Monday, 30 November -0001

Radio Review: 31 August

BBC6 offers a colourful alternative to the goggle box

Written by Louis Barfe
Louis-Barfe-newBWSaturday night is no-telly night in my house. It all began on a summer weekend a couple of years ago when the scheduled fare was especially dire. Scanning the listings, I ventured a radical suggestion to my wife. We could always turn the set off. To my amazement, the proposal was accepted and, in its stead, we turned on the radio, chancing upon Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show on BBC6 Music; we've been regular listeners ever since.

The music is the star of the show, covering a broad sweep from the 1950s to the present day. Naturally, the obvious stuff like Motown and James Brown is represented, but, as with Brian Matthew's Sounds of the Sixties on BBC Radio 2, there's a pleasing amount of obscure material, which is a very good thing indeed. If you want nothing but the hits, listen to a 'gold' station or buy a compilation album.

Charles, who first emerged as a poet before turning to acting, most recently in Coronation Street, has a great deal of enthusiasm on his side. He sounds like he's playing the music because he loves it, not because he's paid to turn up and do it. He also seems to know what he's on about, although he's aided by a very good production team.

The show also lands interviews with big-name musicians. Last week, Charles chatted on the telephone with James Brown's legendary trombonist Fred Wesley, eliciting the information that Wesley turned down the chance to be the first black milkman in Mobile, Alabama, to take the job in Brown's band. The dairy industry's loss was funk's gain, as the tracks played proved. I like to think I'm pretty knowledgeable about music, but I never realised Wesley had been in the Count Basie orchestra until Charles mentioned it.

The listeners play a big part too, emailing Charles with requests, stories or memories. Last week's show featured a cracking tale about a listener taking her mother to see soul diva Mica Paris in concert – and telling her, as a joke, that they'd got VIP tickets with a chance to meet Mica after the show. Before she could explain it was a prank, the listener's mum marched to the stage door and was let in to see the star, who chatted with and signed posters for her number one fan. Heartwarming stuff.

Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show, BBC6 Music, Saturdays, 6-9pm




Former Absolute Radio, LBC and Xfm presenter Iain Lee is moving to BBC Three Counties Radio to host the weekday breakfast show for Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire. Lee, who came to prominence on Channel 4's 11 O'Clock Show, left Absolute last year.

Follow Louis on Twitter: @LadyWireless or email him at:

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