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DBC & The Birth Of Black Radio

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Dread Broadcasting Corporation, also known as DBC, was a 1980s West London pirate radio station which is credited as Europe's first black owned radio station.  It broadcast from the Neasden and Ladbroke Grove areas of London, and was founded by Lepke (born Leroy Anderson) in the Autumn of 1980. Originally broadcasting on AM, it moved to FM at the end of 1981. DBC would play reggae, funk, African, R&B, soca and jazz.


Before the launch of DBC, there were only two specialist reggae music shows on the radio: Saturday evenings with Tommy Vance on Capital Radio with his ‘TV On Reggae’ show (commercial radio's first reggae show) and Sunday afternoons initially with Steve Barnard on BBC Radio London with his “Reggae Time’ show then from 1978 with Tony Williams and David Rodigan alternating with each other weekly with their ‘Reggae Rockers’ show.  David Rodigan MBE OD moved to Capital Radio in 1980 and hosted his own Saturday evening Roots Rockers’ show.  

John Peel hosted a number of sporadic reggae sessions.  His first reggae session, broadcast on 26 December 1970, was with the Rudies. This was their one and only session, they reformed the following year as Greyhound.  A session with Bob Marley & The Wailers was recorded on their first full tour of the UK from May to July 1973 to promote the 'Catch A Fire' album that had been released on Chris Blackwell's Island label.

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1976 John Peel Session

Alex Pascall OBE is most notable as having been one of the first regular Black radio voices in the UK, presenting the programme Black Londoners on BBC Radio London for 14 years from 1974. Initially planned as a test series of six programmes, Black Londoners became, in 1978, the first black daily radio show in British history, with prominent guests from the worlds of politics, sport, literature and the arts, including Muhammad Ali, Alex Haley, Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, C. L. R. James, Maurice Bishop, Michael Jackson, Arthur Ashe, Althea McNish, Mustapha Matura, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leon Britton MP, Angela Davis, Miriam Makeba and the Mighty Sparrow.

1975 Tommy Vance "TV On Reggae"

1976 Steve Barnard "Reggae Time"

1982 Tony Williams "Reggae Rockers"

1980 David Rodigan "Roots Rockers"


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Leroy Anderson aka Lepke became friends with Michael Williams aka Mike Da Bike after Lepke's colleague showed up at Mike’s workplace, ‘Better Badges’ located on Portabello Road, in west London, to have a badge created called ‘I & I Survive’.  In house designer Megan Green brought Lepke’s concept into being.  Lepke’s work place Honest Jons Records relocated to Portabello Road just a few doors away from Better Badges which meant the two would see each other on a regular basis.

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Lepke was the house DJ on reggae night every Thursday at the 100 Club on Oxford Street in London’s West End. Mike hung out at the club with his friend Charlie Wood who played in a rocksteady big band.  Charlie co founded, ‘Nightdoctor’ and if not hanging with Lepke and Mike, he would be playing at the 100 Club.

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Michael Williams aka Mike Da Bike

Joly who Mike worked for at Better Badges bought a radio transmitter which Mike found under his work bench one morning, with a massive tangle of ariel cable. Joly used it to transmit from the upper floor to the basement when he was working down there. Lepke left Honest Jon’s around the same time as Mike was about to leave Better Badges, he passed by and told Mike that he had been given the radio transmitter by Joly.  A couple of weeks later Lepke told Mike that he had set up the radio transmitter in his garden and was going to transmit on Sundays.  In the Autumn of 1980 ‘Rebel Radio’ was born.

In an interview Lepke said “I started the station because at the time there was a need for black music to get more exposure: i.e., basically reggae music, then later on we moved on to broader black music. Earlier in the 70s I used to live in New York and I used to tune my radio in and hear pure black stations, Spanish etc… So from them times I was thinking, maybe that can gwan in England still”.


Better Badges was a London button-badge manufacturer, started in 1976 by Joly MacFie. During the years 1977–1984 it became the leading publisher and merchandiser of 'punk badges' - exporting millions worldwide from their offices at 286 Portobello Road. Better Badges was a major player in the punk and postpunk scenes from 1976–1983 - a pioneer viral marketer, fueling the independent labels' fan-based promotional successes of the time.

Mike Da Bike Interview


So a radio station was born albeit on a minimal scale.  Lepke teamed up with Dr Watt and Chucky, two DJ friends of his. Dr Watt specialised in revive reggae and Chucky a lighter style.


They would record their sets and upload onto an open reel tape so once set up the station would run for a few hours when Tony Williams’ Sunday Reggae Rockers show ended.


One fateful Sunday the DTI (Department of Trade & Industry) paid Lepke a visit having tracked the signal. Although respectful enough to allow Lepke to finish his Sunday dinner they seized the transmitter and busted him and Dr Watt

At this point Mike became more involved with the radio station, word had got out about it and he thought it would be a good idea to make cassettes of the shows. He had a little experience of tape duplication so would get the open reel tapes and take them to a place in Kings Cross and have them duplicated onto cassettes. “We’d then sell them recoup the initial investment and any profit went into saving for a new transmitter”.

The name ‘Dread Broadcast Corp’ (DBC) came to Mike in a stoned state one night lying in his bed.  It was a parody of the BBC, in those days they had a building just around the corner from where he lived. When Mike ran the name past Lepke, he stopped, laughed and it was adopted.

Mike’s links with Better Badges came in handy to, as Megan Green the freelance in house designer, was given scraps of plundered graphics that Mike had collected which she brilliantly turned into the station logo and later T Shirt design. She did this out of friendship for Mike and Lepke. 

The station now had a name ‘DBC-Rebel Radio’ and strong visual presentation in flyers and T-Shirts.  It was attracting a lot of attention, even though it was off-air at this point in time.

Oxford Roadshow Music Magazine


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A new transmitter was ordered from a guy who seemed reluctant to build it. When it arrived it was less than uselss, it died shortly after being swithced on.  A transmitter was loaned from a group known as 'Our Radio', the deal was you were responsible for the equipment until it was returned. “This worked well for a few weeks, we'd rock up to their place and borrow the equipment… hey we were up and running again, this time on a Friday evening 6pm 12 midnight”. 

"We also started using our main site the Edwood Woods estate where there were three identical tower blocks to choose from. Unfortunately other stations started popping up and councils started tightening security. Fortunately we had three tower blocks to use, all good, and luckily not all secure. We were truly up and running.  During this period we linked up with a guy who made us our own transmitter".


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Friday night 6 hours of programming ran….
Chucky’s brief was a lighter side of reggae  giving new releases exposure. Sadly no longer with us he was a long time friend of Lepke the perfect DJ for this spot, he was also the House DJ at the ‘Apollo Club’ the Willesden club owned by the Jet Star company (more about them later)


They presented jump up blues and vintage R’nB. Their shows were short sharp and jumping to say the least. Two friends who shared a love of this genre and it was a way too short 30 minutes of good time music.


Labels and shops could buy a slot and present a self programmed selection…for the most part ‘Orbitone’ records took this slot and it proved so worthwhile as Soca music got a look in. Not sure but it may well have been the first Soca programming to feature in a radio show.


They presented a soul show…Dark Star (aka Lloyd Bradley) selected and his wife presented. Star ran a soul sound system and later went on to become a renowned journalist and author. Lady Di had a wonderful style of presentation and the first of two wonderful female voices championed on the station…more about that later.


Lepke’s sister had her ‘Something For The Girls’ show.. After much nagging by Lepke, Miss P got a show together. Dr Watt helped, setting her up with a home studio to record. She was a busy young mother with two children but managed to find time to record a show. She soon had a regular audience as her voice was so Radio friendly.


They briefly presented an African music show. Another first as I believe the first dedicated African Music show. Graeme a journalist and later a record label owner along with Charlie who was a musician, my landlord and co founder of ‘Nightdoctor’. They did a sterling job until along came Gus ‘Dada’ Africa who they stepped aside for. Gus had been a DJ at Dingwalls, a musician and had a great presentation style with a wonderful Nigerian accent that was so natural. 


The revive master…Dr Watt played the tunes you forgot. One time sound man Dr Watt had/has a great record collection and selected an essential set each week. Having his own home studio where he produced high quality shows. His atmospheric shows utilising echo and effects led to the highlight


Lepke- ‘The Dread Outta Control’ I’m taking credit for this handle, again a parody of the Mikey Dread handle and it stuck. Lepke’s shows were something else. He took a great deal of time to produce in his home studio. Space echo, synn drums, duck calls, Jingles all mixed up to make a truly wild program. Phone competitions too, how ? yes how as recorded shows  all will be explained later. 

This line up would change but this was the basic. The station now a diverse one, some firsts, sponsored programs, Soca and African selections, Reggae new and old and most importantly two wonderful female voices and presenters.



After leaving school, Margaret Anderson, better known as The Ranking Miss P, studied to become a teacher, but was persuaded by her brother Lepke to start broadcasting on his DBC radio station.  Both Miss P and Lepke are the younger siblings of Bob Marley's wife Rita Marley.

Dr Watt helped her set up her home studio and she was away. She fitted this in with being a mother to two young children and college. She became an integral part of the Station.  Not only was she a key Dj but also jingle maker. She made jingles at her home studio and also would make jingles and adverts at Lepke’s studio.  She picked up a large male audience, hardly surprising as she always played a fine selection of music and her voice was smooth and seductive.

In 1983, Miss P was approached by BBC Television to compose and perform visual promotional trails and the theme song for its weekly magazine programme Ebony. 


On 31 March 1985, she began presenting a weekly reggae show Culture Rock on BBC Radio 1 on Sunday nights. This was Radio 1's first ever show dedicated solely to reggae music, and Miss P was one of the station's first black presenters. Her entire show on 12 May 1985 was a tribute to the life and music of Bob Marley. 


She left BBC Radio 1 in 1990 and went on to present a programme titled Riddim and Blues on BBC Radio London on Saturday nights, in which she played a wide variety of black music.


Carmella aka 'Sis C' who was Mike’s partner at the time was invited by Lepke to do a 60s Soul show. At the time she had a strong Liverpudlian accent, however she was encouraged by Lepke to speak naturally as he like diversity.

Sometime in ’83, Mekka who was an aspiring 14 year old MC was introduced to the station.  At that time Saxon Sound’ was on the rise with a team of fast style MCs. Lepke was a huge and enthusiastic fan of the fast style.  He mentored Mekka and created some jingles with him.  Mekka would also chat on the mic when DBC played out. Ranking Miss P also mentored Mekka. He even presented a few shows under the supervision of Lepke and would also MC live when Lepke or Miss P made shows. DBC was gearing up for a youth show that Mekka was pencilled in to present, sadly the station got taken off air before that dream was realised.

Other presenters included Luke the Duke who presented an RnB show with early Rock n Roll, bringing in his more rockin’ approach.  Chucky’s brother, Ed (real name Edgar) his selections were always spot on mixing soul and funk. Ed, was later replaced by GT.  Nick Coleman presented a Jazz show.  Gus ‘Dada’ Africa presented a varied selection of African music. Gentleman Fred and his ‘TPA’ (The Players Association).

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When Neneh Cherry moved to London she worked at ‘Better Badges’ for a few months as one of the girls who collated fanzines, pinned badges and made the place a wild rocking one, so her arrival at DBC was no shock at all, part of the Hippy/Reggae Party.  Neneh Cherry and Andi Oliver came and recorded some totally off the wall funk shows, they were a force of nature. Mike Da Bike said “I remember their first visit to the studio, they were shown the decks and mixer and without any further a do set about selecting and pre-recording high powered shows. Lepke and I stood back and let them get on, there was no need to produce, they were naturals”.


Lepke, Neneh Cherry & Mike Da Bike

- January 2016


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‘Striving To Be Free’ came together through a late night conversation in Latimer Rd where Mike rented accommodation from his friend and landlord Charlie Wood, Nightdoctor co-founder.  Dr Martin who was Nightdoctor's manager, suggested that the band make a benefit record for DBC as they were very good friends with the station.  The rhythm to be used was ‘Johnny Dollar’ which was a big hit at the time. 
Also at that time a St Lucian master musician ‘Iauwata’ had been brought to London by Martin and he began playing with Nightdoctor. The recording was done late one night mid week at the legendary ‘Chalk Farm Studios’, Nightdoctor were doing their usual band rehearsal that day at a place in High Wycombe, they included the Johnny Dollar rhythm in their rehearsal.
When they arrived at Chalk Farm Studio they set up and ran through the rhythm a few times then time to record.  They did a couple of takes then Iauwata dubbed over the synth horn parts…end of session.

The vocals were done the next weekend. Lepke, Dr Watt and Mike met Miss P and her partner Oliver at the studio on the Saturday afternoon. Not having any experience of record production Mike called Chris Lane the ‘Fashion Records’ producer for advice about the voicing. He said “make the lady feel at ease, relaxant of choice, dim the lights etc”. Not needed, Mike was so surprised at Miss P’s confidence and lack of nerves, plus she’d written such a great song. So a run through then a take, amazing she nailed it…done listened back, then into the studio stepped Lepke, Dr Watt and Oliver. “Roll the tape” Lepke said and then he launched into his rap, Dr Watt and Oliver provided backing voices. 


Mike believes it was done in one take and was truly surprised that such strong lyrics had been written and delivered so effortlessly…So great rhythm recorded, two vocal versions time to mix. “We lit some spliffs cracked a beer or two and played on the mixing board. Maybe our complete ignorance of mixing added to the atmosphere it worked out well”. Tape in the can Lepke took it to Terry the dub cutter to master, Terry cut acetates for sound system and was based right next to the pressing plant in Acton. 


Label designed and printed then the 12” vinyl pressed. A limited press of 500, a portion was taken to Jet Star and some to Rough Trade, when they were located in Blenheim Crescent, Geoff Travis said they would do their best for us. Some were also sold by mail order and slowly they drifted out, it was a fine collaborative effort.


CHA CHA MUSIC - A label that licensed Channel 1 songs, which enabled them to release some amazing real authentic Jamaican productions. The label also was producing local artists most notable Female Lovers Rock artists…
STARLIGHT RECORDS - Popsy, Ben and Desmond ran several labels including The Starlight Label, Black Joy etc. They appreciated DBC’s rebel stance and were happy to support.  They regularly provided DBC with new releases and take the occasional sponsored spot.

ORBITONE RECORDS - Owned by Sonny Roberts.  He was older and more straight laced but a good business man and musicologist. Orbitone released many different genres of music. Sonny Roberts was a Jamaican however he realised that Soca music was under represented in the UK, so produced and licensed Soca from the Caribbean and America.  Orbitone also produced Big People’s Music which was softer and a more sentimental reggae which appealed to the older community which served DBC well. Finally what was referred to as deep ,soul, again like Big People’s music, we garnered an audience from the older generation one of the aims of the station…play for one and all !  Sonny knew how to program and would pull out tunes and select a running order and even request who should present, usually Miss P but other DJs could and would present and a professional approach was required. His shop was incredible to visit on a Friday or Saturday he always had several people at the counter building piles of music to buy, he noticed and told DBC that their shows influenced his sales so we knew we were building a listenership.


Better Badges helped with the printing of flyers, cassette labels etc. establishing the strong visual image of the station.
Fifth Column were a band of T Shirt printers based in Kilburn. Better Badges worked closely with Fifth Column. When Megan Green created the DBC artwork, T-Shirts were ordered from Fith Column. They marketed DBC T-Shirts and passed on the royalties to the station. The station was able to buy its own stock of T-Shirts using the royalties money. The DBC T-Shirt was so popular, many celebrities wore them on stage and in press photographs.


Jet Star Phonographics was a wholesale outlet in Harlesden, the DBC team paid visits on a regular basis. Very occasionally they bought adverts and were always helpful with asking labels to leave promo records for the station.


Dub Vendor located next to Ladbroke Grove tube station run by Martin Redman, would supply pre-release 7 inch vinyl records. That was a period of time when Jamaica was producing major quantities of singles and there was a market for imported copies, new titles were released on a weekly basis. Lepke would be supplied with a selection each week, these were featured in his show and credit and thanks would be extended to Dub Vendor, so a mutual back scratch.

Tapes were obtained from the Market TV shop on Portobello Road. The owner was always very friendly and gave DBC a discount because large quantities of cassettes were being purchased both for recording shows on and also for duplicating.

Lepke, Mike and Dr Watt were regular visitors to Island Records St Peter’s Square, London.  They donated quite a lot of equipment to DBC including some PA monitor speakers, a beautiful pair of Tannoy speakers as well as cassette decks when they upgraded their tape duplication facility.  
DBC had great support from several groups including 'The Clash'. Lepke had got to know Joe Strummer through record shops, Honest Jon’s, Rhythm Records, Maroon Tunes etc plus of course in the Grove. So the Clash got word to Lepke that they wanted to make a Radio Show at the time the station was using the ‘Our Radio’ community radio transmitter. They never, contrary to rumour were actually on DBC.  They were introduced to the ‘Our Radio’ people, went away and produced an hour long program. This program was a mix of RnB, Reggae and tunes that turned them on.

UB40 did a UK tour and had Nightdoctor as support. Unusual for the time a small fee was earned by Nightdoctor, as in those days support acts used to pay to play. Doing two nights in Birmingham Lepke, Dr Watt and Mike Da Bike went and were allowed to sell DBC merchandise and also Nightdoctor T-Shirts. No grief or hassle from UB40 it was their way of showing support. Coming back to London it was two nights at Hammersmith Palais, the DBC stall was joined by Linval from the Specials who hung out with the team and helped to sell some T-Shirts.

NOTE: Many others supported DBC.


Lepke Interview

The Last Pirates: Britain's Rebel DJs


Lepke (Leroy George Anderson)
DBC Founder
Sunrise: 6th February 1955
Sunset: 14th March 2018 (Age 63)

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Graveside Photo

Chucky (Douglas Wright)
DJ - Presenter
Sunrise: 12th January 1960
Sunset: 22nd March 2013 (Age 53)



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