It’s strange how you always think that it will never happen to you…
Today, during my show on Brooklands Radio, a moment I had been dreading for 9 years finally happened. Although nobody ever thinks too much about it, anyone who works in live TV or radio hopes that the day where they receive sad news on air never comes. Usually, I manage to keep going through the news of celebrity deaths, terrorist attacks and natural disasters (albeit with my stomach usually churning with emotions), providing the necessary information in a calm and comforting manner. However, today was an exception because it was a little closer to home.
This afternoon, during a song, I was made aware that radio broadcaster CJ Munroe had passed away. Many of you won’t bat an eyelid at that name, some might recall it from hearing of her once or twice but to me and so many others, CJ meant a lot.
It’s funny when I speak about her because in all honest truth, I haven’t met her face to face! To give you a brief back story, CJ (or Glenn as she was back in the 70s – another way in which this woman is a true inspiration) worked with my dad and taught him everything he know about disco and radio. They worked together on South Parade Pier and then when CJ moved to Radio Victory in Portsmouth, Dad’s eyes were opened to the world of radio. Quite simply, as my old man puts it, she taught him everything he knows. Fast forward, 35 years and I get bitten by the radio bug, starting with my first presenting job at the age of 15. Dad taught me everything he could about the industry and we’d regularly discuss CJ and the fun they had working together. Months later, Dad made contact with CJ and we sat together to listen to her ‘Strawberry Fields’ show on Palm FM. She really had the best voice for radio! Weeks later, I got to speak to her for the first time and she passed on great wisdom and advice. I found clips of her presenting and found a brilliant video of her singing some Neil Diamond and laughing along behind the mic during one of her shows. She seemed to love Neil’s music. Over the years, we didn’t talk often but she listened in to some of my shows and gave me lovely feedback which was always appreciated. Through her and my Dad, she truly inspired me to keep going with my radio work and try my best to strive towards being the presenter I want to be. Quite simply, along with my dad, CJ helped me to get to where I am today…
Sat in the Brooklands Radio studio, hearing from my family that CJ had passed away was a shock. With 30 seconds to go until the current song ended, I did what I had to do. Find some words to piece together for the next link. However, I knew that this was my chance to do something for CJ one last time. So I cued up that Neil Diamond song she used to sing and shared the news with my listeners. It wasn’t easy to share but sometimes the companionship we offer our listeners works both ways. That’s why, although I tried to keep my professionalism, the passion managed to creep through. Now some would argue that sometimes, the best radio and TV is the most real radio and TV. The moments when there is no screen or receiver between you and your audience. The moments when your emotion is shared with anyone listening or watching. But I didn’t do it for ratings or sympathy, just like this blog post; I did it because I wanted to say my piece and say a final goodbye to a woman who truly inspired many people and helped many with their journey into radio and in other parts of their life… just like me.
I am really gutted to have never have got the chance to thank CJ face-to-face for what she’s done for me and I bet she didn’t even realise the effect she’d had. But I hope that she was listening today, somewhere, to hear how special she was to me and my journey.
CJ, no doubt, will be up playing Neil Diamond on the station in the sky. She’ll be keeping them entertained with the best voice in the business. That’s for sure! But for me, I just want to say for one final time… CJ, thank you.
(To hear the recording of my live tribute to CJ, visit: https://www.mixcloud.com/JamesJPPearce/james-jp-pearce-tribute-for-cj-02042016/)