UK

Family of Tommy Vance signs off on radio station recreating his voice using AI

Boom Rock will use the recreated gravelly voice of Vance to promote the station between songs.

DJ Tommy Vance
Tommy Vance DJ Tommy Vance (Andy Butterton/PA)

The family of radio DJ Tommy Vance have agreed that his voice can be rebroadcast using artificial intelligence (AI).

The former BBC Radio 1 star, who had also been a Top Of The Pops presenter, died at the age of 63 in 2005 after a stroke.

Boom Rock will use the recreated gravelly voice of Vance, who also hosted VH1’s Friday Rock Show and had stints at former pirate radio station Radio Caroline, to promote the station between songs.

Dave Mustaine (right) of the band Megadeath and DJ Tommy Vance
Vance and Mustaine Dave Mustaine (right) of the band Megadeath and DJ Tommy Vance (Neil Munns/PA)

David Lloyd, the co-founder of Boom Radio, the station aimed at baby boomers, which also runs spin-off Boom Rock, said: “Tommy was the obvious choice owing to his huge reputation and the respect our listeners have for him.

“The suggestion of using technology to recreate his voice was an idea which occurred to several of us simultaneously.”

It is thought that recreating his voice and words using AI is a first for UK radio, according to the station, which plays album rock, hard rock, psychedelic and prog rock, folk, new wave and west coast favourites.

It works by an AI tool being fed with old recordings to recreate new sentences using his “voice” which then makes a package of different jingles and spoken lines.

These include Vance saying: “Rock. That’s why we’re here.”

It will also feature in Boom Rock’s opening sequence.

Recently, AI has been used to bring US rock n’ roll legend Elvis Presley back to the stage with a hologram concert planned for November 2024 in central London.

A tour using the late London singer Amy Winehouse’s digital likeness, backed by a live band, singers and theatrical stagecraft, was postponed in 2019 because of “unique challenges and sensitivities”.

When he died, Vance, who had interviewed thousands of high-profile guests including the Sex Pistols’ John Lydon and The Rolling Stones’ frontman Sir Mick Jagger, left behind an ex-wife Stella and two children, Jessie and Daniel.

A tribute night in his memory, in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust, was held in 2006 with performances from acts including Judas Priest and produced by The Who singer Roger Daltrey.

Nicky Horne, who has worked at Capital Radio and BBC Radio 1, and Gary Burton, formerly of BBC Radio 6, are among the presenters at Boom Rock, which launched on Wednesday, the same date Boom Radio began in 2021.

Horne said: “My time at Boom Radio is the best I have had in radio since the early days of Capital and, honestly, the connections we are making with the audience, and their feedback, shows that we have become a part of their lives.

“I have missed, though, playing some of the rock music I love, and for us to now have a radio station that will be playing the wide world of rock, not the same old tracks that are played over and over till you are sick of them, is truly thrilling. Rock on.”

Founded during the pandemic by former radio executives David Lloyd and Phil Riley, Boom Radio saw presenters hosting shows and playing music from their garden sheds and bedrooms.

The late Paul O’Grady was also among the presenters.