Former Portsmouth DJ dresses stages for Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi and other top acts

Kevin Greenwood
Kevin Greenwood
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As a boy Kevin Greenwood was constantly told he would never make anything of his life.

Born at Emsworth, his father was in the RAF and his early years were spent, like most service families, on the move.

A posting to the Netherlands meant he could speak Dutch long before he had mastered the English language.

Then there were years in Cyprus which came to an abrupt halt with the Turkish invasion of that island in 1974.

When the family returned to Britain and the Portsmouth area Kevin was sent to Oak Park School, Leigh Park, where, by his own admission and to put it mildly, he did not flourish.

‘Even my parents and grandparents kept telling me I wouldn’t amount to anything – let alone the teachers.

‘I didn’t sit any CSEs certanly not O-levels. I wasn’t that sort of kid, but deep down I knew I would succeed somehow.’

And triumph he did, in spades. Or perhaps that should be ‘in vinyl and mesh soft goods’.

For the kid with no hope from ‘one of the roughest schools in the area’ has made his fortune in the United States by creating the stages for some of the biggest events in the world.

If you’re watching the finals of the US Open tennis tournament at Flushing Meadows, New York, this weekend, your TV presenters and their studio guests will be broadcasting from sets built by Kevin Greenwood’s firm Stage Tops USA.

This year alone he has dressed the skeletal aluminium trusses of stages constructed for stadium concerts by Mumford & Sons, Taylor Swift, Foo Fighters, Billy Joel and, at Nashville, not far from his home, for the Rolling Stones.

In recent years there has been work for gigs by Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, U2, Bon Jovi and Elton John.

He has designed and dressed the temporary building for the biggest post-Oscars party, the Vanity Fair venue to which only winners of the little golden statues have entry.

Then there was the summons from the royal family in Dubai to create a temporary structure in Doha to which the world’s great and good were invited in an attempt to put it firmly on the tourism map.

Kevin, 54, was visiting his sister at North End, Portsmouth, when we met, his Pompey accent still prominent despite the trans-Atlantic twang.

There’s not a hint of swagger about him as his finger flickers across his iPad showing me pictures of the huge stages he has decorated around the world.

He is immensely proud of his roots (‘I still have my Pompey scarf on the front of my desk back home in Manchester, Tennessee’) and particulary his working start to life while he was still an Oak Park pupil.

Older readers, those who frequented what were called discos in the 1970s and ’80s, will remember DJ Kev G on the Portsmouth circuit.

His eyes sparkle as he recalls his nights spinning vinyl at the Gaiety Bar on South Parade Pier, the Some Place Else club, Gatsby’s at North End, Fifth Avenue, Southsea, The Tricorn Club, The Victory Club, Jokers and Hoddies, an after-hours drinking club. ‘And, of course, the big one – the Mecca in Arundel Street.’

He adds: ‘I was still at Oak Park when I became a roadie for DJ Malcolm Drew, carting boxes of records, decks and speakers around the city.

‘I loved the life and couldn’t wait to get out of school. All I wanted to do was be a DJ. And that’s what I became after watching guys like Steve Kingsley, Bob McCartney, the Paraphernalia Roadshow and Frantic Fran.

‘We all used to meet in the early hours after we’d finished work and go to a burger van or a curry house.

‘They were wonderful days and I was educating myself. I was much more streetwise than bookwise.’

‘Kev G’ was working at Sinah Warren holiday camp at Hayling Island when someone from a hotel complex approach him.

‘He asked me if I’d ever thought about working overseas. I thought why the hell not, this could be my big chance. So I became an international DJ.’

For 10 years he travelled and stayed in five-star hotels working for long periods in Cairo ‘where I had a view of the pyramids every morning’ Jordan and Morocco.

He eventually ended up in California with his first wife and a newly-born son and needed work.

‘I’d do anything to make a few dollars and like everything else that’s happened in my life, I got lucky. I was in the right place at the right time.’

I was in Hollywood and met someone who asked me if I’d ever considered decorating sets for films and TV shows.’ He hadn’t but he had a go and found he had a talent for it.

‘I supplied stuff for between 400 and 500 movies and television shows for 10 years, films such as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Grumpy Old Men one and two, the second one with Sophia Loren.

‘Then I started making things for the sets, draperies I suppose you call them, when an English guy I met at an event asked me what I thought of his stage.

‘I told him it was crap and he asked me if I’d like to have a bash.

‘Didn’t work out too badly did it?’ continues Kevin who formed his company 22 years ago.

His firm has now been invited to dress stages at next year’s Superbowl in the United States, the second time it will have done the job.

‘When we did the Rolling Stones’s stage at Nashville earlier this year it cost about 90,000 dollars just to cover the roof of the stage.

‘I think I’ve found my niche now and for the boy who was told he ain’t goin’ nowhere in life, I think I’ve proved them all wrong.’