(For the blog of the same name, see Kat's Karavan (blog).)
- I went down to WRR, which was in the Showgrounds, the station was in the Cotton Showgrounds in Dallas, where they had the annual Texas State Fair. And I went down there and I’d got these records that I’d bought in Holland, or bought from Holland, although they were French – the sleeve notes were in French – and they were records drawn from the Bluebird record catalogue. Now Bluebird Records was a label which I think was affiliated with RCA. It was their kind of race record label, and the music on Bluebird was linked, the kind of solo acoustic guitar player or piano player, with the electric Chicago bands of a few years afterwards. So it was mainly acoustic stuff, but mainly little groups. So I took them down there, and the people who introduced Kat's Karavan was a fella called Hoss Carroll, and he’d never heard any of this stuff and was obviously quite interested in putting it on the radio. I think actually in retrospect what he was more interested in was putting me on the radio, because in those days I used to talk like a minor member of the royal family – I had a perfectly extraordinary accent. And this was after two years of national service and about a year of Dallas, so what it must have been like before I went to national service I simply cannot imagine. It was very high-pitched and very nasal and very embarrassing to hear now. But as I say, I thought they put me on the radio because of my extraordinary knowledge of the blues. And I assume they put me on there because they thought, “People are not going to believe it when they hear this pillock.”
- (John Peel, Peeling Back The Years 2 (Transcript))
Peel made his radio debut on the show of this name in Dallas in the early 1960s, probably in 1961. The show, hosted by Jim Lowe, Jr. and Bill Carroll on the otherwise middle-of-the-road station WRR, ran from 1953 to 1967, combining rhythm and blues records and contemporary comedy. (Its title may have parodied the long-running, cigarette-company-sponsored music and comedy show heard on US network radio in the '30s and '40s, Camel Caravan). It has been seen as a pioneering show, in that it presented black music to a white teenage audience at a time when racial divisions in the US prevented black performers from gaining widespread acceptance; it also influenced many budding Texas blues and rock musicians, such as Steve Miller and Boz Scaggs, whose records would later appear in Peel's BBC playlists. (In fact, when Peel finally met Miller, at the Knebworth Festival in 1975, he told the DJ that he too had been a Kat's Karavan listener, as JP mentioned in his Sounds column.)
Kat's Karavan's blues orientation clearly appealed to Peel, already a keen blues record collector. He managed to persuade the hosts to allow him to present the show's second hour - although this ended abruptly when he asked for payment. Peel's enduring affection for the show which gave him his first radio experience led him to write "Kat's Karavan" at the top of all his Radio 1 running orders. As a consequence of this, the show's name has been used in recent years in a variety of Peel-related projects, from an excellent blog to a CD anthology featuring some of his favourite music. In Texas, however, the Kat's Karavan radio show is still fondly remembered.
- ↑ The DJ marked the 40th anniversary of his radio career on his BBC Radio One programme of 11 October 2001, although he admitted he was unclear about the exact date of his first appearance on Kat's Karavan.
- ↑ See Radio Radio (Transcript)): "As far as I can remember, after this they allowed me to have an hour on the radio every Monday evening. I did an hour of Kat's Karavan on Monday evening, unpaid, for a few months. I mean, it may have been three months, it may have been six, I don’t remember. After a while I asked them if they’d start paying me and at that point they told me to clear off, so I did."