James H Reeve was offically born in 1952 - although this often quoted official year is probably not correct as sources have quoted other years from 1948 to 1951. Indeed Wikipedia now lists his birthday as 25 June 1950.
He first appeared on local radio at some point in the 1970s, with a slot on Manchester's Piccadilly Radio. It is unclear exactly when he started in Manchester, but Piccadilly Radio was awarded the Manchester IBA licence in April 1974, so it was sometime mid to late 1970s. He was suspended or sacked from Piccadilly in Summer 1981 after he played a Queen record called "Killer Queen" shortly after there had been a dramatic event at the 1981 Trooping The Colour - a 17 year old student had raced up to the Queen firing blanks, and James's choice of record at that time was not appreciated by the station bosses.
Following his departure from Piccadilly, James spent some time in the early 1980s in Saudi Arabia doing various media-related work, including some time as a newsreader - James did mention about his time in the Middle East a number of times on air.
His venture into late night radio began around the end of January/early February 1986, taking over the Phil Wood 10pm to 1am Monday to Thursday night slot, with Phil doing a later slot following James's programme.
Listener Steve Merlot comments, "I do remember JHR's handovers to Phil Wood being hilarious, Wood goading him into such regulars as "a word from James H Reeve" whereupon our hero would utter a three or four syllable word in his best mancunian effort at RP. "Vestibule" was a particular fave."
The reason for Piccadilly's decision to re-introduce a late night phone-in was in part down to its rival up the road - Red Rose Radio that broadcasted on 97.3FM (later moving to 97.4FM). At the time, the Preston-based station, that easily was listenable all over Manchester, was having great success with their controversial late-night phone-in hosted by Allan Beswick (who for the last few years has been on BBC GMR / Radio Manchester). This show was poaching large numbers of listeners from the Greater Manchester area. Piccadilly bosses realised something had to be done to stop this and they decided that what was needed was a similar phone-in with an equally strong host. The man given the task of saving their bacon was, of course, James H.
As part of his preparation for the launch of this new programme, James H is said to have invited Beswick out for a meal, with the aim of getting useful tips on how to make the show a success. James H might well be unwilling to admit this dinner ever took place, and we may never know the truth, but it is certainly an interesting thought.
The frequencies changed around this time - Red Rose from 97.3 to 97.4FM - and evidence has now been supplied here that Piccadilly Radio's frequency was 97.0FM before it moved to 103.0FM (check the image at the link - "VHF 97.0 MHz"). The jingles played at the time clearly said "Piccadilly 97 FM" as well, although some stations used to "round up" the frequencies to make nice jingles sometimes, but Piccadilly was definitely 97.0 before 103.0 - very lucky to get the rounded frequencies I think. James was confused about this in October 2005 when on one of his Key 103 phone-ins he was remembering the old days and mentioned Piccadilly's old frequency - but said it was 97.3FM - which was clearly wrong.
Allan Beswick was James's main rival - but when Beswick left Red Rose to join GMR, Red Rose Radio decided to simulcast Yorkshire's Radio Aire and so North West listeners were presented with another rival to James H Reeve - James Whale. While Beswick's show was basically humourous insults to callers, Whale tried to be cleverer and defeat his callers with his intelligence (or so he thought) - but his skill in this area was a million miles away from James H Reeve, so his audience only really included any of James H's listeners on Friday nights (as James H only did Mon-Thu). I managed to acquire a signed James Whale photo during this time linked here (COMING SOON).
So where did the name "Noctural Emissions" come from? It seemed to develop from James using it presumably as an amusing description given the double entendre implications that go with the name. When the programme arrived on the all-new Key 103 around 1988, it seemed to have adopted the title as the official name of the programme.
The programme has had two types of format. The early days saw predominantly a phone-in style of programme, with the calls interrupted by music and listeners' letters. I remember there being two types of news bulletin - the 10pm one was 5 mins long, but the 11pm one was 10 mins long and James used to refer to it as the Daddy News (or something) as opposed to the Baby News - if you can clarify this then let me know. On the new Key 103, the format was very much James H's monologues and listeners' letters with a playlist in line with the bizarre "muuuusic not music" theme of Key 103 at the time.
There was a break between the two major spells mentioned above - and I think at the start of the new Key 103, James had a Sunday lunchtime programme between I think 11am and 1pm. I remember the news bulletins on Key 103 then were on the half hour, while on the hour there used to be just a jingle that was just some blips with a "bong" at the end, and occasionally took place mid-record - one of the unofficial recordings features this jingle. I think James also had a midweek afternoon slot for a few weeks or months around this time (early 1988?) before he was put back onto the late night programme and his show then ran until 2am.
The programme came to an end in September 1989 - the exact date of the final edition is not confirmed but I believe it was either 7th or 14th September 1989.
James also used to present Piccadilly's Saturday Sport programme. He was (and presumably still is) an ardent Manchester City fan. He often used to complain that he would rather be at the games than being in the studio.
So who used to cover James's programme when he was on holiday? I remember Tony Schaeffer, Mike Briscoe and David Dunne... but there were more that I will add details of when I remember them.
David Dunne has been in touch about his time with James: "I did indeed stand in for James on two different occasions, but I was also the first producer of his show when Piccadilly split frequency in 1988 and Key 103 came to life - I produced James for about 6 months, before I moved onto presenting in the afternoons and other shows. I realised from working with him, when I was sitting in for him, that the very worst thing to do would be to try to copy him or emulate him, so I had guests in for the shows and did extended hours with them, rather than trying to copy JHR. It would have been a very pale and wan imitation indeed. I loved working with him, and he was never anything less than kind, patient and encouraging to me. I learned a lot from James."
After the end of the Nocturnal Emissions programme in late 1989, James joined Dave Ward to present the breakfast programme, while James Stannage took over the late night slot. After leaving Piccadilly in mid-1994, James H appeared in Sheffield on Hallam FM with a revival of the Nocturnal Emissions until April 1995 when he then joined BBC GMR. There he presented the afternoon programme and then the breakfast programme. He worked for GMR until he walked out in September 1998. More detail about James's programmes while at BBC GMR as well as the incident regarding his departure are covered on the "The BBC GMR Story" page which also links to an archived version of James's own Web site that discusses it at length.
While still working at GMR, he also presented "Jim and the Doc" with Tommy Doherty, a football programme on Radio 5 between 1996 and 1997 on Sunday early evenings, normally starting at 6pm. It was definitelty called "Jim and the Doc", but I also remember a programme called "Bob Hatton Rattle" also featuring James and Tommy Docherty which may have been from 1991/92 (not sure though), also on Radio 5, and is described as the "first football fanzine on the radio".
He also presented a sports programme on the relatively short-lived Fortune 1458, a station on medium wave that launched on the old BBC GMR frequency in June 1994. I'm not sure when James worked on it, or for how long. There is conflicting information as when the station launched, its schedules had Fred Eyre presenting Saturday Sport, "Fortune Football with Fred Eyre" and there was no mention of James in the schedules. However a Manchester Evening News article featured on the North West Radio site has a big feature about "Jim and the Doc" on Saturdays 1.30-5.30 featuring a lively football phone-in. It appears to be a station-launch type of article, so not sure when he actually did appear on it.
A contributer (also called James) has provided some info about James H's regular spot on the Radio 4 programme called Loose Ends. The exact dates are currently unknown but it was during the period when it was broadcast live from 10am on Saturday mornings (these days it is recorded, and airs early on Saturday evenings). Appearing on this show (hosted by Ned Sherrin) means you have the ear of the London chattering classes. It is also a clear indication that James's intellectual pretensions are by no means fanciful. His ability to communicate with, and entertain, both "dimwits and brainboxes" is a quality no other late-night phone-in host gets close to matching.
Contributer James also claims that James H's aspirations to break out from the basic regionality of his radio career have always been hampered by his unwillingness to move (or commute) to London. He self-mocked this aspect of his character in a (perhaps weak) running gag that punctuated one particular edition of "Loose Ends" on Radio 4. The theme being that he had been snatched from his home in Manchester by BBC heavies, and was phoning the show to complain live on air that he was the unwilling occupant of a car driving him down to London. He eventually arrived at the studio and did his regular spot in person. Prior to that edition, his contributions had been fed live from a separate studio in Manchester. This worked well enough when he was delivering his regular solo piece, but could cause confusion when it came to participating in the urbane chatter with Ned Sherrin and his studio guests. I remember one interruption from James H in his remote studio which led to Ned asking, "Is this your big piece, James?", to which James replied, "You leave my big piece out of it!"
In 1999/2000 he had various programmes on Talk Radio (nowadays called Talk Sport), one of which was called "The Fact Works" where people would phone up and write in to James asking him about the origins of things and general other useless trivia - an idea later repeated on the 2005/06 Key 103 programme. While at Talk Radio, James had the same aversion to London as before. At first he travelled down to London to do his show. However, after he was firmly established in the 10pm to 2am weekend slot (which later was reduced to 10pm to 1am), he persuaded station bosses to let him broadcast from Manchester. He boasted on air about this escape from the necessity of travelling to London, and made frequent references to the fact he was broadcasting from "a secret location somewhere in England". He then urged listeners to try and guess the exact whereabouts of his secret location. Many tried and failed, until someone suggested by email that his location might not be so very far away from "the largest brick structure in Europe" (which is Stockport Viaduct for anyone that isn't aware!)
After Talk Radio, James could be heard presenting Century 105's football phone-in programme in 2000, based in Manchester. He had originally been offered a lunchtime phone-in slot on the station at its launch in 1998 but chose to stay at GMR.
He was then heard on the short-lived Team Talk 252 long wave radio station in 2002 presenting the afternoon programme. Just before the station disappeared at the end of July 2002, his programme was sponsored by Ladbrokes. For this he used to commute to Leeds and several times mentioned the hazardous journey to the dark side of the Pennines.
He has also appeared on Granada TV presenting and guesting on various "local" programmes. In 2001 James worked at Maine Road for Manchester City FC hosting hospitality events on match days, and has also been working in a similar role more recently at the new stadium in Eastlands.
He re-appeared on Key 103 covering while James Stannage was on holiday in mid-2003, for three days between 13th and 16th September 2004, again in February 2005 and April 2005 before officially replacing James Stannage in July 2005 after his abrupt exit.
The latest spell on Key 103 ended at 1.00am on Friday morning 21st July 2006. James H's departure was generally unexpected and he was replaced on air by former Galaxy 102 presenter Simon Nicks aka "Nicksy". It is said that the departure was mutual as his contract had ended.
James next popped up briefly on 106.1 Rock Radio. This was a true rock station (as opposed to the similarly named Rock FM in Lancashire). This turned out to be a temporary spell as it lasted only about a month in May 2008 - which was also the first month that the station had been officially on air. It was fairly early weekend mornings, something James was unlikely to enjoy for very long! The first broadcast was on Saturday 10th May 2008. This link is the Manchester Evening News article at the time announcing the event: James to rule Rock Radio - however it is incorrectly dated as 18 April 2010, when it would have been 2008, not 2010. Listener Jill posted this e-mail response from Rock Radio when she questioned James's disappearance about 3 weeks later:
Unfortunately, it was felt that James' commitments were such that it wasn't possible for him to devote the time necessary to produce the type of show we were trying to create, and it was agreed that it was in both our interests amicably to end our arrangement. Rock Radio has chosen to broadcast highlights of its weekday breakfast and afternoon programmes on Saturday and Sunday mornings respectively."
The next radio appearance by James came on 96.2 The Revolution, a local station in East Manchester, Rochdale and Oldham. Starting on 20th September 2008, he presented the Revolution Sports Show on Saturdays 2-6pm. The show mainly featured reports from Oldham Athletic games home and away, as well as scoreflashes and music. James saw out the season with the last programme in May 2009.
There has been nothing more than very occasional appearances on other people's radio programmes (eg Iain Lee) since then. However if you're missing James then you can always follow him on Twitter: @JamesHReeve. If you dig through the tweet history, you may spot that James has mentioned that he is not looking to get himself back on the radio anytime soon.
Last Updated: Sun 31 January 2021