Sharing great Memories with Bob Clarke

By Richard Johnson
Observer senior reporter

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

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FOR many Jamaicans, the name Walter Charles Clarke bears no significance. But say “Bob Clarke” and descriptions of a smooth-talking radio jock with a love for Jamaican vintage music come flooding.

Clarke, who hosts Memories Sundays on Irie FM, will be honoured by the Jamaican government with the Order of Distinction in the rank of Officer (OD) at King's House on October 15, National Heroes Day. He is being recognised for his service to the entertainment industry, especially broadcasting.

For as far as he can remember, Clarke has had an affinity for music. He recalled his early days in Highgate, St Mary, when his sister's father, Lloyd Howell, owned a sound system.

“They just could not get me away from the music. I remember one night... I couldn't be more than six or seven years-old, our mother left us with someone and I bribed him with sardine and bread from the shop that we owned and left the house to take in music being played nearby. In later years, I also got involved in a little band started by (guitarist) Bobby Aitken,” Clarke told the Jamaica Observer.

Things really got serious in the 1960s and 1970s when Clarke moved to Kingston. He was living in Harbour View at the time but made the trek across town to spend his days in Trench Town — the cradle of Jamaican popular music. There, he rubbed shoulders with some of the music's brightest stars: Alton Ellis, Ken Boothe and The Maytals.

His work in music and entertainment would ultimately bring him to radio and thus began a decades-long association on the airwaves.

“I had the opportunity to mweet Glynnis Salmon at Radio North East in Ocho Rios and she thought I had something to offer radio. I would do some stuff for her and then had the opportunity to produce a show called Memory Beat on the station,” Clarke recalled. “This programme was hosted by Judith McLaughlin and when she left I took over the reins, and thus began my life in broadcasting. This was the late 1980s.”

Radio North East was a regional station operated by the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation. It was later privatised and through the persistence of Clarke and Clyde McKenzie, Karl Young acquired the station which would become Irie FM.

Since 1990, Clarke has hosted Memories.

“We really wanted Winston Blake for the show but he declined so I took it up and have been (host) ever since. Oldies is my forte, but I listen to everybody. I am that kind of sift, so I don't absorb everyone. I know what I want to hear and then there are those that I really don't care for. I love music that makes sense. I get drawn into a great storyline so once you are not going anywhere then I tune out,” he explained.

Regarding the OD, Clarke stated that he was “shocked” by the announcement.

“When it's something that you are not really working towards then you don't expect it to be thrown upon you. But it's a great honour and something I accept with humility,” he said.

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