NOSTALGIA: DJ Pete is pick of the pops at 70 after a lifetime behind the decks
You could say that life for Portsmouth DJ Pete Cross has been in a spin since he was 20.
There’s been no nine-to-five drudgery for him. Even before he opted for a life behind the decks he worked odd hours, for he started his working life with WH Smith on the concourse at the Portsmouth & Southsea station in 1962.
Back then stars of the shows at places like the Guildhall and Kings Theatre travelled by train and he remembers serving The Searchers, Herman’s Hermits , Bud Flanagan, Dick Emery and magician David Nixon. You may remember Janice Nicholls the ‘Oi’ll give it foive’ girl who used to appear as a judge on pop show Ready Steady Go in the 1960s. She was lost at the station and Pete took her for tea and toast in the buffet.
Pete was born where all legends are born, St Mary’s Hospital, Milton, on December 18, 1947, and today he’s 70.
In 1947 the family lived in Southsea but moved to Nessus Street, Stamshaw, where Pete was brought up.
He went to Flying Bull Infant and Church Street Junior School and then Kingston Secondary Modern.
As we did back then, he left school at 15 and joined WH Smith. His shifts were 6am to 2pm which left him time to do other things.
He worked there for four years before becoming a milkman for Gauntlett & Walkers dairy. Again, starting work very early and finishing early.
When he was 11, Pete’s mother worked at Kimbells in Osborne Road and the Savoy Ballroom, Southsea, and sometimes he used to go with her.
He lived for the radio and sometimes saw the stars from the airwaves live. This fired an interest in music. Obtaining a reel to reel tape recorder he used to tape the top 20 from the radio and play the tape at the local youth club.
Pete then started buying records and to date has a collection of 25.000 albums and singles.
In 1967 local musician Dave Martin, from the group Wrong Direction, invited Pete to a gig in Bournemouth. When the band took a break there was silence and Dave suggested Pete took his record player to a gig. They fed it through the band’s sound system and Pete played records during the break. His new career had started.
When the Tricorn Cabaret Club opened in 1967 Dave suggested he went for an interview. Pete got the job as resident DJ. So many people got up to dance when Pete played that the management changed the club to a discotheque. It soon became one of the most popular clubs in the south.
Pete, now becoming rather cool, performed three nights a week for £14 pounds with rising bands such as Slade, Mud, Status Quo and Sweet. It was at this time, when driving the Gauntlett’s milk float, that he would duck under the dashboard if he saw someone he knew from the club.
With the Tricorn taking off, Pete became a full-time DJ, a career which lasted 50 years.
His mobile work took off with a residency in Guildford on the nights he had off from the Tricorn. He was soon appearing at venues from Ramsgate to Bournemouth.
His first public gig? It still gives him nightmares.
It was at Johnson & Johnson’s social club at Paulsgrove. He was used to playing the top 20 to young twentysomethings, but the club audience were in their 40s and 50s. He bombed and turned to Max Bygraves for future similar gigs.
He then started using material such as Max Bygraves’s SingalongaMax albums to cater for older punters.
He has performed more than 12,000 gigs including five on the royal yacht Britannia and the carriers Hermes, Ark Royal and Invincible.
When he gigged across the water at HMS Dolphin he had to turn off his light show as it was affecting shipping entering and leaving Portsmouth Harbour.
Another gig Pete was involved with was the Solent Enterprise trips out to the Solent. One of the old Gosport ferries was transformed into a disco with a light show and bar. It cruised about the Solent providing an evening’s entertainment.
After working for agencies for many years Pete decided to go into the business himself and bought into KM Entertainments and in 1997 went alone as the Pete Cross Agency (PCA).
For the past ten years Pete has been a presenter on Angel Radio based in Havant. He has a 1960s show on Saturday mornings 9-11am plus other programmes during the week and has a huge following all over the country and the World via the internet.
So, I wish Pete a very happy 70th birthday today. His wife of 45 years, Jan, has taken him on a surprise cruise in the Mediterranean so he will read this on The News website.