Long-serving NME stalwart passes away

NME's Derek Johnson: 1928-2009

Derek Johnson, who worked on NME from 1957-86, has passed away aged 81.

Johnson began contributing to NME shortly after its launch in 1952 and joined the staff full-time in 1957, leaving his post as programming director at Radio Luxembourg to do so.

He worked as Features Editor and News Editor, writing prolifically for all sections of the paper. In 1960 he flew to Germany to interview Elvis Presley. The two men became friends and he interviewed Presley on several further occasions, even staying, on the singer’s invitation, at Graceland.

During the 1960s he compered the annual NME Poll Winners’ concerts at the Empire Pool, Wembley and was on stage to introduce The Beatles‘ final UK appearance in May 1966 (he is pictured above with John Lennon).

He later wrote that he had been forced to meet and welcome the Fab Four at the venue’s kitchen door, where they arrived disguised as chefs to avoid the crowds of screaming fans.

For many years he wrote the paper’s singles reviews, rounding up each week’s new releases in a crisp, descriptive style, and had an uncanny ability to spot a hit.

Johnson eventually left NME in 1986 to run his own news service.

He was born on January 17, 1928 in London and died on April 22 in Exeter.