1963 was in many ways a pivotal year in British history, it started with the country being covered in snow for four months; Prime Minister Harold Macmillan made a dramatic dramatic exit from the political stage in the aftermath of the Profumo scandal; the Great Train Robbery grabbed the newspaper headlines for weeks; ‘That Was The Week That Was’ tore strips off the establishment on television, and the assassination of President Kennedy threw the world into unprecedented shock and mourning. Jeremy Rees, however, was oblivious to all this as he shuffled on to this mortal coil, in fact he didn’t even know that The Beatles were entering their 3rd week at No.1 in the British Pop Charts with ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ at the time of his birth.
Initially the musical revolution that coincided with his childhood had little impact on his world as he grew up in South Wales, indeed it was his Grandfather’s collection of 78rpm Dance Band and Ragtime records from the 1930s & 40s that first sparked his interest, contained as they were in a polished rosewood radiogram. It was that piece of furniture that was the root of his other great obsession – radio. Its bakelite dials and backlit scale with station names from exotic sounding places such as Hilversum, Normandy and Luxembourg seemed like a portal to a bygone age, and he took to scouring the Radio Times for repeats of classic comedy shows like Hancock’s Half Hour, Round The Horne and The Goon Show.
Through the crackle & fade of Radio Luxembourg on 208 metres he first became hooked on pop music, T-Rex’s ‘Ride A White Swan’ being the first record he bought in the Morriston branch of FW Woolworth,which became the main recipient of his pocket money. As as time went on he took to listening to Alan Freeman’s Saturday Rock Show and Alexis Korner’s Rhythm & Blues on Radio 1, and as his musical taste developed beyond the stock of Woolworths he started venturing into the teeming metropolis of Swansea to seek musical inspiration.
Unencumbered by any perceptible academic ability, Jeremy left school at 16 and began a series of short-lived jobs. He was variously a supermarket shelf-filler; a production line worker in a cooked meat factory; an office junior; an egg packer and for a very brief period an assistant green keeper for a golf course. None of these proved to be a suitable match for his particular set of talents, but did fund his visits to music venues in Swansea and Cardiff where he saw the likes of MAN, Tremblin’ Knees and The Sunsets, and he also volunteered for a while at a hospital radio station getting the first taste of being behind a microphone.
The bright lights and glamour of London began to beckon him and in 1982 he set off to make his fortune, but instead wound up in Willesden working for a charity. While the streets of NW10 did not turn out to be paved with gold, they did lead to the Mean Fiddler in Harlesden where he saw luminaries like Dr John and Van Morrison and was first introduced to emerging artists like Mary Coughlan.
His volunteering had revealed an aptitude for working with people with mental health issues and he headed north to Bradford where he trained to be a counsellor; volunteered in an advice centre; contributed to Pennine Radio, and developed a taste for ska, reggae and Northern Soul.
In the mid 80’s Jeremy went back to London for a six-month placement which turned into a 21 year career working in the mental health, homelessness & addictions fields. His broadcasting aspirations went on the back-burner, although he did turn his hand to writing short stories, poetry and magazine articles, and he kept in practice behind a microphone too, doing occasional talking newspaper readings for a charity as a volunteer.
Returning to Wales in 2007, he joined Radio Cardiff at its official launch, initially as a newsreader, reporter & interviewer but quickly branched out into a range of music-based programmes. He researched, wrote and produced the 30-part ‘Legends’ series featuring iconic figures from the jazz, blues, soul and reggae genres, and was a presenter on the lunchtime magazine show ‘Lunchbreak’ interviewing politicians, community activists and visiting performers. Much to many people’s amazement, not least his own, in 2008 he found himself at the helm of the Saturday Sports show juggling live interviews from matches and studio guests, but after a year doing that he moved to a Saturday morning slot and developed a show to which he was far more suited, Soulful Saturday, on which he spent six and a half years over nearly 300 editions, hosting the many features, guests and live music in what became a 3 hour weekly extravaganza.
Jeremy started providing voiceovers for commercials in 2009, and has been the voice of campaigns for a wide range of services and products from taxis to florists, plumbing firms to dance clubs.
At the Radio Cardiff Music Awards in 2010 he picked up two ‘Golden Mic’s’, one for his News Presentation, and he was also honoured with a special award for ‘Outstanding Contribution’.
In 2012 he added a second weekly music programme, ‘Late Night with Jezza’, which gave him the opportunity to dig out his much-loved jazz and blues collection. When that show was brought forward in a schedule re-shuffle a year later it was renamed Soul of The Blues and started to focus more on new releases and live music, and to help develop the show Jeremy joined a newly formed alliance of Blues DJ’s across Britain, the Independent Blues Broadcasters Association (IBBA). Within 3 months of its re-launch the show started being syndicated by a Blues network in the US, and it is now heard in 13 markets on both FM and online radio stations in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the US and the UK.
Jeremy has always had a keen interest in acting and radio drama. He was part of the creative team behind the soap opera Sophia Square on which he acted as community & storyline consultant and contributed to the scriptwriting (and played a cameo role in each of the 4 series). He also worked with National Theatre Wales on their groundbreaking 2013 production DeGabay anchoring all-day coverage of the event for their pop-up TV station.
He has continued to be active in the voluntary sector in a parallel career to his radio and voicework, spending part of the week running pioneering volunteer service VCS, and on Thursdays afternoons he brings his radio and community involvement work together on the live magazine programme Cardiff In Action which he co-presents with Kim Reeves. He also facilitates AWE! – Arts, Wellbeing & Enterprise – a project which brings volunteers from the world of the Arts (including actors, singers, musicians, writers, poets, performance artists and comedians) together with people who have experienced mental health issues or addictions to do creative things that help build confidence.
Inspired by the emergence of a new generation of roots musicians playing Country Americana music, Jeremy began The Honky Tonk Radio Show in 2014, which is a weekly digest of new independent releases with a sprinkling of classics for good measure. It ran for 2 years and 104 editions, eventually being syndicated on 17 different radio stations across the world. It ended as a weekly show in October 2016, but continues in a monthly format as ‘Honky Tonk Showcase’ on UK Country Radio.
Coming full circle, in Autumn 2016 he started a new series with pianist & singer Rachel Lewis – Sweet Company – a weekly show celebrating vintage music from the 1930s to 1960s which is broadcast on Sunday nights on Radio Cardiff, and Tuesday lunchtimes on BRFM.
He still has no idea what is Number 1 in the pop charts.