THE journey for Peter Johns started in Zimbabwe and ended in a foreign land which has become the case for many entertainers.
By Fungai Marange
Peter Johns and I shared the same passion; the passion to entertain, bring joy, a smile, laughter, show compassion, empathy for others, and most importantly, the love for music.
My journey started after meeting one Eddie Manda in Zambia, Eddie was known as the “Masterjam” and would become a legendary DJ who entertained hundreds of fans from across Southern Africa at Studio 22 in Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia.
We lived in the Zambian town of Ndola where we learned and practiced the art of night club entertainment at “Steps Disco” with my brother Pfungwa, and the late Marvin Mtine whose family owned the club.
Eddie who had become the focus of style and presentation for many in Zambia would later bring his talent to independent Zimbabwe. We should remember that Zimbabwe had developed their own black radio entertainment personalities after independence, the likes of James Makamba, Wally Mbofana, Patrick Bajila, Hilton Mambo, John
Matinde, and Fred Zindi who was also a musician, and many others, but few club entertainers.
However, Zimbabwe had one Josh Makawa! Josh had developed an immense radio and club entertainer’s personality which was further perfected by his association with Eddie Manda.
We had the teen scene at Chantelles, and PJ (as Peter Johns was fondly called) would pop in unannounced. PJ was always a cool character for any occasion. He came on the scene with a loud bang at Scamps after Eddie Manda was forced to leave Zimbabwe under controversial circumstances, and Josh started concentrating on building his entrepreneurial skills.
All Peter Johns shows, both live and radio, reached the listener with a convincing coolness, smile, laughter, grace, that showed he was the “Driver” whether in the DJ box or Radio 3 studio.
PJ had through association with overseas contacts gathered a music selection which simply became the best
after Eddie’s exit from Zimbabwe.
Peter Johns became the main force of night club entertainment and would later cross over to radio before embarking on a shortlived stint in television presentation. Peter was introduced to radio broadcasting with the help
of the then head of Radio 3, the late Ishmael Kadungure, John Matinde and Busi Chindowe, who later became head of Radio 3 and part of Peter Johns’ journey into full-time radio.
Matinde would become head of the station after Busi gave “The Radio Driver” room to entertain
and distinctively express himself to become one of Zimbabwe’s leading radio personalities.
PJ was a hard worker and always brought out the best of the music he represented while developing his legendary status as one of the most formidable DJs of his era.
Lest we forget others who came before him and worked alongside him, the list is well known!
I will always have immense respect for Matinde. He was, and still is, one of the most influential radio personalities alongside James Makamba, and Josh Makawa, although the latter two were never into the night clubbing scene.
Peter Johns and I became good friends over the years while working together at Radio 3. I was always in awe at his immense capacity to acquire music releases at a meteoric rate, never mind the jingles! He was in a class of his
Peter Johns built his entertaining skills through sheer determination to be counted among the best. He had immense intelligence, style, persona, curiosity, and most of all, a love for music while establishing a class of presentation few could compete or compare with.
The Radio Driver became one of the most formidable names on the club scene and later radio during an era when Zimbabwean music lovers were discovering the endless journey of disco, soul, rave, digital, house music, new wave, club mixes, hip hop, local ragga and live new acts in the Rusike Brothers, Rozalla Miller, Alton Edwards, Fungai Malianga, Frontline Kids, and David Scobie, to name only a few.
There were so many musicians who made PJ’s play list,
the list was bound to, and had been growing until The Radio Driver was brought to rest by the Almighty!
Rest in everlasting peace PJ after a journey well-driven.