Nov 20, 2008

An Interview With Chris Needs MBE

The Man

Americymru member, musician, broadcaster and author Chris Needs is a well-known face and voice of Wales. In broadcast radio for decades, today Chris Needs delivers "The Friendly Garden," late nights on Radio Wales, to audiences all over the world.

Chris, originally from Cwmafan near Port Talbot, published his autobiography last year ("Like It Is") which became a number-one bestseller in Wales. He is an accomplished pianist and has accompanied many artists, including Bonnie Tyler. He speaks five languages :- English, Welsh, Spanish, Dutch and German. He has also been awarded the M.B.E.

Chris Needs new book "The Jenkins's" can be found

Love is All

Needs: Like It Is: My Autobiography

Friendly Garden

The Interview

You've been a presenter or host with BBC Radio Wales on the BBC since 1996. For Americans, what is Radio Wales?

Radio Wales is the national BBC station for the principality of Wales. It now serves the world as it is broadcast on the air, online, cable, sky satellite, download etc, etc, etc.. The service is in the medium of English, although it plays music in lots of languages.

How did you come to be at Radio Wales?

I was on a local station in Cardiff and I won the Sony radio awards in London.[that's' like an Oscar in radio terms] and I was approached by the BBC to join them. I did and never looked back.

You now have a late night show called "The Friendly Garden" - where did that name come from and what does it mean?

My nightly show on Radio Wales is called [in full] "the Chris Needs Friendly Garden associated affiliated ltd twice, sounds crazy I know, but it's one of the biggest shows in Wales and I have approximately 50,000 members called flowers. There are fabulous females and mere males, I give out numbers and badges and car stickers . We are now a big community in Wales and the rest of the world and we strive to help each other and bring back old values.

What is the format of this show?

The format of the show is ME, someone on the phones, great music - from opera to punk, as long as it's good. We chat in between songs and put the world to right., that's one job that need to be done.

Your show is listened to by people all over the world and the Friendly Garden has members all over the world - how did your show become internationally known? What about it do you think appeals to so many people from so many places?

The members are from all walks of's not just little old ladies .........all walks of life from all over the world...and you can join by phoning the programme, by text by email by letter or at a road show or a variety concert .

You also have animals that are Garden members? Do people sign up or propose their pets for this? Why?

Pets are part of the family here in Britain and they should not be left out. They are important to the person and so we respect that.

The Friendly Garden has members, who are your members, how and why do people join and what is membership in the Friendly Garden? How many members do you have?

The show is listened to by all types from all over the world, and I believe the success is due to "being included" and being able to reach other people, just by picking up a phone.

What genre or type(s) of music do you play on your show?

The music....Oh My GOD !!!!! This is all over the place, euro pop, opera, punk, latin/spanish , french, german, dutch, instrumental, choirs, hymns - you never know what is coming next. On the last Friday of each month we have a WELSH NIGHT. Only Welsh artistes, [Shirley] Bassey, Bonnie Tyler, Tom Jones, etc, etc, etc. That goes well.

I do play my own music on the show, classical piano and I sing, also. I have recently performed duets with Steve Balsamo from Jesus Christ Superstar, Gillian Elisa from Pobol y Cwm.

Do you currently work or perform as a musician?

I still perform as a musician.when I have time, sometimes on TV but quite often in theatres., ie, tribute to Liberace, Russ Conway, Winnifred Atwell, etc, etc, etc. - even Les Dawson, playing out of tune, which i did at my 40 years concert in St David's hall Cardiff. That went well. I don't have time to teach.

How did you become a musician?

I studied piano from the age of five......took to it like a duck to water.

What was your career as a musician (you played with Bonnie Tyler?)

I played with Bonnie Tyler, Anita Harris, Roger Whittaker, Dorothy Squires, Paper Lace, The Peddlers, Pickerty Witch, Madeline Bell, Elkie Brooks, Jimmy Helms, Shirley Bassey, the list is endless.

You've also been a music teacher/piano teacher, do you currently do that or have students? Did you teach in a school or on your own?

I used to teach in a school but the big world of entertainment beckoned me.

You head a charity called the Chris Needs Hospital Appeal, what is that and how did it come about?

I started [the Chris Needs Hospital Appeal] to help diabetics and generally health in Wales.....It's so hard fund raising but I have some great help from wonderful Colleagues. David Emanuel is a great support me. The charity has enabled people to have an easier life, we like to buy the product, ie - a bed for a patient, and then we can see exactly where the money goes. We try not to give to a fund if possible.

You were awarded an MBE (Membership of the Order of the British Empire) by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2005 - for Americans, what is that and what does it mean?

The MBE is called here a "GONG" it's a title...and the Queen gives this title in an was so mind blowing meeting speaking and shaking hands with the Queen. It meant a lot to me.

How did you come to receive that award and how did it feel getting it?

I felt like a little boy on Christmas morning. The Queen made me feel as if she really DID want to meet me. I told her that the Radio was better that the TV. I truly believe that.

How many languages do you speak and how did you come to learn them?

I speak 5 languages and I still don't understand people half the time ! I lived is Spain for 20 years, worked as an entertainer and a translator. I loved it. Languages were a way out for me to get a brilliant and different type of job. I speak Welsh, English, Spanish, Dutch and German.

Will Wales win the Grand Slam this time around?

I hope Wales will win the Grand Slam. Fingers crossed.

You may have seen Americymru's Top Ten Hardest Welshmen Poll. Who gets your vote?

Hardest ...Welshman.......Joe the boxer !!!!!

When will the Jenkins's's's's join Americymru?

Standby, the jenkins's's's's's Will be joining you, once they've had a couple of injections.

Buy Chris' new book HERE.

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