If it wasn’t for Pelsall Community Centre, Steve Jenkins might never have embarked on a career in the music industry, writes Jayne Howarth.
For Jenkins, who went on to help discover such global superstars as Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake and headed up Jive Records, took his first tentative steps towards becoming a global music mogul there.
It was 1972 and he put advertisement in the Walsall Observer, which simply said: “Mobile DJ requires work.” The paper came out on the Friday and the following Monday, a call came from Pelsall Community Centre, asking him to DJ that week.
“I was 19 and I’d saved money for two or three years to buy a rig, two massive speakers, turntable microphone and headphones,” he recalls.
“They phoned me to see if I would do the Saturday disco. As I unloaded the equipment there, I don’t think I was nervous about being on stage because I knew I’d feel comfortable being on the stage, but I was worried about what would happen if the rig went off as I had no idea how to fix it!
“That was the scary part.”
The disco went well – so well that he was given an extra £2 on top of his £6 fee and was rebooked for the following Saturday.
“Without doubt that was a big moment in my career,” he says earnestly.
Pelsall Community Centre didn’t rebook him after his second gig (“They’re tough down there!” he laughs), but instead he was hired to DJ at Pelsall Youth Club on Monday nights.
The story is just one of the dozens that are in Jenkins’ autobiography The Future is in the History, which he is launching in Walsall this Saturday (April 28) at the New Art Gallery.
The book charts his rise from mobile DJ to MD of Jive Records.
His phenomenal trajectory in the record industry began in 1973 when he worked at Nems and Immediate Records as a regional promotion manager. He worked at Chrysalis Records, MCA Records, and Mountain Records before he started his own company, Impulse Promotions in 1983.
In 1989, he became managing director of Jive Records, a label that by 1999 was the largest independent record label in the world with such artists Britney Spears, The Backstreet Boys, R,Kelly, Nsync, Steps and Justin Timberlake.
The top music producer, who worked with Peter Waterman, has been responsible for more than 260 platinum, gold and silver discs.
It was a life he never thought he’d achieve – and neither did his teachers at Joseph Leckie School, who didn’t take his dreams of working as a radio broadcaster (something he still would like to attain) or within the music industry seriously.
“They didn’t think I’d do well,” explains Jenkins, a dedicated Walsall FC fan – and the reason why Pete Waterman became a Saddlers supporter. “Joseph Leckie thought I was difficult and uncontrollable. There were a lot of reasons for that.”
He says the school dismissed his desired career, but he says music was “somewhere in my soul”.
Jenkins is proud of Walsall, visiting his family every few weeks, and it is why he has chosen his hometown to launch his book.
“All things in my life have started in Walsall and I knew it was where I wanted to launch the book. It feels the right thing to do,” he says.
He said the book examines his life in Walsall, how he embarked on a career in the music industry and rose to head up a globally successful label, as well as how Jive Records discovered talent and nurtured them.
“People have always asked me about how I helped sign Britney Spears and what it was like to work with Pete Waterman, for example. This book tells them and lots of other things,” says Jenkins.
“But I’d also like people to be inspired to follow their own dreams like I did.”
- Steve Jenkins will stage a meet the author session at Walsall library, Lichfield Street, from 2.30pm on Thursday, April 26, and will launch his autobiography ‘The Future is in the History’ at New Art Gallery, Gallery Square, Walsall, on Saturday, April 28, at noon.