He was born John Robert Parker Ravenscroft in 1939 in Heswell near Liverpool. After finishing his National Service in 1962 he went to America and initially worked for WRR Radio in Dallas, Texas. He returned to England in 1967 to work for the offshore pirate radio station Radio London ("Big L") where his programme was known as "The Perfumed Garden" before joining the BBC.
Right from the start at the BBC with his show 'Top Gear', produced by John Walters, John Peel displayed his eclectic and cutting-edge taste in music. He was largely responsible for introducing BBC listeners to punk rock, reggae and hip-hop. He was the first English DJ to play a record twice in a row - Teenage Kicks by The Undertones (which is famously his favourite record), and is an unapologetic champion of long running Manchester band The Fall. Naturally his style bought him into conflict with other DJs at the BBC such as Tony Blackburn and Simon Bates, but his popularity outlasted theirs and he is still a major force in independent music, both in the UK and across Europe. His radio show is now broadcast from his home, named Peel Acres, in Norfolk and has a somewhat homely feel with his wife, Sheila, whom he affectionately refers to as "The Pig" and his daughter, Flossie, often being involved or at least mentioned.
Many of his classic 'Peel Sessions' (see The John Peel Session Archive), originally recorded for and broadcast on his radio shows, have been licensed for release on the 'Strange Fruit' record label.
Peel has also played many older records on his show, specifically in two sections he introduced:
Peel was eleven times Melody Maker's DJ of the year, Sony Broadcaster of the Year in 1993, "Godlike Genius Award" from the NME in 1994. He was awarded an OBE, and is a fan of Liverpool F.C Football Club. In April 2003 the publishers Transworld agreed to a total package worth up to £1.6 million for his autobiography. The planned release date is in 2005.