Monty Lister opens the new studios

Tributes to Monty Lister, the man who interviewed The Beatles

Listeners and volunteers at Radio Clatterbridge have been saddened to learn of the death of one of the station’s founding members, the broadcaster Monty Lister.

He was 92.

Monty managed the station until 1967 before he moved to BBC Radio Merseyside to present the long-running Sunday morning request programme Tune Tonic.

Roger Hazlewood, our Honorary President who Monty enlisted the previous year, described him as a “force behind the scenes” who was always available to discuss strategy for the station in the early years.

“I have met many gentlemen in my life but Monty is one of a very small number that can also be called a gentle man. Rest in peace.” – Roger Hazlewood

Monty interviewed a number of well-known celebrities of the era including Bill Haley, Cliff Richard and Gene Vincent and he recorded possibly the last interview with Eddie Cochran who died in a car crash days later.

However, he is perhaps best remembered for recording the first broadcast interview with The Beatles for us in 1962 for the programme Sunday Spin, which he also broadcast to Cleaver Hospital in Heswall.

The band, who were playing at Hulme Hall, were about to hit the big time and had just signed Ringo Starr so Monty and assistants Peter Smethurst and Malcolm Threadgill decided to turn up and see if they could get the new Fab Four on tape.

“Mr Epstein rang me up and gave me up hill and down dale for not asking his permission. I think it was the right decision by Monty to go ahead irrespective.” – Peter Smethurst speaking in 2002

Monty had joined the station in its early days as volunteers from Port Sunlight Boys’ Club still played requests directly in front of patients on the wards in Clatterbridge.

School friend Bill Wilding built what he called a transportable tape recorder and the pair launched The Clatterbridge Chronicle, “a magazine in sound bringing you reports and interviews for the patients of Clatterbridge Hospital.”

They travelled far and wide to bring patients messages from home.

Monty tells interviewer John Roberts about meeting his hero Jim Lovell
Monty tells interviewer John Roberts about meeting his hero Jim Lovell

In total, Monty interviewed more than 550 celebrities over his years with us and with the BBC.

He leaves behind an illustrious list of interviewees including HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Morecambe and Wise, Frank Ifield, Little Richard, Stanley Matthews, Tommy Cooper, Guy Mitchel and Ken Dodd.

But one of his favourite subjects was former NASA Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell who he interviewed in Florida.

“I had to be enthusiastic about what I was doing. If I wasn’t pleasing myself, I certainly wouldn’t be pleasing other people.” – Monty Lister speaking in 2016

Monty Lister helps celebrate Radio Clatterbridge's 60th birthday
Monty Lister helps celebrate Radio Clatterbridge’s 60th birthday

In later years, Monty took part in an anniversary programme marking 40 years since the interview with The Beatles.

He met up again with Peter Smethurst in the studio to relive the night.

Monty was on hand to officially open the current studio complex in 2001 – and was a special guest ten years later on the first day of broadcasting on medium wave.

He last appeared on Radio Clatterbridge three years ago, in a biographical programme to mark the station’s 65th anniversary.

“Monty Lister turned what was a largely unsuccessful attempt to play records to patients on portable players in the wards into a thriving radio service. Without him, there would be no Radio Clatterbridge. He kept a keen interest in the station after he left and we were always delighted to welcome him back. He will be sadly missed.” – Steve Evans, Chairman

In tribute, the station is rebroadcasting Monty’s Memories on Saturday 11th May 2019 at 1pm.