The Merseybeat phenomenon of the early 1960’s remains one of the most culturally defining eras in the postmodern age and formed the basis of popular culture as we know it today. Anyone living in and around the Liverpool area during this pivotal period will undoubtedly have their own tales of this unique explosion of creativity with venues like The Cavern and The Iron Door offering a brand new sound. Writer, journalist, comedian and broadcaster Pete Price grew up in post war Liverpool and was in the perfect place to witness such a cultural revolution which has defined his career.
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Beginning his career as a stand up comedian in the northern working men’s clubs around Liverpool and surrounding areas, Price was able to get a harsh grounding in entertainment which prepared him for a lifetime in the spotlight. His early career as a comedian allowed Pete to make connections with some of the biggest names in entertainment. Unbeknown to him, this was vital to his later career as a broadcaster and the friendships he created at this time would form the backbone of Price’s now legendary show on Radio City. As a highly successful comedian, Pete frequently worked the clubs to a great reception and still appears on bills at comedy clubs throughout Britain and eventually fulfilled a lifetime’s ambition of performing on the world famous stage at the London Palladium. Yet these showbiz connections were too good not to take full advantage of.
Meeting a certain Cilla Black in the YMCA in Horlake, Liverpool right at the beginning of the 1960’s was a complete revelation for the young entertainer as he was in total awe of her early confidence and showmanship. Just a week later, the pair met once again when Cilla was the cloakroom assistant at the legendary Cavern. Even at this very early stage of her career, Pete was in absolute no doubt that she would be a star. This was the start of a friendship which was to blossom for the next half century. In doing this, he was able to witness firsthand the special relationship between Cilia and her husband and manager Bobby Willis. Despite being discovered by the great impresario Brian Epstein as part of the Merseybeat phenomenon, it was Bobby who helped Cilla transform from the Liverpudlian singer to an international star. As a very close friend of Cilla, Pete was able to chart her entire career and had unique insight into what it took to be one of Britain’s biggest stars for over fifty years.
In 1967 Price landed his first radio show on Liverpool’s Radio City which quickly became a popular vehicle for the biggest stars of the day. His apprenticeship as a stand up comedian became a vital tool in enticing performers on to late night radio. This arguably offered Pete an advantage over his radio contemporaries as he already had a shared connection with the performers who graced his late night talk show. Before long, this extended to figures from outside the world of comedy and for over half a century Price found himself interviewing some of the biggest names in entertainment. Indeed it wasn’t just people from showbusiness who he wanted to have on his nightly show as it was Pete’s aim to create something bespoke for the whole community. Suddenly, this show had a conscience and wasn’t scared to tackle the stories which Price’s audience were dealing with. This was something that he never took for granted and realised the huge significance of his role as presenter. He wasn’t just a broadcaster but frequently a counsellor and friend.
For an unprecedented five decades, he was live every weeknight from 10pm to 1am on Liverpool’s Radio City chatting to some of the biggest names in showbusiness. To maintain his unique flamboyant momentum, he revelled in the variety of guests which were enticed on to the show. Despite having a rich and diverse address book, Pete would never overstep the mark when it came to booking his guests and instead merely wanted figures who were interested in appearing on the show in their own right. In doing so, his show hence became a popular outlet for stars to drop in to promote their latest project or just for a light hearted chat. This set an example to all local radio that you didn’t need to be part of a mainstream broadcaster to attract the biggest stars. After a while Pete Price had generated such a following around Liverpool and indeed the world that it became a rite of passage for homegrown talent to appear on his show as it was seen as a virtual path to national acclaim.
Beyond his unrivalled radio domination, Pete has also enjoyed a long association with the art of pantomime. As a comedian, he remains the perfect candidate for the glamorous Dame in any production. In 2008 Price was delighted when he was cast alongside Cilla Black in the production of Cinderella at the Liverpool Empire. This was Cilla’s first panto in seventeen years and became the perfect climax to Liverpool’s reign as the capital of culture. For Pete, this shall forever occupy a special place in his heart and was quite emotional when he saw the flocks of people coming from all over the world to see the undisputed queen of British television doing what she did best.
As a comedian and live performer, Pete fulfilled his lifetime’s ambition when he appeared on the legendary Sunday Night At The London Palladium. Unfortunately this wasn’t televised as it was passed the golden era of television Variety, yet Pete remains incredibly proud to have had such an opportunity. His comedy exploits continue as he is still a regular on the comedy circuit and loves playing the clubs around Liverpool and the surrounding areas. It’s clear that Pete is still very much in love with the art of performing and shows no signs of slowing down. With his commitments to his Sunday night radio show together with a weekly spot on the Sky News Press Review, Pete remains as in demand as ever. It was an absolute honour to celebrate the remarkable career of the legendary Pete Price: a subject who surely deserves several podcasts.