Friday, November 10, 2017

Mike Raven (1924-1997)

Austin Churton Fairman was born in London in 1924. His parents were classical actors and the young Austin trained as a ballet dancer. He also became an accomplished flamenco guitarist and worked as a photographer and conjuror at one time or other. In 1964 he became a pirate broadcaster and joined Radio Atlanta presenting a program called All Systems Go.

Now known as 'Mike Raven' he felt this was a name more suited to his new employ. He later moved to another pirate station called King Radio as program controller but the venture was short lived due to underfunding and the station closed down. Radio 390 replaced King Radio in 1965 and was better equipped, broadcasting from a more powerful transmitter. Mike and Mandy Raven co-presented Raven Around and because they were both blues enthusiasts played a lot of blues records which had been all but ignored by the mainstream media. They soon won a devoted following.

He left Radio 390 in 1966 to join Radio Luxembourg and present a soul show. A year later he was with Radio 1 presenting an R&B show on Sunday night called "The Mike Raven Blues Show". The two hour program ran for four years. The theme tune for the show was Soul Serenade performed by the Mike Cotton Sound which was also produced by Mike Raven.

Although unsung, Mike Raven’s shows established a major influence in bringing Blues and Soul music to a British audience.

In his private life Mike was always fascination with the occult and gave up broadcasting in 1971 to become an actor after he left the BBC. Tall, bearded and dressed in black, he had the perfect appearance for the horror genre and featured in a number of movies including: Lust for a Vampire (1970) Crucible of Terror (1972) and I, Monster (1974).

The films met with meager public interest and were mostly panned by the critics. Mike faded from the acting scene and retired to Cornwall to rear sheep. He also reverted to his original name and became a successful sculptor. He refused all invitations to reappear as Mike Raven but was well aware of his influential role in promoting Delta Blues in the UK. Mike always referred to himself as “a poor man’s Paul Oliver”. He died in 1997 aged 72.

Worth a listen
Phil Upchurch Combo
You Can't Sit Down (1961)

The Mike Cotton Sound
Soul Serenade

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