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Robbie Vincent
Robbie Vincent

Robbie Vincent (born 9 June 1947) is an English radio broadcaster and DJ whose catch phrase for many years was "If it moves, Funk it". As a champion of jazz, funk and soul music in the UK during the late 1970s his contribution both live in clubs and on radio cannot be overestimated. Vincent himself proved as important a radio pioneer as some of the great American soul artists he interviewed[1] and in 1995 was voted Independent Radio Personality of the Year at the prestigious Variety Club of Great Britain annual awards.[2]

The teenaged Robbie Vincent moved up from newspaper messenger boy to print journalist reporting for the Evening Standard on the trial of the notorious gangsters, the Kray twins, and from the troubles in Northern Ireland. His broadcasting career began in 1970 at BBC Radio London, newly founded as one legitimate answer to Britain's avalanche of illegal UK pirate radio stations that had changed listeners' expectations. With a potential audience in Greater London of 7.5million, he was to spend 13 years helping to shape the sound of local FM radio, starting before legal commercial competition arrived.

By the miners' strike of 1974 and the resulting three-day week that limited the nation's consumption of electricity, Vincent was hosting a new style of show called 'Late Night London' and playing devil's advocate with listeners who called in by telephone to air their problems or opinions. The programme was broadcast late in the evening and was among the first to establish the format for the radio phone-in in the UK. His celebrity interviewees included prime minister Margaret Thatcher, "at her charming best", he says on his own website.

By 1976 Vincent was pursuing his own tastes by also hosting a music show on the same station over Saturday lunchtimes. In his own words: "Moving from a mixed format of Slade, Rod Stewart, Marc Bolan and endless sound-tracks ... soul and jazz began to take over without management really noticing." He played artists such as Evelyn 'Champagne' King and Crown Heights Affair and invited guest soul DJs, such as Chris Hill, Tom Holland, DJ Froggy, Sean French, to play their favourite three records that came hot off the presses that week. The show grew to be considered essential listening by the capital's soul music fans.

In 1977 Vincent was first heard on BBC Radio 1, hosting a soul and disco show on Saturday evenings which was simulcast on VHF/FM at a time when Radio 1 was only broadcast on medium wave most of the time.[3] He returned for another stint in 1978.[4] In 1982 he was again heard nationally presenting the discussion show Talkabout, picking up on the current affairs side of his work at Radio London.[5]

By 1978, such was the growing appetite for soul music that he and the other DJs in what became dubbed the south of England's 'Soul Mafia' staged the first 'Purley all-dayer', a fiercely athletic black-music dance marathon at Tiffany’s in Purley, the London suburb. As a direct response to similar Northern soul all-nighters, it attracted the fanatical 'soul tribes' from across Britain.

A year later, Vincent helped instigate the popular Caister Soul Weekender[6] events in the Norfolk holiday park (the first was called '1st National Soul Weekender' in April 1979). The original Soul Mafia DJ line-up was supplemented by Greg Edwards (DJ) (presenter of Soul Spectrum on Saturday evening on London's Capital Radio), Chris Brown and Jeff Young.

In 1980 Vincent's signature song was Get it by The Dramatics. Soon after, Vincent was credited with launching the UK career of US jazz-funk combo, Maze with Frankie Beverly, and was one of the few British radio presenters to have interviewed Marvin Gaye. In 1981, Vincent became manager of UK soul funk band Second Image, securing record deals with Polydor and then in 1984, MCA Records. He acted as their sole personal manager until the band split in 1986. Vincent became part of both a soul revival as well as a massive move for commercial acceptance of jazz-funk. In addition, the mainstream jazz movement, so often omitted from history, received a significant boost thanks to unknown and new artists being given a media platform.

Talking in 2011 about his early missionary enthusiasm for soul music, Vincent told The Soul Survivors magazine: 'Don’t forget, I grew up in an era where Tamla Motown didn’t put their artist photographs on the cover sleeves because they were black and they worried they might alienate a white audience.'[7] Even in the mid-1970s black music was hard to find on British radio, or anywhere else beyond the soul underground.

Though Vincent was a figurehead in the jazz-funk-soul community, to many thousands of others he was the voice of current affairs phone-ins such as The Robbie Vincent Telephone Programme (call 01 486 7744) on BBC Radio London until he left in 1983 and handed the reins on to the then former Greater London Council leader Ken Livingstone. Vincent later re-emerged as the phone-in man on LBC's Nightline programme from 11 pm Mon-Fri in the late 80s.

BBC Radio London Saturday show

The Robbie Vincent Show acquired a cult following when it was broadcast by Radio London on Saturdays from 1976. Many fans made pirate cassette tape recordings of the show which was on air from 11:30am to 2pm. He played imports, promos, new releases and the soul anthems that were filling dance-floors at cutting-edge underground clubs such as Flick's in Dartford and The Gold Mine on Canvey Island. For many, Vincent's radio show was the first source for essential listening – resulting in jazz-funk and soul DJs and fans rushing to specialist shops for a copy of that all-important hot 12-inch vinyl single or album. Vincent would play a selection of UK and US imports, thus strengthening the sales and reach of the music both in London and further afield.

The show's cult status was such that many fans would travel to locations where even the weakest signal of BBC Radio London could be received – these locations included High Wycombe, Marlow, Luton, Dunstable and even as far north as Northamptonshire.

In 1983 the Saturday show started to include a Fusion Jazz 40 (which often would mirror the Fusion Few Chart in Blues and Soul magazine). Many import 12-inch singles and albums would not have been officially released in the UK without Robbie Vincent's support. Some of these included tracks by Maze (feat. Frankie Beverly), Brass Construction, Tania Maria, Earl Klugh and Alfie Silas. The first official playing of Lionel Richie's All Night Long was by Robbie Vincent on his Saturday show in autumn 1983 as a promo, well ahead of the Richie album Can't Slow Down.

Occasionally, the show's standard format would be displaced by Vincent's popular All Winners Show where the fans would choose the tracks to be played. On 16 October 1982, one such All Winners Show unearthed a long lost jazz-funk band called Prince Charles and the City Beat Band and within weeks, their song 'In The Streets' was re-released in the UK. The band went on to have a renewed career in the next few years and UK hits. On the same show, The Trammps 'Soul Bones' was played resulting in a scurry to find deleted copies of this forgotten soul classic. On the same show, a composite of Merry Clayton's 'When The World Turns Blue', John Klemmer's 'Adventures in Paradise' and Teena Marie's 'Portuguese Love' was a sequence which has remained as a memorable highlight.

Part of the playlist for All Winners Show (16 October 1982) was as follows:

> Heatwave - Ain't No Half Steppin' > Lonnie Liston Smith - Song For The Children (Gonna Write A Song) > Lou Rawls - See You When I Git There > Pleasure - Ghettos of the Mind > Wilton Felder - Inherit The Wind > The Whispers - It's A Love Thing > The Controllers - Somebody's Gotta Win > Earth Wind and Fire - Fantasy > The Trammps - Soul Bones > Sonny Stitt - Slick Eddie > Keni Burke - Gotta Find My Way Back In Your Heart > Sylvia St James - Better Things > William De Vaughn - Be Thankful For What You Got > Merry Clayton - When The World Turns Blue > John Klemmer - Adventures In Paradise > Teena Marie - Portuguese Love > Prince Charles and The City Beat Band - In The Streets > Roy Ayers - Love Will Bring Us Back Together[8]

Other notable successes down to Robbie Vincent's taste include Gilberto Gil and Sadao Watanabe. He was also the first DJ to play Teena Marie's comeback recording in 1983 called 'Fix It' following her signing from Motown Records to Epic.

Part of his playlist from 8 March 1983 included:

> Maze feat. Frankie Beverly - Feel That You're Feelin' (Live) > Maze feat. Frankie Beverly - The Golden Time Of Day (Live) > Stephanie Mills - You Can't Run From My Love > O'Bryan - You and I > Jerry Knight - I'm Down For That > The Jones Girls - Nights Over Egypt > David Miller - Swing and Dine > Steve Shelto - Don't Take Your Love Away > Luther Vandross - Once You Know How > One Way - Didn't You Know That > Loose Ends - Don't Hold Back Your Love > I Level - Minefield > Omni - All for the One > Fatback Band - The Girl Is Fine (So Fine) > O'Bryan - Shake > Mtume - Juicy Fruit (first ever playing in the UK) > Tania Maria - Come With Me > Lanya & Co - I Just Got To Have You > Joe Sample - Nightflight[9]

Careers previously restricted to the US and Latin America were given prime exposure on Robbie Vincent's show, notably Phyllis Hyman, Angela Bofill and Brenda Russell. Established artists looking for new directions also received some focus including Herbie Hancock (Vincent declined to play 'RockIt' but did play 'Autodrive' and Fatback Band (their International smash 'The Girl Is Fine (So Fine)'. He also gave exclusive UK exposure to Fatback's spin-off act C-Brand in 1983 ('Wired For Games' by C Brand was re-released in 2015). For the UK scene, Robbie supported Second Image, I-Level, and early 12-inch singles from Loose Ends. It was a very exciting time for music – much of it underground and unique to Caister Weekenders and all-dayers.

Another typical playlist from the spring of 1983 included:

> Al Jarreau - Mornin' > David Grant - Stop and Go > Pagoda - We're Alright Tonight > Dennis Brown - Revolution > Maze - Love Is The Key > Ingram - We Like To Do It > The Gap Band - Outstanding > Burgess Gardiner - Shoot Your Best Shot > Gladys Knight and the Pips - Save The Overtime for Me > Mary Jane Girls - All Night Long > Ingram - Groovin' On A Groove > Brass Construction - Movin' > Brass Construction - Changin' > Ingram - Share A Dream > Earl Klugh - Night Drive > Brass Construction - We Can Work It Out > D Train - Something's On Your Mind > Billy Griffin - Serious > Teena Marie - Fix It > Atlantic Starr - Love Me Down > Larva - DJ.[10]

In spring 1983, Robbie Vincent played a 7-inch single by unknown funk band Mtume – the song 'Juicy Fruit' became a massive UK hit, being released as an extended 12-inch single largely as a result of Vincent's promotion.

BBC Radio 1: Sunday evening soul show

Vincent moved to BBC Radio 1 on New Year's Day 1984 to present Robbie Vincent Memories which became a very popular Sunday evening soul show between 9 and 11pm, carried on FM as well as the regular 275/285 metres medium-wave frequencies. He presented these until 1989, playing jazz-funk with artistes like Rick James, The Fatback Band, Brass Construction, Funkadelic, The Crusaders, Ronnie Laws and Eddie Henderson.

He would often present the shows with his own laconic slant by introducing records with remarks such as 'This one has a government meltability warning', 'Carefully selected so that only the best reach the turntable' and 'Open the fridge door and make sure it's packed with ice', plus additional jingles such as 'Jazz, jazz, jazz, jazz, jazz' (recorded by Adrian Edmondson), 'Make it saxy', 'Robbie Vincent play that jazz!' and 'Hear the Robbie Vincent show, that's where the soul sounds best!'.


During the 1980s Robbie Vincent was also seen on British TV screens when he co-hosted BBC TV's 'Hospital Watch' and 'Go for It'.

London Broadcasting Company (LBC) and Kiss FM

In 1989 Vincent moved to work for LBC radio. His night-time phone-in show was one of the highest rated programmes on the station. In 1995 Vincent's personality won him a Variety Club award.[11] As Radio 2 began to modernise, he briefly was heard on the station in the autumn of 1997[12] but this did not last.

After a spell at Kiss FM, from February 1998 he hosted the breakfast show on London's Jazz FM although left when the management changed at the end of 2002.

Recent activities

In 1994, Vincent was commissioned to compile a CD, Classic Jazz-funk 5, for the excellent Mastercuts series of compilations.[13] Titled The Robbie Vincent Edition, it featured many of the tracks he was one of the first to air on the radio in London, ranging from Grover Washington, Roy Ayers and Gabor Szabo to Blue Feather and OPA.

Vincent spent most of 2003 travelling and during late December and early January 2004 he presented five daytime shows on 94.9 BBC Radio London.

In 2006 he was occasionally a guest presenter on Tony Monson's 10 am to 1 pm weekday show on Solar Radio[14] in the UK. He jointly presented the show on several occasions when he brought in all the music.

More recently, he could be seen and heard at London's Clapham Grand soul nightclub. He DJ'd there along with other top names such as Chris Hill and DJ Froggy.

Vincent returned to the airwaves on 12 October 2008 and presented a three-hour show called 'Sunday Morning Soul' on Sundays for the relaunched Jazz FM service on DAB, Sky, Freesat and the web.[15]

On 29 November 2013 Robbie Vincent announced[16] his decision to leave Jazz FM and was denied a final farewell show on the station following his announcement.


  • Robbie Vincent returns to BBC London 94.9FM [20] BBC press release, November 2003
  • Robbie Vincent [21] Biography from Radio Rewind
  • About Robbie Vincent [22] Vincent's career from 1960s to the 21st century, at his own website
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