After acquiring a medium wave transmitter, Lepke formed DBC radio (Dread Broadcasting Corporation) from Ladbroke Grove in 1981. From its inaugural broadcast, DBC made history as Europe’s first black-owned pirate radio station, dedicated to playing a wide range of black music including reggae, soul, Afrikan, Jazz and Soca.
Initially referred to as Rebel Radio, Lepke’s friend Mike Williams suggested the name DBC as a pun of the BBC. The rest, as they say, is history.
BACK IN THE DAY: Lepke looks on
Williams, Lepke, Dr Watts, Chucky (aka Douglas Wright) and later, Lepke’s sister Rankin’ Miss P, were the dream team behind the station.
At the time Miss P, who went on to present a show on DBC, said: “There’s never been a station run like DBC. Our format allows us to play music that would otherwise never be heard publicly. We create movement within the industry.”
She later hosted BBC Radio 1’s first reggae show, becoming one of the platform’s first black presenters.
At the time of DBC’s inception, black music was not being widely played across mainstream radio. During a 2007 interview with Ishmahil Blagrove Jr for Rice & Peas, Lepke outlined the reason behind DBC’s establishment.
“I started the station because at the time there was a need for black music to get more exposure. I.e. basically reggae music then later on we moved on to broader black music. Earlier in the 70s, I used to live in New York and I used to tune my radio in and hear pure black stations, Spanish etc. So from them times I was thinking, maybe that can gwan in England still.”
The station’s aim was to champion the best of black sounds to a universal audience. It is a little-known fact that many of the shows were pre-recorded.
DBC grew in popularity, upset naysayers and became the blueprint for the many other community based stations that were to follow such as JBC, Time Radio, Traffic Jam and Choice FM. Through the platform, Lepke is credited with helping to kick-start the careers of artists such as Lloyd Bradley, Neneh Cherry and of course, Ranking Miss P.
CHAMPIONS: (Middle – Right) Rankin Miss P & Lepke
Following a series of raids, DBC folded in 1984. However, Lepke remained a staple on the UK black music scene – though he never received due mainstream recognition for his pioneering role in black broadcasting.
Leroy was born in Jamaica, grew up in west London and is the younger brother of Rita Marley, Bob Marley’s widow. He is survived by three children and grandchildren.
A celebration of Lepke’s life will be taking place on Sunday 25 March at Maxilla Social Club – 2 Maxilla Walk, london, W10 6SW from 5 – 11pm.