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Feature: 30 Years of Adam Walton

BBC 6Music presenter Adam Walton, taken in a record shop

I recently wrote an article celebrating the work of Steve Lamacq following his announcement that after thirty years at the BBC he is stepping back from his drive time show. I commented on the difference Steve Lamacq has made to my life along with the lives of so many people all over the world. In that article and others that I have written over the years I also referred to the importance of other DJs and how these broadcasters are so important to societies and the communities we live in. One of those other DJs is Sir Adam Walton, he is a Sir right? Well he certainly should be for the difference he has made to Welsh music.

Adam Walton is also celebrating thirty years on the BBC, broadcasting on BBC Radio Wales for thirty years. That is something that needs to be applauded and something that all us listeners need to show our gratitude and appreciation to Adam for introducing us to an unbelievable amount of Welsh music that has enriched our lives.

Yes, there are others out there flying the flag for Welsh music, but Adam honestly is at the top of the pile when it comes to introducing us to new bands / artists from Wales. I admit I have not been listening for the last thirty years, but I have been part of Adams journey for at least twenty of the last thirty years. In recent years I do not always get the opportunity to listen to the show live on a Saturday night, but thanks to BBC Sounds which is probably the most important thing in technological advances in recent years. I download from Sounds and catch up with the Adam Walton Show usually on a Sunday morning, when I am stood on the touchline watching my daughter play football. If I don’t want to sociable with the other parents (which is most weeks) I stand there with my headphones on being blown away and inspired by the sounds that Adam is introducing us to.

Reading through Adam’s substack (which you honestly need to subscribe to) we get figures on how many pieces of music has been played on his show. Since 1st January 2011 Adam has played 17537 different pieces of music by 5910 different artists. 96% of these artists were either Welsh or based in Wales and only a very small percentage of these artists were signed to a major label. These figures show the importance of the BBC retaining introducing shows. That is an unbelievable amount of artists who get featured on the radio and would not have the opportunity to get their music heard if it wasn’t for Adam Walton and shows like this. The algorithms would not pick up on these artists, so much of music on streaming platforms sit here and never get heard. Radio is still without a doubt the most important media outlet, it is the most important way of giving new bands / artists a chance to get their songs heard. Adam Walton has been doing this for thirty years, he has full control of what he plays, and listening to the man you genuinely know that he loves every piece of music he plays.

I will quote Adam himself who sums this all up better than I ever could:

“I think they’re all jewels. Luminous bursts of imagination, soul and creativity that have brought joy, empathy, excitement, defiance, beauty and poetry to thousands of others. Sometimes millions.
Each and every piece of music has a story of untold application and determination behind it. Of overcoming frustrations, bleeding fingertips, ragged larynxes, callouses on hands and sore heads. Of wrestling with Digital Audio Workstations and parents / authorities who wanted ‘proper jobs’ rather than idle, pointless diversions.
Of friendships forged and ruined in garages and musty rehearsal rooms. Of deathtrap vans to empty venues on bleak winter nights when non-music-making friends were climbing career ladders, signing up to pension schemes and putting deposits down on flats and / or houses.” ’93-’23 Welsh Music Mixtape Pt 1 – Adam Watlon – Substack – 06th October 2023

Listening to the Adam Walton show is truly an uplifting experience, there is no ego, this is a broadcaster who loves what he does and feels truly grateful to have the opportunity to do a job that he loves. Like with all great radio there is a relationship between the DJ and the listeners, you share a common interest, a love for music, a love for radio, a mutual respect and the importance of being humble and genuinely nice as human beings. Adam promotes all of that and more just by being himself on the airwaves.

If you listened to Radio Wales on 03rd October and 04th October you would have enjoyed two memorable radio shows. The first one on 03rd October which was thirty years to the day since Adam first graced the airwaves. This show was full of great music together with Adam bemoaning the fact that there was no cake and thinking that everyone had forgot his anniversary. Then the following day was true radio gold. As the second hour of the show begun Huw Stephens gate-crashed the show, and Adam was taken aback as Huw took us through a tour of Adams thirty years on air. With guests from Georgia Ruth, to Nicky Wire, to Carwyn Ellis, to Evrah Rose to Bethan Elfyn commenting on the difference Adam has made to the world. It was lovely hearing from Georgia Ruth how much it meant to her when Adam first played her on air and how it is moments like this that artists like Georgia and so many others will remember forever.

The other special thing about Adam is not for one minute does he take his position for granted. He makes comments that he is riding on the coat tales of the music makers. Which is not true, the music makers are genius, but Adam Walton and other broadcasters are hugely important and if it wasn’t for Adam the artists / bands would not get their songs heard. It is lovely hearing how Adam always ensures that he gives back to the creatives by buying a lot of the music he plays and by doing so he is giving back to the artists who enable him to work on radio.

When I sit here looking through my music collection there is so much of this that I owe a huge amount of debt to Adam Walton for. This is my thanks to Adam for introducing me to so much music that has made this world a better place. There is no other radio show that would play the music that Adam has played for the last thirty years. Every week I come away hearing something new. From Murry the Hump to Helen Love. From Peaness to Georgia Ruth. From Sweet Baboo to Catfish and The Bottlemen. From Evrah Rose to Juice Menace. From The Allergies to The Afternoons. From Mountaineers to The Joy Formidable. From Melys to Kidsmoke and that honestly is just a drop in the ocean of the music that has come my way through Adam Walton.

At the time of writing, we are half way through the two shows that are celebrating some of the songs that Adam has played over the last thirty years, then we will be treated to a show celebrating the life of Eliott Smith. After these special shows we will be back to the Adam Walton Show on Saturday night 22:00 – 01:00 where we can all look forward to the ongoing musical journey of Sir Adam Walton. He is showing no sign of giving up what he loves, make sure you continue this journey with Adam and if you are new to the party and intrigued to hear what all the fuss is about it is never to late to jump on board. Discover the power of radio and I promise you, you will feel part of a family and your life will be changed for the better.

Adam Walton thank you for everything you have done for Welsh music and for making a difference to the lives of so many.

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