Radio Forth's Dick Barrie is celebrating 30 years of hosting a country show – not bad for someone who started out as a three-week emergency stand in 1978.
In 78, Forth’s senior management were Tom Steele and Andy Park and they heard Dick Barrie, a part-time sports contributor at the time on the BBC who produced “Flightwatch” inserts from the airport into various morning programming, bantering away with their breakfast presenter – about country music.
Dick recalls: “Tom Steele called me and asked if I had thought of doing a music programme. I hadn’t but he was persuasive and wanted me to help the station out by hosting two or three programmes over the next few Sundays, starting on Sunday, December 3rd, 1978, on the understanding that I was just a stop-gap until Forth could get hold of someone more-experienced to ‘present the show properly’ on a regular basis”.
Barrie however, has been the stop-gap who just hasn’t stopped.
On Sunday, December 7th this year, Dick will celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of his first “emergency” broadcast of “It’s Barrie Country” – now acknowledged to be the longest-running country-music programme of its kind in the United Kingdom, if not Europe.
So 1400 shows and nearly 3,000 hours later Dick is still loving his country show on 1548 Forth 2 on Sundays from 8-10pm,
I am still playing what I like. I’m the producer and the presenter. That way, if listeners don’t like the music they hear, we know who to blame, don’t we?”
Dick reckons that he’s played some 50,000 songs during his tenure as well as driving in excess of 150,000 miles to and from his Renfrewshire home to Radio Forth in Edinburgh.
He says broadcasting every Sunday has been a hobby which certainly doesn’t make him rich but has turned to his advantage, allowing regular trips to Nashville, a whole roomful of great country music at home – and face-to-face interface with so many of his idols.
“In the early days I enjoyed meeting, and talking to, people like George Hamilton IV, having fun with the boys from Dr Hook and talking to the great Phil Everly, who I recall as an absorbing interviewee – I have never known two hours to go past so quickly.”
More recently, Dick has had present-day stars dropping in, with an impressive interview roster including Garth Brooks, Daniel O’Donnell and Reba McEntire, who interrupted their chat to inform Barrie he had been awarded the honour of being named “International Broadcaster of the Year” by the CMA in Nashville.
Another reason for Barrie’s broadcasting longevity is a close rapport with the listening audience – what Dick calls his “Country Music Fraternity” – in association with which he was responsible for raising no less than £100,000 for the Radio Forth “Help A Child” (now “Cash For Kids”) Appeal during the decade of the 1990’s.
Having achieved this unprecedented thirty-year-run, what does the future hold for Dick Barrie after December 7th?
“Much of the same, I hope” he reflects. “Carry on until the management get that long-awaited ‘proper presenter’ in to do the job – but if that takes another thirty years, so be it – I’ll only be 96, and country music isn’t going out of style!”