I really cannot remember exactly when I met Duncan Smith for the first time, but my earliest memories of Duncan were some glorious nights at his fantastic studio in his old house in Heywood.
Duncan was a gentleman of the highest order. If you are a regular reader of mikeshaft.com, you'll know that he has been mentioned on my tributes page from the first day I decided to include that page. After my first few visits to his studio and seeing him at work, I asked him if he would do my end of the year mix for that year. It was a joy to behold.
From then on, Duncan and I became firm friends. When we finally won the licence to build Sunset Radio, Duncan was one of the first people I spoke to about a job. He jumped at it, and I was delighted. He would be our Head of Commercial Production. I also purchased most of his studio which was to become the Sunset Production suite.
A fully qualified studio technician, Duncan was excellent at the job and soon he was also on the air as a presenter. Through all the changes at Sunset, D.Smith was a rock. He was simply always there.
After I left the station Duncan became first, programme controller and eventually Managing Director, keeping the station going through all its trials and tribulations.
To be honest, it is almost impossible to imagine Sunset without D Smith. He became one half of the world famous Dream Team with his busom buddy, Steve Quirk making up the other half. They were unbelievable. Interviews with Patti Austin, Luther Vandross, Kenny G and just about every big name in Jazz and Soul, were just some of the items which made them simply the best. Their daily game, 'What's in the box' would see the telephone lines in the Sunset studio go wild.
But that was just a part of what Duncan was about. The main thing he will be remembered for is his music. D Smith had a most wonderful appreciation of Soul and Gospel music. I remember the first time he played me the song 'I believe' by ANGIE & DEBBIE at his home studio. We were both almost in tears.
For the last few years Duncan and another great pal Ray Rose have kept me up to date with whats going on in the music scene. Dunc had recently launched his web site, 'The Potting Shed' and had regular Friday night music sessions with Steve Menzies and Steve Williams.
Last Thursday, my phone rang and it was Steve Quirk to tell me that Duncan had passed away after a massive heart attack over night. The sensational turn out at his funeral today is a testament to how Duncan lived his life. He was always there to help, what ever it was.
One of our favourite vocalists, the award winning Steve Menzies, sang a glorious version of Eric Clapton's 'Tears in heaven'. There was not a dry eye in the church. Duncan Smith has gone on to somewhere new. He is spinning tunes for a whole new audience but he left his mark here on earth. He may be gone but he'll never be forgotten. As Ronee Martin said:-
"GOD KNOWS A FRIEND HAS PASSED MY WAY."
R I P DUNCAN SMITH
(Written by Mike Shaft for www.mikeshaft.com)
Tuesday, 24 May 2011
Educated at Stand Grammar in Whitefield near Manchester I left to pursue a career in teaching which petered out when it became clear I was happier rooting through junk shops for obscure records thanI was studying! Then, after a fairly disastrous spell working for the DHS in Salford I was lucky enough to get a warehouseman’s job at Global Records in Manchester, the very first importer of American vinyl – where one of the perks was being flown to Philadelphia 3 times in 1973 to look for rare soul records – a tough job but somebody had to do it! From Global I moved onto a record retailing venture (Tracks) with W H Smiths in Bolton, before in 1975 I was appointed shop manager ar Russ’s Records in Wigan. Russ ran the shop and hired me after we met at the legendary Wigan Casino where he was the resident DJ. In 1976 shortly after compiling my first LP for RCA, “Jumpin at the Go Go” ,they offered me a position as North West promotions manager working with my dear (now sadly-departed) friend and svengali, Derek Brandwood . From RCA I progressed to become a music buyer at Makro in 1981 and then onto to Lifetime Entertainment in Warrington and Morrisons supermarkets in a similar capacity, up until my “retirement” earlier this year.
Running parallel with all this was a DJ-ing career which started in 1971 via a contact at Ralph’s Records in Manchester and eventually enabled me to play great venues like Va-Vas in Bolton, The Pendelum in Manchester and the Wigan Casino. Between 1976-80 I played just about every major city in the UK , until in 1981 I moved into radio broadcasting. Firstly at Radio Hallam in Sheffield and Red Rose in Preston, before I helped set up the first independent community station in Manchester (Sunset Radio) in 1989. In 1995 I moved to the newly formed Jazz FM in Salford where I remained until my departure in September 2009. Among my activities at present are promotions organized at the Hilton hotels in Birmingham and Blackpool, as well as events at The Tower Ballroom in Blackpool and The King Georges Hall in Blackburn.
My hobbies include spending quality time with my family, collecting soul music, following Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, making money and mowing the lawn. My favourite places to visit include the Lake District , and Florida USA where I have a home close to the attractions.