Radio DJ, champion of world music and author of a major history of rock’n’roll.. And let’s not forget, the discovery of Dire Straits!
Attempting to find a niche in journalism, he wrote for New Society, Anarchy and the soul music magazine Shout before securing a column in Record Mirror, in which he could express his enthusiasm for rhythm and blues and early rock’n’roll. But it was when The Sound of the City was published in the US in 1970, to great acclaim, that his reputation was established. The book looked beneath the surface of the first 15 years of rock’n’roll, tracing its antecedents and making thoughtful, typically unpretentious assessments, not just of the musicians but of the fledgling industry and its visionary hustlers. Its avoidance of received wisdom inspired countless authors to pursue its themes in the subsequent decades.
Four years later Charlie produced Making Tracks, a serviceable history of Atlantic Records. But writing books, it turned out, was not his true vocation. Honky Tonk was heard for the first time in 1972, and over the next six years it became compulsory Sunday listening for the kind of music lover to whom the intimate music of JJ Cale or Bobby Charles spoke louder than the pumped-up sounds of Led Zeppelin or Yes, and who were thrilled when Charlie played demos by Elvis Costello or Graham Parker.