THE TONY PRINCE STORY
THIS IS MORE THAN TONY PRINCE’S STORY. IT’S THE STORY OF THE DJ INDUSTRY BOTH HERE, IN AMERICA AND THE REST OF THE WORLD. IT’S THE STORY OF POP MUSIC’S STRUGGLE FOR AIRTIME, THE DEVELOPMENT OF POP RADIO IN THE UK, AND HOW TV FINALLY GREW TO ACCEPT MUSIC.
THESE DEVELOPMENTS ARE MAPPED THROUGHOUT TONY’S CAREER AND HIS PASSION FOR DJ’S AS ARTISTS. HIS AMAZING ADVENTURES IN MUSICLAND BEGAN WHEN HE WAS EXPELLED FROM THE BRITISH MUSICIAN’S UNION.
APART FROM BEING A LEGENDARY FIGUREHEAD IN RADIO, TONY IS RECOGNISED AS ONE OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL PLAYERS IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF CLUB CULTURE. HE PUBLISHED AND EDITED MIXMAG, WAS THE FIRST PERSON TO PROMOTE DJS TO IBIZA, HE MET ELVIS TWICE, AND DID THINGS WORKING CLASS KIDS FROM OLDHAM WOULD NEVER DREAM OF DOING, NOT LEAST CLIMBING A 180 FOOT MAST WITH TONY BLACKBURN ON RADIO CAROLINE!
THE STORY REFLECTS THE BITTER SWEET FUN AND CHALLENGES HE FOUND IN A 50-YEAR CAREER DEEP WITHIN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY.
TONY PUTS HIS SUCCESS IN THE DMC YEARS DOWN TO HIS WIFE AND PARTNER CHRISTINE, HIS SON DANIEL AND DAUGHTER GABRIELLE, TOGETHER WITH OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS WHO HAVE HELPED HIM TO MAINTAIN ONE OF
THE MUSIC INDUSTRY’S MOST POWERFUL DJ DYNASTIES.
Tony was born into a working class life in Oldham, an only child to a scrap metal worker. His gran was a landlady and his family also owned a pub for a time.
At 15 he became an apprentice jockey in Yorkshire sharing a jockey’s life with Willie Carson.
In 1959 he borrowed Ringo Starr’s cowboy boots to enter a singing contest at Butlins Holiday Camp where he won a boot polish kit! Here he met a group of musicians from his hometown who invited him to be the lead singer. They were widely popular in Lancashire and known as The Jasons.
In 1962 an 18 year-old Prince introduced the Beatles on stage at the Top Rank Astoria in Oldham, the night they first went to No.1.
At the age of 20 Tony was thrown out of the Musician's Union for playing records and breaking their ‘Keep Music Live’ rule.
In 1965 in Bristol he became a regular compare on ‘DISCS A GOGO’ a television show where he also helped the producer to select the bands including The Beatles, and all the big names of the day. One of his guests was Tony Blackburn who enthused him about life as a pirate radio DJ on Radio Caroline.
Subsequently Tony joined Blackburn on Radio Caroline and had countless adventures including climbing to the top of the ship’s 120ft mast in a force 10 storm to help to put the station back on air.
He lived with DJ colleague the Emperor Rosko, with whom he shared a London apartment as they contributed to making the 60s into the swinging 60s.
After a short spell on Radio Caroline South, the Royal Ruler, as he became known, spent two years on RADIO CAROLINE NORTH which became the subject of the Richard Curtis film THE BOAT THAT ROCKED, (titled Pirate Radio in the USA).
Tony inspired his colleague Mick Luvzit to marry DJ Ugly Ray Terret’s sister Jan on board ship!
Between Caroline and Luxembourg he appeared on Coronation Street and in Pantomime in his hometown. There were now only two radio jobs in the UK, the newly formed BBC Radio One, or the revamped Radio Luxembourg.
In April 1968 Prince joined Radio Luxembourg as part of their first live team with Noel Edmonds, Kid Jensen and Paul Burnett.
He participated in Noel’s first Gotcha when Noel killed Tony’s wife to fool Kid Jensen in a hilarious set-up. Tony and Kid were chased around a
Luxembourg park by two ‘escaped’ gorillas, another of the many wind-ups which set the stage for life in the Grand Duchy which also saw Prince as the lead singer with the other DJs in a local nightclub.
He became President of the Osmond’s Fan Club and caused the Heathrow Queen’s Building to collapse after giving fans the Osmond’s arrival time!
One night in August 1979, he dived into the freezing Thames to save a man from drowning and received an award for bravery.
Although he was called to Broadcasting House by the Controller of BBC Radio 1 and 2, Douglas Muggeridge after meeting him in Luxembourg at the Eurovision Song Contest, Tony was snubbed by the BBC throughout his career for a comment he made to a journalist in 1969, where he was quoted as saying ‘The best thing about living in Luxembourg is that I can’t receive Radio 1 on my radio!'
Tony eventually spent 16 years with Radio Luxembourg becoming Programme Director and employing Steve Wright, Mike Read and Timmy Mallet and other great DJs before they all left the station for their BBC careers.
He has sung with Paul McCartney more than anyone outside of the Beatles and Wings having compered Paul and Linda’s ‘Buddy Holly Week’ for many years.
Tony was the first DJ in the world to interview Elvis in his Las Vegas Hilton Hotel dressing room on two occasions. He introduced Elvis on stage and appeared in the film ‘That’s the way it is”. Tony’s photo standing next to Elvis remains on the wall of the Trophy Room in Graceland. He also became Honorary President of the Elvis Presley Fan Club.
He changed the entire Radio Luxembourg format to a more disco and soul music style, including ‘Black Friday’ and shows such as the USA Imports, Top 30 Disco and, the show which changed his life, The Disco Mix Club Show, the world’s first music mixing format to feature club DJ creations. Here was where the word ‘megamix’ was first used.
In 1983, inspired by the DJ mash-ups, Tony left his radio career behind to launch DMC, (The Disco Mix Club), a DJ record subscription club after obtaining the world’s first ever license from the music industry to permit mixing music and sales to DJs and club managers. For the
music industry the club provided free record promotion, for the DJs, ready made mixes in a day and age when many had yet to learn the art.
Pioneering DJ remixers started to develop their art whilst throughout 1983 and into 1984 the Radio Luxembourg programme continued to inspire club DJs to put the microphone down and make music as well as play it. The wave of interest saw many club DJs starting to request the mixes they’d heard on Luxembourg.
Simon Cowell promoted DMC’s record label and the first ever DJ remix hit Tina Charles’ ‘I LOVE TO LOVE’. In the 80s DMC launched STRESS Records, which saw the production debut of numerous club DJs who went on to become major players.
Tony managed leading DJs including Sasha, whilst he had hits with other DJs who became producer/artists including LA Mix, Chad Jackson and John Digweed (who signed to Prince’s STRESS label).
Tony also negotiated the first ever fee for a DJ produced mix, (Wham ‘Club Fantastic’ which George Michael tried to ban).
With his experience as a columnist for Fab 208 magazine and various Luxembourg publications, Tony decided to launch and edit MIXMAG which became the world’s first club culture magazine, and was sold in 1997 to EMAP in a bidding war with IPC. The magazine remains the clubber’s bible today and is now challenged online by DMC’s own magazine edited, by Tony's son, Daniel Prince.
The company hired the Royal Albert Hall to launch the World DJ Championship which DMC still promotes today. It was during the first truly World Championships that the ‘scratch’ was first featured (DJ Cheese) thus developing the ‘4th Element of Hip-Hop and the birth of turntablism around the world.
In 1987 Tony was in Ibiza celebrating Paul Oakenfold’s birthday with numerous DJs in a villa, when the decision was made to make Ibiza the world’s capital of clubland. DMC launched Nightlife Holidays to take DJs and clubbers to the island. They also took the DJs and music industry managers to New York’s New Music Seminar.
Meanwhile Mixmag was expanding monthly and had not only concentrated it’s editorial on DJs, now the future legendary club brands had started to be recognised. Cream, Renaissance and Ministry of Sound seeded themselves in the monthly publication.
In 2006, after being inspired by his daughter Gabrielle’s wedding, Tony left the management of DMC to his wife Christine, son Daniel, niece Sally McLintock, sister-in law Susan and other family members as he concentrated on launching his own television channel WEDDING TV on the UK Sky Network.
Within a year the channel won BROADCAST magazine’s prestigious BEST SPECIALIST CHANNEL award. The channel also won the 2008 FREESAT BEST DAYTIME CHANNEL.
Over five years he revolutionised programme-making on digital TV, bringing in three production teams rather than leasing programmes
from the majors. He produced over 300 hours of programmes that were broadcast in the UK, Poland, Russia, Turkey and Italy where the channel had launched.
In 2000 Tony rejoined Christine Prince to work alongside her, his son Daniel and a team, which includes close family members to re-establish the company as a leading light in DJ culture after three decades. The company has expanded the website to DJ-TV, and successfully launched The Online DJ Championships attracting DJs and fans from every corner of the world.
In 2000 the International Radio Festival in Switzerland presented Tony with their award for his contribution to radio. Even the Swiss listened to Radio Luxembourg in days when there was little else in Europe. Tony is now President of the IRF's Advisory Board.
Tony was the first DJ outside of the US to be awarded a 2015 Honorary DJ Certificate from Scottsdale Community College in Arizona, USA.
There are further developments taking place at DMC, just watch this space: