Velvet-voiced Radio Norfolk editor and presenter David Clayton started off as a trainee accountant. He talks to DAVID BALE about having no regrets about his change of career.
17:31 21 December 2011
David Clayton possesses one of the best known voices in Norfolk.
And while I would not class myself as a regular listener to BBC Radio Norfolk, even I recognised the voice before the face.
Having such a distinctive voice has helped him progress in his career, since his debut as a DJ 40 years ago, but he said he never worked to improve it.
He was born and spent the first ten years of his life in Marsk by the Sea, North Yorkshire, and originally had a Yorkshire accent.
But his family moved south to Gorleston and he then acquired a bit of a Norfolk accent.
The two competing accents combined to leave him with a nondescript English accent that is familiar to thousands of people in Norfolk.
He said: “I’m not aware I have a special voice and nobody had ever told me to lower it or whatever.”
He started honing his skills as a broadcaster as a DJ at clubs across the county and said he still thinks of himself, despite his success, as the DJ at the Ocean Room in Gorleston where he made his name.
He said: “While I’m at the back end of my broadcasting career at 59, I cannot imagine myself not doing it.
“I think it’s a privilege. Every time I speak on the radio it’s such a privilege. Why should anyone want to listen to me?
“If my mother were alive and she knew I was running part of the BBC, as the editor of Radio Norfolk, she would be bursting with pride.
“But I will always think of myself as the DJ from the Ocean Room.
“I have been entrusted with a train set and I still can’t believe it. I’m paid to do my hobby. The BBC will almost have to push me out of the front door to get rid of me.”
Mr Clayton has been on the radio for 31 years, but he has been talking into a microphone for a mammoth 40 years, making his disco debut at Costessey Village Hall for a 21st birthday.
He’s been the editor of Radio Norfolk for 13 years, a period that has seen its best listening figures ever.
In fact, he said he was more famous now than ever before, thanks to the phenomenal success of the Sunday morning Treasure Quest show.
He added: “In the 31 years I have been on air I have never been stopped more in the street than I am now.
“People stop me in pubs and restaurants and in the street, just to ask me ‘Did she get the treasure?’.”
He was in at the start of Radio Norfolk in 1980, when he was part of a queue of hopeful young broadcasters, that also included the late Roy Waller, looking for a job when interviews were held at the Maids Head hotel in Tombland, Norwich.
He did not get that job, but later started working on Juke Box Jury for Radio Norfolk and then was offered the Sunday morning show.
“There was a time when I was just making the coffee,” he said. “I said to them that I did not mind if there was no job for me, as I would still come in and make the coffee.”
He became deputy editor of Radio Norfolk in 1991 and editor in 1998.
But his first ever job was as a trainee accountant.
That’s why he wanted to be photographed in the Cathedral Close in Norwich – where he started off more than 40 years ago with the firm Martin and Acock as an article clerk.
He said: “Thank God I saw the light, and did not become an accountant.
“I was never good at it and I found it boring, so I don’t regret giving it up.
“One of the reasons I wanted to do it in the first place was that a friend, who was an accountant, had a top car and a top girlfriend, who sat on my lap when I was just starting out in the late 1960s.
“I thought then that it was a good job.
“If I had stuck at it, I would be wealthier now. You don’t get to be rich being a broadcaster.”
He admits that luck has played a big part in his life, and, also, being in the right place at the right time. As a teenager he was into playing the guitar and showbiz, but his career began almost by accident one lunchtime when he and a friend went to buy a guitar – and came away with a disco deck instead. He and a colleague set off in the lunch break to Cooke’s music shop so his friend could also buy a guitar. What caught his friend’s eye instead was a double disco deck and he suggested they went fifty-fifty on it.
At various times in his career he has worked for Look East and Anglia TV, helped start hospital radio, and has been a DJ at the Talk in Oak Street, Norwich. He spent eight memorable years entertaining beside the seaside in Great Yarmouth and also had a Sunday night residency at the King Edward pub in Aylsham Road, Norwich.
He also ran an agency and bought Norwich Artists Agency in 1974, booking in acts such as Frankie Howerd,
He said: “Frankie was an icon and he was so much fun, but he was known to be predatory. I was a bit naive in those days and I did not know he was gay. He invited me into his dressing room, but I went with my wife, anyway, so nothing happened.”.
He credits band leader Chic Applin with teaching him how to engage with an audience.
He said: “I learned more from watching him than anyone else. I almost formulated the whole way I communicate with an audience from him. He was going to be godfather to my daughter, but unfortunately he died.”
Mr Clayton attended junior school in Gorleston and Great Yarmouth grammar school and never went to university.