, the man who changed my life more than anything, Colin Chandler.
MIKE DICK: But in terms of a tribute to you, you and your career and your life it must have been, you know an .
PETE MURRAY: Yes, it was. (Time 54:46) It was an honour but there was a couple of people on I wouldn’t have had on if I had had anything to do with it because they were two very well- known stars and I played a small part in both their films and they didn’t even say good morning to me when I was working for them and I thought what the hell are you doing on my This Is Your Life for god sake but they were there.
MIKE DICK: Presumably, there were one or two people who you would like to have had …
PETE MURRAY: Oh yes. A lot of people that should have been on and never were.
MIKE DICK: Who else in your life do you think has influenced you?
PETE MURRAY: It’s hard, professionally it’s hard to say really. (Time 55:29) I suppose I could go back to Derek Chinnery and say it was he that decided … thought it would be a good idea to have guests on my late night programme and therefore it was he that changed my whole way of life as presenting a programme in as much as I had guests on my programme. And I had everybody. I had some very difficult people on that programme I can tell you, like Tony Curtis, a very difficult man. He wanted to go after we’d played one record. I said “No you are staying here for …” I made him stay. I made them all stay. They never got away. He was difficult. Warren ‘Batey’ was very difficult. Warren Beatty – Warren ‘Batey’. Why he calls himself ‘Batey’ for I don’t know and his sister was very difficult, Shirley Maclaine. (Time 56:34)
MIKE DICK: Who were the people who really you thought were good people, these are interesting people, to interview?
PETE MURRAY: Oh, I think Barbara Woodhouse. I had already done a television show with her down in Southern Television and I thought she was a fantastic woman with animals. Oh, she was completely … she was so open and so funny. I mean she was just so … She was certainly one of my favourites. I loved Barbara Woodhouse and Kenneth Williams was always good value. Kenneth Williams, amazing. I loved that man. I thought he was wonderful.
MIKE DICK: What were the qualities that appealed to you?
PETE MURRAY: Her qualities?
MIKE DICK: No Pete. Kenneth Williams.
PETE MURRAY: Total honesty. Total and abject honesty. You could never get Kenneth to tell anything but the way he felt it, one hundred percent. (Time 57:35) Very unlike most actors but he was a damn good actor as well. Only known for Carry On films which was rather sad but he was a very good actor.
MIKE DICK: Pete, it has been a huge honour to sit here and interview you. It really has. The scale and the range of your career is quite remarkable. If you look back on it what are your final reflections on your career?
PETE MURRAY: I suppose if I were to be perfectly honest I have enjoyed every aspect of my career … but I suppose if I were to be totally honest I would like to have reached the top as an actor. (Time 58:26) I know I received many plaudits and I was very fortunate in having received those plaudits but it didn’t bear fruition unfortunately but then that was partially my own fault for becoming a disc jockey. [Laughter] I would like to say how much I have enjoyed talking to you Michael, Thank you very much.
MIKE DICK: Thank you ever so much.