Broadcasters lead tributes as popular radio caller ‘Karl from Plaistow’ dies
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Known to his fans simply as “Karl from Plaistow”, prolific radio caller Karl McCulloch left an impression on the broadcasters he spoke with and the listeners who tuned in nationwide with eager ears.
London mayoral candidate George Galloway, who spoke with Karl on many occasions on his former Talksport radio show the Mother of All Talk Shows, was one of them.
The Respect Party leader led tributes to pensioner Karl yesterday after hearing of his recent passing.
He said: “Karl was a most extraordinary man, with a backstory which left you open-mouthed with wonder – not only that he could be so eloquent, erudite, but that he was even still alive at all.
“He went from sleeping on the streets of Soho to being a regular feature, much admired by audiences, on several national radio shows.
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“But he found his best stage as the star caller on my show. Virtually every show for seven years, when I announced that coming up was Karl from Plaistow, you could almost see hundreds of thousands of listeners sit up ready to take notice.”
The two Scots knew each other for more than 10 years. Karl, a staunch left-wing supporter, was a regular caller on the former MP’s show.
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They were reunited on the airwaves for a podcast in 2014, later published in a Youtube video, in which Mr McCulloch said he had suffered from cancer and a heart attack in the intervening years but was “doing very well”.
Mr Galloway discussed laying “the foundation... of a radio station of our own” with Karl after the cancellation of his Talksport show in 2010 after four years on the air.
Poignantly he added: “If you can hang on in there Karl until we get this station – you’ll have your own show on it.”
Sadly, Mr Galloway, who referred to Karl as “my friend” tweeted yesterday: “With sadness I announce the passing Karl in Plaistow. He will be cremated East London Cemetery 10am on Thursday. It is a real loss. Salud.”
The message prompted an outpouring of sympathy from his followers.
Twitter user @therealijn said: “Made for great radio listening. Highlight of my week. ‘On the line, it’s Karl from Plaistow’.
Another, @VitoAndy, said: “Sad news, Karl was my favourite caller on your Talksport show, a hugely knowledgeable political mind. We need more like him.”
Current LBC host Iain Dale, on whose show Karl was also a regular caller, told the Recorder: “He was very polite but he knew exactly what he was talking about.
“You could almost feel the twinkle in his eyes and you could always feel the humour with him.”
BBC Radio London Broadcaster Duncan Barkes, formerly of LBC and Talksport, said of Mr McCulloch: “I always used to have a smile on my face when his number flashed up on the switchboard.
“There are not that many people around now who are what you might call colourful characters. Karl from Plaistow was one of the best.”
Despite his jovial manner, Mr McCulloch had lived through difficult times, as he revealed in the podcast when he talked about his battle with alcoholism.
Speaking in 2014, he said he had been sober for 30 years since he was 40 – “that’s getting on for about 40 years ago you know,” he said.
Prior to that he had lived on the streets for 10 years. “I was in and out of jail like a yo-yo – mental hospitals. I’ve had full scale DT’s. I’ve gone as low as you can go.”
He went to AA but said “the penny dropped” one day and he had been sober since. He had been a regular caller on various radio stations for many years.
Mr Galloway said Karl’s legend would live on after his death.
“They said that video would kill the radio star, but Karl in Plaistow’s star will never fade, for me or any of my listeners,” he said.
• Did you know Karl? Can you share a tribute or further information with us? Call Kat Hopps on 020 8477 3789 or email firstname.lastname@example.org