Longtime WCPN British Host Joe Nicholls Dies

Joe Nicholls and Kevin McGinty at the original WCPN studios in the late 1990s [David C. Barnett / ideastream]
Joe Nicholls and Kevin McGinty at the original WCPN studios in the late 1990s [David C. Barnett / ideastream]
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The coronavirus pandemic has claimed one of WCPN’s original program hosts. Joe Nicholls, who helmed the weekly "Sounds of Britain and Ireland" program for over three decades, died Thursday at the age of 87. 

The skills Nicholls learned building engines in the shipyards near his hometown of Liverpool, England, eventually brought him in 1955 to Cleveland, where he got a job at Ford.

Ever a cultural entrepreneur, he started a British social club during his free time and hosted singles dances at a local hotel. In a 2011 interview, he described being bit by the radio bug during the course of buying advertising for those dances.

"Listening to the radio and all of these nationality programs got me induced to thinking: 'Why isn’t there a British one?'" he said.

Nicholls started out at the former WXEN and then moved his show, "The Sounds of Britain," to public radio when WCPN went on the air in 1984. After a short stint as a solo host, he asked a popular guest Kevin McGinty to join him on air as the co-host of the program that was re-named “The Sounds of Britain and Ireland.” The two were on-air partners for about 30 years, with a rollicking program that featured music, interviews and laughter.

Nicholls was always dreaming up programming concepts, from producing a video documentary on local Irish fiddler Tom McCafferty to staging a radio play with Cleveland-based actors. One of his most memorable ideas was an annual holiday-themed show. One year it might be local performers playing and singing Christmas tunes. Another year he and McGinty would host a discussion of holiday traditions from the British Isles. Perhaps the most popular show from this series was an imaginary journey across the pond where Nicholls and McGinty met an assortment of characters played by Cleveland-area natives of Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland.

In 2018, McGinty died from the effects of Parkinson's disease. Nicholls succumbed to heart disease and a stroke after contracting COVID-19.

CALLING HOURS: THE RIPEPI FUNERAL HOME, 5762 PEARL RD. (AT SNOW RD.) SATURDAY 2-5 P.M.

SERVICES: RIPEPI FUNERAL HOME Saturday December 12, 2020 at 5 p.m.

The family is planning for a "Celebration of Life" sometime in the future.

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