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Full name: James Daniel May
Date of birth: 16 January 1963
Place of birth: Bristol, England
Spouse: Sarah Frater
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James May moved around a lot during his childhood with his parents James and Kathleen, his two sisters and brother. “I moved all over Britain. Home life was very happy. We all had food and shoes,” he said.
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Before teenage-hood he attended Caerleon Endowed Junior School in Newport until he and his family moved to South Yorkshire and he attended Oakwood Comprehensive School in Rotherham alongside actor Dean Andrews from Ashes to Ashes and Life On Mars.
During school he was a choirboy for Whiston Parish Church, and this love for music continued to college where he studied a Bachelor of Music at Pendle College of Lancaster University. He specialised in the piano and harpsichord but also plays the flute and saxophone.
After college he worked in Chelsea as a records officer in a hospital, then worked in the civil service for a short time.
James May’s First Top Gear Appearance
As we’re sure you know, Top Gear didn’t start in 2002. The version we all know and love did, but it actually started back in 1977 with Angela Rippon and Tom Coyne at the helm. Clarkson wasn’t on-board until 11 years later.
Within ten years after that however, Clarkson left, leaving a position open for a new presenter. Who was the new kid on the block? Why, James May of course!
It’s fair to say a lot of people think James May made his Top Gear debut in season 2 alongside Clarkson and Hammond. This is not true! While the first ever clip of James May on Top Gear isn’t available, this one is the earliest we can find. Just look at those sunglasses!
James May returned to Top Gear after not being involved in the first series. Instead, Jason Dawe was hosting alongside Richard Hammond and Jeremy Clarkson. James May replaced Dawe for the second series and onward, with his first film being focussed on his Bentley and how it costs the same as a Ford Mondeo.
Best/Funniest Moments Of His Career
James May Fired From AutoCar Magazine
It was once mentioned on TopGear that the show was the only job James May ever had from which he hadn’t been sacked. And once in a while, it’s worth a look back to see how that wonderful trend got started.
In 1992, James worked as the Features Editor at Autocar, one of the world’s oldest and most influential automotive publications. At the end of each year, the magazine published the Road Test Yearbook, a retrospective of car reviews throughout the last 12 months that rounded up the year’s new vehicles in one place. May’s job was simple: compile it.
According to May, it “was extremely boring and took several months.” In order to keep from killing himself due to boredom, May decided to play a little game.
Each article began with a large red initial, and some of the spreads spelled things like “YEAR” and “BOOK.” May cleverly began each article with letters that spelled out the following:
“SO YOU THINK IT’S REALLY GOOD, YEAH? YOU SHOULD TRY MAKING THE BLOODY THING UP. IT’S A REAL PAIN IN THE ARSE.”
The joke ended up going a little too far, as readers, thinking the acrostic was some sort of puzzle or challenge that they had discovered, began calling in to Autocar, assuming that they had won a competition or that there might be a prize. May’s editors didn’t think it was funny, and promptly let him go; but as far as ways to get fired, this had to have been one of the most satisfying.
How James May Got Into The Reassembler and Reassembling
If there is anyone on the planet who is more perfect than James May for hosting a show where he takes stuff apart and reassembles them, then I would like to meet this person.
The Reassembler might not be for everyone, but it’s hard to deny that James has a certain way about him that would make even reading the ingredients list off a box of cereal more entertaining than it should be.
In a piece for the Radio Times this morning, James talks about how he got into taking things apart and putting them back together, and what it means to him as a person.
“It began for me around the age of five, and my first reassembly experience was the one that many of you will have suffered since, even in adulthood. That is: it didn’t go back together.”
James’ first reassembly project was his parents’ alarm clock, and for those youngsters that might be reading, we don’t mean a digital alarm clock that you might find in a hotel today. You see, back in the olden days, alarm clocks were analog and had ticking hands and a giant bell on top that rang when it was time for you to wake up (I kid, kids).
Armed with a flat blade screwdriver, James set about taking apart the alarm clock, which by his account, went pretty well until mainspring exploded out and was lost under the floor boards.
James May’s Cars Of The People
Whatever your thoughts on the current episodes of The Grand Tour, it’s always a treat to find out that there’s more TopGear to watch. And while James May’s “Cars Of The People” is technically its own show, the cinematography, cars, writing, and presenting make them pretty much indistinguishable. Just without those other two crashing into things and getting pneumonia.
“Cars Of The People” is a three-part miniseries in which May examines the cars that have done the most to advance car culture and integrate automobiles into society to the degree they are now. In everything but name, it’s a three-hour TopGear segment about classic cars that might as well be “The Perfect Road Trip,” but for people who want more classics than just a pair of old Alfas.
James May Getting Drunk With Gordon Ramsay While Cooking fish Pie
On Gordon Ramsay’s cooking show, the F Word, he challenges May to make a dish to be judged against his own by a table of unbiased, unknowing restaurant goers.
Of course, in pure May fashion, the clip starts with May opening a bottle of wine and explaining how his bottle opener has two steps in it which ‘makes a difference in engineering terms’.
The cooking progresses and Gordon and James both explain how they’re making their dishes – the former sounding a tad more professional compared to the latter, and a little less drunk. This unprofessionalism shown by May suddenly takes a back seat as he begins shredding his greenery.
“I think I’m the first person in Britain to see Captain Slow go fast,” explains a surprised Ramsay.
This surprise quickly dissipates as James then mispronounces ‘raux’ with a particular finesse.
With James constantly returning to his wine, Gordon asks him if he always drinks this much when he’s cooking. James replies, “it dulls the horror of the food that I’m going to eat later on.”