On the morning of Monday February 11 2002, Percy Dickins, died of heart failure aged 80 years, after several months of serious illness - and in the year of the 50th anniversary of the pop charts he helped to launch.
In the post-war years, Dickins combined the careers of being a saxophone player with working in newspaper publishing, ending the Forties on the staff of Melody Maker. In 1952, Percy joined the entrepreneur Maurice Kinn and editor Ray Sonin to found the New Musical Express (aka NME). Percy's responsibilities were advertising, layout and printing, but he soon came up with the idea of publishing a chart based on the sales of records, instead of the sheet music previously listed. For the first few months, it also fell to him to gather the information from the record stores and compile the charts each week.
Dickins was the only one of that original staff to stay with the paper and he saw the chameleon NME change from the Big Band era to Rock & Roll in the Fifties, from Beatlemania to Psychedelia in the Sixties, from Prog-Rock to Punk in the Seventies and finally through to Electronica when he left in 1982.
In the early Sixties, Dickins put together the NME Poll Winners Concert, featuring acts such as the Beatles and the Stones on the same bill at Wembley Arena, setting the tone for the many award shows that followed. He also knew and cared about the creative talents within the business, and in the early Seventies he set up the annual NME Awards to celebrate the talents of Record Producers, Sleeve and Advert Designers, Recording Engineers etc who had previously gone unrecognised.
Dickins was the first of what is now three generations of Dickins in the music business. His eldest son Barry is the co-chairman of music agency/promoters ITB, while his younger son Rob became chairman of the BPI and Warner Music, and launched his own companies Instant Karma and Dharma. Dickins’ grandchildren Jonathan and Lucy work in records and music agency respectively.
Read Percy Dickins Guardian obituary here.