Saturday, 18 September 2021

You've Got to be Joking

You've Got to be Joking
was the radio comedy panel show that ran for six series between 1976 and 1982. I say panel game though there was no discernible format. The chairman Cardew Robinson would give each of the three comedians a subject or maybe the start of a story that they would follow-up with gags, a shaggy-dog story (the shaggier the better) or a song.  

The show was devised by the BBC resident comedy guru in Manchester, producer Mike Craig, though obits for Cardew, who died in 1992, erroneously credit him with the idea.

Accompanying the comics for the songs was Harry Hayward, perhaps best known for his numerous appearances on Workers' Playtime and later Ken Frith who often played with the Northern Dance Orchestra. 

The six series started off on Radio 2, where it really belonged, but with series 3 and 4 turning up on Radio 4, though both stations repeated some editions that had been heard on the other one.

Providing the comedy were invariably Northern comics, well steeped in touring the clubs and theatres. Some were fairly regular broadcasters like Duggie Brown, Bernie Clifton, Tom Mennard, Dave Evans.

Cardew Robinson had been broadcasting on the radio since 1947 initially billed as Douglas 'Cardew' Robinson and then adapting The Cad persona. He'd pop up on numerous variety shows such as Variety Bandbox, Variety Fanfare (where he was the resident comic), Music-Hall, over 80 editions of Workers' Playtime, Blackpool Night, Variety Playhouse and London Lights. He was also on the mid- 60s Ken Dodd shows and over 60 editions of the comedy panel show Does the Team Think?

I've a couple of editions of You've Got to be Joking that I recorded. From the start of the 1980 series on Radio 4 comes this gem of a show with Tom Mennard, one fine form here, Bernie Clifton, with a 3½ minute gag fest at the start, and Tony Peers. First broadcast on 9 July 1980 and repeated on Radio 2 on 30 June 1981 it has not been heard since.

From the fifth series here are Mike Burton, Malcolm Stent and Jan Harding. This was broadcast just the once on 24 March 1982.

Series Guide

Series 1: 13 December 1976-7 March 1977 (13 episodes) BBC Radio 2

Duggie Brown, Bernie Clifton, Tom O'Connor, Bobby Knutt, Mick Miller, Jack Platts and Peter Wallis,  

Series 2:28 November 1977-27 February 1978 (13 episodes) BBC Radio 2

Bernie Clifton, Norman Collier, Tom Mennard, Jan Harding, Tony Kent, Bobby Knutt, Don Maclean, Peter Wallis, Mick Miller and Ron Delta 

Series 3: 28 November 1978-20 February 1979 (13 episodes) BBC Radio 4

Bernie Clifton, Tom Mennard, Dave Evans, Jan Harding, Peter Robinson, Duggie Brown and Mike Newman 

Series 4: 9 July-13 August 1980 (6 episodes) BBC Radio 4

Tom Mennard, Bernie Clifton, Tony Peers, George Roper, Jan Harding and Peter Robinson

Series 5: 10 March-14 April 1982 (6 episodes) BBC Radio 2

Alan Fox, Colin Price, Tony Kent, Mike Newman, Malcolm Stent, Vince Earle, Mike Burton and Jan Harding

Series 6: 10 November-15 December 1982 (6 episodes) BBC Radio 2

Mike Burton, Mike Newman, Jan Harding, Tony Kent, Vince Earle, Ronnie Hayward, Phil Cool and Colin Price  

Sunday, 29 August 2021

Back in Time On the Light – Part 1

If you were sitting down in front of the wireless exactly sixty years ago what would you have heard? The joys of the BBC Programme Index (formerly BBC Genome) tell us what the BBC was offering but what about listening to those shows again?

In this post I’ll be taking you back in time to the BBC Light Programme on Tuesday 29 August and Wednesday 30 August 1961. Little is likely to have survived in the BBC Sound Archives from those dates. Looking at the listings I know that Tuesday’s episode of Whack-O was secured away as it’s had a Radio 4 Extra repeat. You never know but maybe The Archers or Mrs Dale’s Diary was kept, but I doubt it.

Fortunately we can now fill some gaps thanks to some home taping done back in the day by a young man called Eric Bartington and, more recently, the timely intervention of Gerard de Roo. But more on that later.

Jack Jackson with Record Roundabout

The first show is Jack Jackson’s hugely popular Record Roundabout. By the time of this recording Jack had been in show business for 30 years, with more than a decade as a presenter and broadcaster. As a trumpeter and bandleader he’d been broadcasting since the early 1930s in regular late-nights shows from London’s Dorchester Hotel as well as some broadcasts for Radio Luxembourg and Radio Lyons. During the war whilst his band continued to appear on Music While You Work he also was called on to present shows such as Salute to Rhythm and Band Call.

Post-war Jack performed with his band for a while (including a spell on the BBC tv variety show Rooftop Rendezvous) but his main employment was as a presenter looking after the proceedings on Jazz Matinee (his first show with Mark White as producer) and Band Parade (1947-50).

The first radio series with which Jack was most closely associated is Record Round-up. Starting on the Light Programme in January 1948 it ran until April 1954 and was one of the rare gramophone-only shows on the network at that time. It was during this series that he began to adopt the style that was to become his trademark. Short witty introductions interspersed with comic effects and comedy lines proving something of a nightmare for the studio managers and grams operators. It was only the later Record Roundabout shows that Jack pre-recorded in his home studio that fully allowed this style to develop.    

In 1955 Jack’s radio work ceased when he signed an exclusive contract with one of the new commercial television contractors, ABC. He was there on the opening day in September 1955 to introduce the Gala Night variety show and was given a Saturday night show introducing “personalities, news and music from the world of show business” from the Embassy Club in Bond Street. This didn’t particularly work for Jack and after a month it was re-titled On the Town with Australian actor Ron Randell as the compère. Instead Jack was given a Sunday afternoon show (not long afterwards moved to Sunday night) that became known as Record Time. Co-written and devised with his former BBC producer Mark White it better suited Jack who sat behind a desk and presented “a fast-moving combination of music and comedy, chatting to guests and welcoming his own supporting company of comedians”.  His regular team included Joan Savage, Glen Mason and Paddie O’Neil. Ideas for the show were tried out by Jackson and White in Jack’s studio at his home in Rickmansworth mixing comedy effects from records by the likes of Danny Kaye, Spike Jones and Stan Freberg. Producer Peter Glover told the TV Times that each week’s show is built like a variety bill mixing comedy with fast and slow numbers. “It doesn’t always work out in that way because in the record business sometimes everything is a ballad or its all skiffle”.   

By 1959 Jack was back on the radio, both BBC and on Luxembourg. On 208 he presented the Decca sponsored show Record Round-up (later with Colgate-Palmolive sponsorship) as well as The Juke Box Show (“the fast and furious new-style programme for juke-box fans”) and Hit Parade. On the Light Programme he started his run of Record Roundabout shows, initially on a weekday evening before settling into its Saturday lunchtime berth from May 1962 by which time he moved to Tenerife and had set up his studio there. Now a much slicker operation the records came one after another with none of the usual pauses in between for the usual “that was”, “this is” intros. Uniquely for the time he would even announce a record title and artist mid-way through the song. The show ran until June 1969, by now on Radio 1. A final series aired on Radio 2 in late 1971 but he came back for some bank holiday one-offs in 1975 and 1976 by which time he’d returned to the UK. Jack died in January 1978.

This recording of Record Roundabout dates from Tuesday 29 August 1961 when it was broadcast between 21.31 and 22.30. The first 12 minutes or so are missing so there’s no opening theme – Harry James’s Carnival – and his usual “good evening record lovers everywhere, and welcome to the show” announcement. Also in this show, unlike other recordings I’ve heard from this time, Jack doesn’t use any comedy clips between any of the records.    

Record Roundabout consisted entirely of new releases so he crams in a fair few titles with a mix of pop, ballads, trad jazz and the instrumentals that were all the rage at the time. We join the show with Eggheads by Brian Blackburn and Peter Reeves from the BBC tv sitcom of the same name that centred on student life. Other tracks are:

You Belong to My Heart - Ray Adams

If You Don’t Somebody Else Will - Connie Stevens

Ain’t Gonna Wash for a Week - The Brook Brothers (voted a ‘hit’ on the previous week’s edition of Juke Box Jury)

Square Feet – Monty Babson

Skin Divin’ – The Avons

I’ll Never Smile Again – The Platters

Don’t Bet Money Honey – Linda Scott

The Avengers Theme – Johnny Dankworth & his Orchestra (missing from the YouTube upload for copyright reasons)

Blue Moon – Frank Sinatra

On Route 66 (Get Your Kicks) – Anita Bryant

Someday You’ll Be Sorry – Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen

I Don’t Hurt Anymore – Ann Margret

One More Crime – Dick Williams & his Orchestra

The Juke Box is Broken – Max Bygraves and the Two-Tones (also missing from the YouTube upload)

Jump for Joy – Sarah Vaughan

That Old Black Magic – Earl Watson

San Antonio Rose – Floyd Cramer

True Love – Terry Lightfoot’s New Orleans Jazzmen

Manana (Is Soon Enough for Me) - Peggy Lee

Starfire – The John Barry Seven (this would be used as the theme for the TWW series Discs-A-Go-Go with Kent Walton)

(These recordings are presented here via Mixcloud but they’re also on YouTube but some tracks are missing for copyright reasons)

Serenade in the Night

Following Jack Jackson that summer evening in 1961 was Serenade in the Night, a “late-night journey into melody”. The series had started in March 1959 (though there had been earlier programmes with the same title) and featured a regular orchestra plus guest musicians and singers all linked by one of the staff announcers. Throughout its six year run (it ended in January 1965) orchestras led by Hill Bowen, Reginald Tilsley, Sidney Bright, Peter Yorke, Bernard Monshin, Frank Chacksfield and Eric Rogers (of Carry On fame) all appeared.

In this recording of Serenade in the Music presented by John Hobday the lead orchestra is Bernard Monshin and his Rio Tango Band. Monshin, a bandleader at the tender age of 17, would tour with his Tango Band during the mid-30s before taking a year’s residency in 1937 at the Hotel Borg in, of all places, Reykjavik. Back in London he was leading the resident orchestra at London’s Casini Club. Seeing wartime service in the RAF he re-formed his orchestra after the war and made hundreds of broadcasts for the BBC on programmes either in his own name and on Cafe on the Corner, Tango Time, Melody Hour, Break for Music, Morning Music, Melody all the Way, Tuesday Tunetime and, most notably, Music While You Work for which he appeared in 146 editions between 1948 and 1967.

Also in this edition are The South Sea Serenaders led by guitarist Ernest Penfold and the Sidney Bright Trio (Sidney was the twin brother of bandleader Geraldo, real name Gerald Bright). The singer is Julie Dawn who Radio 2 listeners in the early 70s may remember from her Girl Talk feature on Charlie Chester’s daily show and letters feature on Night Ride as well as Penfriend Corner on You and the Night and the Music in the 1980s.      

This recording is of almost the full show, only the 11.30 pm news summary read by Robin Boyle and part of the following piece of music is missing.

The tunes include (of those I can positively identify) Amico Tango, Fascination (based on a 1904 waltz with English lyrics added in the 50s it was recorded by Dinah Shore, Nat King Cole and others), Ernest Ponticelli’s Owl on the Prowl, The Last Tango,  Ron Goodwin’s Pleasure Island, September in the Rain, September Song, With a Song in My Heart (at the time the theme tune for Family Favourites), Spanish Harlem, Resta cu’mme (Stay with Me), Little Serenade, My Loving Hands, Thou Swell, Caravelle, Drifting and Dreaming, El Gato Montes, What Kind of Fool Am I? from the recently opened West End show Stop the World- I Want to Get Off, Cry Like the Wind, Sweet Hawaiian Kisses, and I’m in Love with the Honourable Mr So and So.    

Exhibition Choice

From the following day, Wednesday 30 August 1961, comes this partial recording of Exhibition Choice. This show aired for a couple of weeks a year between 1957 and 1962 from a stand at the National Radio Show at Earls Court, and again between 1964 and 1965 from the Ideal Home Exhibition at Olympia. Apart from giving the audience to chance to see a BBC programme go out live Exhibition Choice’s USP was that you’d get an instant record request played. Whilst chatting for a minute or so to the host, staff at the BBC’s Gramophone Library would scurry away to find your requested disc. Most times they succeeded though, as we hear in this show, they failed to locate Nat King Cole’s I Give My Heart to You as “all the copies are out”.     

At the 1961 National Radio Show the BBC presenters of each 30-minute Exhibition Choice included Eammon Andrews, David Jacobs, Jean Metcalfe, Pete Murray and, in this instance, “Mrs Elrick's wee son George”.

George Elrick was an extremely popular presenter in the 1950s and 1960s, especially for his regular stints at the helm of Housewives’ Choice. A former drummer and vocalist with Henry Hall and the BBC Dance Band he’d been broadcasting since the mid-30s on both the BBC and Radio Luxembourg (billed as Maclean’s Laughing Entertainer and his Band, sponsored by the makers of Johnson’s Wax Polish). He also toured in the Jack Hylton-produced show Youth Must Have Its Swing. During the war he was an ENSA officer and continued to broadcast on shows with the Scottish Variety Orchestra and with his band in shows in his own name as well as Music While You Work. An early appearance in 1946 on Housewives’ Choice led to repeated bookings on the daily request show over the next 21 years. Away from the radio he managed Mantovani for two decades, was a judge on ATV’s New Faces (1974-77) and was very active in the Variety Club of Great Britain. George died in 1999.

At the time the outlet for pop music on the Light Programme was limited so it’s interesting to hear how, when it comes to a free choice from the audience, they’re keen to hear the hits of the day. The biggest cheers go up for Adam Faith and Gary US Bonds (the record is just credited as U.S. Bonds)

In this edition of Exhibition Choice you’ll hear:

Only the Lonely - Roy Orbison

Dum Dum - Brenda Lee

Sailor – Anne Shelton

Don’t You Know It – Adam Faith

The Touch of Your Lips – Nat King Cole

Quarter to Three – Gary US Bonds

(Theme) Polka for Strings – Dolf van der Linden & his Orchestra

There are also some sonic artifacts (several short beeps) in this recording which were on the original tape. After the show we have some programme news and then to fill the gap up to the 12.30 news summary its the Light Programme interval signal Oranges and Lemons which, I understand, was played on the novachord by Charles Smart. 

Parade of the Pops

The final programme is Parade of the Pops which ran on the Light Programme and then Radio 1 for most of the sixties. It was very much in the mould of tv’s Six-Five Special and Oh Boy! and radio’s Saturday Club. Featuring a resident band and singers who performed the hits of the day, plus some standards or songs from recent films thrown in for good measure, the show included a guest pop star would make an appearance to promote their current single and sang one or two others – Cliff Richard was on the first show. The whole thing was hosted by Denny Piercy.

The format meant it was essentially a show of cover versions, of varying quality it must be said. Listeners to the Light Programme were treated to this show format (see other lunchtime shows such as The Beat Show, The Joe Loss Show, Monday Monday and Pop North) as it avoided eating into the wafer-thin amount of needletime.

Parade of the Pops first aired on a Monday evening between January and April 1960 before returning in August of that year in what would become its traditional slot of a Wednesday lunchtime from the Playhouse Theatre on Northumberland Avenue. The show was, as far as I can ascertain, recorded at noon the preceding Saturday. It finally ended in October 1968 by which time it had transferred to Radio 1 and was replaced by Radio 1 Club.  

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The house band throughout the run was Bob Miller and the Millerman. Led by alto-saxophonist player Bob Miller, they were a versatile outfit that would play instrumentals and accompany most of the songs featured on the show.  Their sound was ideally suited for the sax-heavy sound that was so prevalent at the time with combos such as the John Barry Seven, Lord Rockingham’s XI and Ken Macintosh and his Orchestra

Formed in the late 1950s they had already been the stars of the BBC tv Six-Five Special successor Dig This! and its longer-running Saturday night successor Drumbeat.  This latter show was compered by songwriter and actor Trevor Peacock (many years later Jim Trott in The Vicar of Dibley) and often featured the close harmony group The Raindrops. Parade of the Pops provided the mainstay of the radio work for the The Millermen and they continued to broadcast on BBC radio into the early 1970s

The Raindrops were the featured group for the first couple of years of Parade of the Pops though they continued to broadcast on the BBC throughout the decade on shows such as Workers’ Playtime, Pops with Lenny (with Lenny the Lion and Terry Hall), Music-Hall, The Tommy Steele Show, Benny Hill Time and The Al Read Show. Formed in late 1958 by trombonist Len Beadle, The Raindrops also included Jackie Lee (who married Len later in the 60s and is best known for her singles White Horses and Rupert), Vince Hill (who went solo in late 1961 but continued to appear on the show) and songwriter Johnny Worth (born John Worsley but often credited under his stage name Les Vandyke). In 1959 they appeared on the Light Programme shows Swingsong and Saturday Club and BBC TV’s Trinder Box (with comedian Tommy Trinder) as well as Drumbeat performing with Bob Miller and his Millermen. It was producer John Kingdon that first brought together The Raindrops and The Millermen on the radio in the 1959 series The Pop Shop, the forerunner to Parade of the Pops. By the time of this recording Johnny Worth had been replaced by Brian Adams.        

Presenter Denny Piercy had been a drummer and percussionist with Edmundo Ros, toured as part of a double act with singer Dickie Valentine and played in the Reg Wale Four (with Dorren Lundy and Les Sands). Parade of the Pops seems to have been Denny’s first presenting role and aside from this show he was on Radio Luxembourg’s Spin-a-Disc as well as popping up on Housewives’ Choice, Thank Your Lucky Stars and Juke Box Jury. On the Light Programme and then Radio 2 he presented Double Spin, Swingalong and Accent on Melody. During the 60s he continued to play as a session musician, he can be heard on The Yardbird’s For Your Love for instance and played with the Lennie Felix Trio. Fellow Light Programme DJ David Hamilton (who presented one of the other lunchtime shows, The Beat Show) told me that he remembered Denny as a “very genial character, witty and steeped in the business, a real pro”.

Denny also wrote scripts for Double Scotch as well as providing funny lines for Val Doonican and Vince Hill. By the 1970s he was mainly working as a television audience warm-up man on shows such as This is Your Life, It’s Tommy Cooper and Please Sir! As to what subsequently happened to Denny I’ve no idea. If you know please do get in touch.

The show was pretty much an immediate success, so much so that by the end of its first year EMI’s recording manager Norman Newell had already approached the BBC to record an LP.

This recording of Parade of the Pops followed on from Exhibition Choice and includes the both the 12.30 and 13.30 news bulletins and some piano interval music before Cricket Scoreboard (not on the tape) at 13.35.

The special guest is a 14-year old Helen Shapiro belting out her recent number one hit You Don’t Know and the B side Marvellous Life. Apart from that its pop tunes of the day all performed by the Miller’s band and his vocal group The Milltones (who included Dougie Arthur) as well as The Raindrops, either as a group or as solos.

There’s some real talent on display here and attending the show live at Playhouse must have been a thrill but you can understand why Britain’s teenagers so whole-heartedly took to the Beatles the following year and the offshore pirates three years later. Elvis had four number one hits in 1961 but if you only heard Dougie Arthur’s version of the reverse side of his latest “waxing” then you’d wonder what all the fuss was about. As for the cover of Runaway, I’d close your ears.  

The songs covered are: Ain’t Gonna Wash for a Week (The Brook Brothers), Old Smokie (Johnny and the Hurricanes), Temptation (The Everly Brothers), Climb Every Mountain (Jackie Lee singing this one as Shirley Bassey had just released her version of it), There I Said It Again (originally recorded by Vaughn Munroe and more recently Al Saxon), Amor Amor (Vince Hill doing his best to impersonate Ben E. King), You Always Hurt the One You Love (Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry), Someday You’ll Be Sorry (Kenny ball and his Jazzmen), Who Put the Bomp (The Viscounts), Lumbered (Lonnie Donegan), Quite a Party (The Fireballs), I Feel So Bad (Elvis Presley), The Trek to Rome (Nero & the Gladiators), Runaway (Del Shannon), Don’t You Know It? (Adam Faith), Together (Connie Francis), The Frightened City (The Shadows) and Weekend (Eddie Cochran).   

The recordings

We have Eric Bartington to thank for these recordings. He taped a number of programmes, mainly music shows, but also comedy (The Goons and Whack-O), royal events and sports events in 1960 and 1961. That collection of tape reels (Scotch, EMI and BASF) went with him when he emigrated to New Zealand later in 1961 as one of the Ten Pound Poms. No doubt he wished to take a little bit of British culture with him. 

Eric was born in 1938 in Hendon and later studied at the Hendon Technical College. He became a telephone exchange engineer so dabbling with electronics and hooking up his reel-to-reel tape recorder to the radio would have been no problem for him.

In New Zealand he settled in Auckland from where he would send taped messages back home to Britain and where, based on this 1962 message, he was still recording off the radio, though now the programmes of the NZBC. We know little more about what happened to Eric until this announcement of his death was posted in the New Zealand Herald last year: BARTINGTON, Eric: Passed away on April 9, 2020 after a brave battle with illness. Dearly loved husband of Jo, cherished father of Andrew and father-in-law to Kerry. Loved son of the late Florence and John Bartington. Brother to Anne, John and Allen (deceased). A gentle, kind and compassionate man who gave so much without expectation of return. You will be missed by all who knew and loved you and especially your granddog Winston. Forever in our hearts. Heartfelt thanks to the staff of Howick Baptist Home who cared for Eric in his final year. A private cremation has been held”.

The family started to dispose of some of Eric’s possessions including the stash of tape reels. They were advertised on a local auction site that read “Bulk 8mm film, canisters, spools & film splicer - my fathers collection - refer pictures for details.   Vanguard film splicer 8mm & 16mm in new condition in box.  Brands include Scotch, Philips, Maxell, Tonecrest, Photax & Collaro.  Magnetic tape recordings include Handel organ concertos, Bing Crosby, etc.  Would like to see go to a good home”.

Fortunately Gerad de Roo spotted this advert and bought the lot for just $NZ56 (about £28). Digitising the tapes he realised they contained recordings that would be of wider interest and should be heard and enjoyed again. He contacted me a couple of months ago about the BBC recordings and we’ve been going through the recordings to identify just what we have and the pinpoint the transmission dates.

This is the first of a series of posts to feature these Bartington tapes. I’m grateful to Eric and to Gerard for this glimpse into radio’s past. I hope you enjoy it too.

Sunday, 22 August 2021

Easy Night

Cast your mind back a quarter of a century. Dominating the charts and the music press was Britpop, that catch-all for the resurgence in guitar-based pop from the like of Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Elastica, The Boo Radleys, Ash etc. But there was another musical movement sweeping the nation. Easy listening.     

It’s hard to pin down how this all started, though this Radio 1 programme points the finger at the inclusion of Burt Bacharach on the cover of Definitely Maybe. It certainly sent all the record companies scurrying off to their archives and re-releasing   tracks they thought would never see the light of day again. Anything was fair game under the easy listening banner including tv theme tunes, library music, exotica, space age pop and the acts that your parents had enjoyed like Andy Williams and The Carpenters. Collections of CDs labelled as Sound Gallery, Cult Fiction, Loungecore, Cocktail Classics and Music to Watch Girls By filled the shelves at HMV.

In May 1996 BBC Radio 1 devoted the whole of the Bank Holiday evening to the world of easy listening in Easy Night. Presenting were Kevin Greening and Jo Whiley. It’s only right that Kevin was there as he’d been instrumental in championing the easy revival on his weekend shows. On the cover of the CD single of Wonderwall by The Mike Flowers Pops there’s a sticker that reads “as first heard on the Kevin Greening show” and the sleeve thanks Will Saunders (Kevin’s then producer and in charge of Easy Night), Kevin and Chris Evans who played the record on his weekday breakfast show. Chris regularly dipped into the easy listening/library music archives using Alan Hawkshaw’s Girl in a Sports Car (known as Tina’s traffic news bed) and Sam Fonteyn’s theme from Please Sir!

In Easy Night we hear a mix of easy listening pop classics, new versions of old hits and a mix from The Karminsky Experience, the guys behind the In Flight Entertainment albums “mining a groove that seemed to be beamed in from another dimension.”

Kevin speaks to Burt Bacharach, whose PRS royalty cheques must have come flooding in as a result of this easy listening boom, and Tony Bennett, “God’s own crooner” in Kevin’s book.

For no real apparent reason the programme is interspersed with Challenge Graham in which easy listening aficionado Graham Farrar is sent off round London to locate a fondue set, cocktail umbrellas and blue jeans belonging to Neil Diamond, a bit like one of those Apprentice shopping tasks. Graham Farrar is quite evidently Graham Norton in his pre-chat show days. Graham had first worked with producer Will Saunders on Radio 5’s Sunday Brunch and Radio 4’s Loose Ends.    

Giving us the benefit of his wisdom is Professor Keith Haringey, Ronco Chair of Popular Musicology at De Montford University. No idea who the voice of the Professor is, and producer Will can’t recall either.

Choosing their favourite tracks in Celebrity Flashback are Paul Whitehouse who picks Dean Friedman’s Lucky Stars (“well slide over here”). Bjork’s unusual choice is the vocal dexterity of Yma Sumac with Tumpa. Ice T goes for Hey! Love by The Delfonics. Paul Hartnoll, one half of Orbital, selects Nancy Sinatra’s You Only Live Twice.   

Count Indigo is in the studio with a unique rendition of Smells Like Teen Spirit. There’s Bacharach to the Future – The Definitive History of Easy Listening  which is far from definitive and a Top 10 of Easy Listening. That top 10 features (spoiler alert) Dana, Acker Bilk, Peggy Lee, Mantovani, Dusty Springfield, The Carpenters, Dionne Warwick, Morrissey and Andy Williams with their versions of Moon River, Petula Clark’s Downtown and taking the top spot Herb Alpert with This Guy’s in Love With You.   

Providing all the links and announcements is the purring voice of Honor Blackman.

So once again wallow in the nostalgia of four hours of Easy Night. The recordings, in three parts, include news bulletins read by Jane Bolger and the start of Wendy Lloyd’s show at midnight. If records fade out that’s where I had to turn over the C90 tapes. Some records with a wide stereo spectrum appear to be missing part of one channel.

With thanks to Will Saunders. 

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Action Stations


Over the last three and a half years I’ve been tracking the fiftieth anniversaries of the BBC local radio stations, in a series of nineteen posts from Leicester, Sheffield and Merseyside through to Newcastle, Lancashire and Humberside. I’ll be picking up the history again in November 2023 for the half century of BBC Radio Carlisle/Cumbria.

In the meantime here are two wonderful short publicity films that go behind the scenes at a number of stations a mere forty years ago. Both are titled Action Stations! – BBC Local Radio and were directed by Patricia Owtram for the BBC Local Radio Publicity Unit.

The first, with a running time of 20 minutes, dates from 1981 and is narrated by John Saunders. It’s full of images of newsrooms complete with typewriters, fax machines and Studer tape decks, remote studios, county shows, youth programming, snow days and local elections.

We see at work Radios Lincolnshire, Medway, Sheffield, Humberside (with coverage of the opening of the Humber Bridge this week in 1981), Nottingham, Carlisle (and their farming programme), Bristol (the O Level Show), Leicester, Leeds (with the Best Pub Pianist competition) and London (with the last ever GLC election).

The second shorter film dates from early 1980 though it includes footage from 1977 and 1978. Here the emphasis is more on community involvement and also the BBC Local Radio Parliamentary Unit.  We visit the short-lived Radio Taunton (a Bristol’s emergency news station), Medway, Leicester, Solent, Birmingham, Bristol and Sheffield. There are no credits for this film but the narrator sounds like Laure Mayer to me.      

See how many familiar faces you can spot in Action Stations! BBC Local Radio.

Sunday, 30 May 2021

Popping the Questions

Question: What's the name of the first Radio 2 pop quiz presented by Ken Bruce? If you answered Pop Master then you could be said to be "one quiz out!" The answer is Pop Score, the quiz that ran from 1972 to 1992 which Ken chaired for the last five series.

Devised by Light Entertainment producer Richard Willcox is was initially seen as a Radio 1 versus Radio 2 contest (early series were carried on both stations) with Tony Blackburn captaining the Radio 1 side and Terry Wogan representing Radio 2. Popping the questions was Pete Murray. Willcox continued to produce and write all the questions, and indeed do the audience warm-up, for the first fifteen series until Mark Robson took over production. By this time Willcox  had already brought in a certain Phil 'The Collector' Swern to help set the questions. Phil had previously attended some of the show's recordings to 'help' Tony with some of his answers until he was thrown out of the Paris studio a few shows later.    

Early guest stars were a  little eclectic to say the least. You can hardly say it was on trend, more like a decade behind. Many of the musicians had been sixties hitmakers with virtually no current chart performers taking part in the early series with perhaps the exception of Lynsey de Paul, Dana, Neil Sedaka, Long John Baldry and Mike Batt. But Deryck Guyler and Reg Varney?

In time under Willcox's tenure a smaller pool of contributors was called upon, often appearing on a other radio panel games. For instance we have actor Patrick Mower (also on The Law Game), singing impressionist Johnny More and Ray Alan (both on The Impressionists), Lance Percival (also on Wit's End and Just a Minute) and Duggie Brown (also on The Name's the Game and Dealing with Daniels). Some folk such as Tim Rice (also on Just a Minute and Trivia Test Match) really knew their stuff but generally it was a chance to muck about and the quiz side was never taken that seriously.    

Later series, produced by Robson, Dirk Maggs and Phil Clarke took things a little more seriously, but only just, with people from the music business and DJs. Typically a show might include rounds such as continuing to sing a song after its faded (think of Clue's Pick Up Song), correcting song titles, identifying song covers or  records played backwards, and a final quick-fire round. Throughout the quiz the chairman would, depending on how many points they'd scored in the round, read out so many letters of a song title that team's could guess at any time for bonus points.   

The old Blackburn/Wogan rivalary ended in 1977, though they returned for the 200th edition in 1987. Coming in as team captain for Terry was David Hamilton and a couple of series later Ray Moore replaced Tony. Ray in turn would become chairman when Pete left the BBC and after a series of different captains - Joe Brown, Duggie Brown and Helen Shapiro, who eventually became a show regular - new boy Ken Bruce was drafted in.

Following Ray's untimely death Ken took over as quizmaster (Ken was also hosting the Radio 2 general knowledge show The ABC Quiz) and with David off to commercial radio the team captains settled down to be Helen Shapiro and Alan Freeman.       

It all came to an end in April 1992 by which time panel games were virtually a thing of the past  on Radio 2.

Six years later Ken Bruce and Phil Swern, who had both worked together on Pop Score,  put their heads together (together with Ken's then producer Colin Martin) and came up with the format for Pop Master. The daily music quiz which stops the country is celebrated tonight in the Radio 2 programme One Year Out-The PopMasterStory and tomorrow sees the second All Day quiz.

Series Details

Question masters:

Pete Murray series 1 to 10.

Ray Moore series 11 to 13

Ken Bruce series 14 to 18 

The theme tune used for the majority of Pop Score's run was Chicken Feathers by film and TV composer Pat Williams from his 1968 album Think. In the last 80s Birdland was used for a while, possibly the Manhatten Transfer version.  

Series 1 Team captains Tony Blackburn (TB) and Terry Wogan (TW)

24 Oct 1972-6 Feb 1973

Guests: Ken Goodwin, Alan Price, Lynsey de Paul, Kenny Lynch, Roger Greenaway, Rolf Harris, Peter Noone, Vince Hill, Dana, Roy Castle, Anita Harris, Georgie Fame, Tim Rice, Lance Percival andTony Brandon

Series 2 TB TW

20 June 1973-20 Mar 1974

Roger Whittaker, Peter Noone, Tony Brandon, Lance Percival, Wally Whyton, Leslie Crowther, Bob Monkhouse, Mitch Murray, Roy Castle, Dana, Chris Barber, Joe Brown, Jimmy Tarbuck, Adrienne Posta, David Jacobs, George Chisholm, Kenneth Williams, Tim Rice, Gerry Marsden, Peter Jones, Deryck Guyler, June Whitfield, Bernard Cribbins, Johnny Pearson, Matt Monro, Lonnie Donegan, Rolf Harris, Ron Goodwin, Reg Varney, Eric Idle, Ray Fell, Frankie Vaughan, Michael Aspel, Diana Dors, Jon Pertwee, Kenny Ball, Neil Sedaka, Dickie Henderson, Peter Goodwright and Henry Cooper.  

Series 3 TB TW (Paul Burnett covered for TB on two shows and Tim Rice covered for TW on two shows)

2 Oct 1974-26 Mar 1975 Leslie Crowther, Henry Cooper, Cathy McGowan, Bob Monkhouse, Joe Brown, Kenny Ball, Ray Alan, Long John Baldry, Michael Parkinson, Marian Montgomery, Ray Fell, Vince Hill, Clive lea, Tim Rice, Ronnie Carroll, Matt Monro, Mike Batt, Mitch Murray, Cindy Kent, Roy Castle, Diana Dors, Norman, Newell, Roger Whittaker, Ray Barrett and Roger Kitter 

Series 4 TB TW

30 Oct 1975-22 Jan 1976

Bernard Cribbins, Tim Rice, Diana Dors, Kenny Ball, Roy Hudd, Ray Alan, George Chisholm, Long John Baldry, Lonnie Donegan, Rolf Harris, Clive Lea and Johnny Moore

Series 5 TB TW

13 Sept-29 Nov 1976

Leslie Crowther, Diana Dors, Bernard Cribbins, Tim Rice, Rolf Harris, Charlie Williams, Johnny More, Duggie Brown, Bobby Knutt, Jack Douglas, Patrick Mower

Series 6 TB TW

1 Sept-17 Nov 1977

Bobby Knutt, Bernard Cribbins, Faith Brown, Derek Griffiths, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Vince Hill, Duggie Brown, Ray Alan, Johnny More, Patrick Mower, Dave Evans and Tim Rice (also captain on a couple of shows) 

Series 7 TB David Hamilton (DH)

11 Sept-27 Nov 1978

Lance Percival, Joe Brown, Mike Batt, Clive Lea, Patrick Mower, Johnny More, Tony Brandon, Bill Oddie, Rolf Harris, Bobby Knutt, Dave Evans and Tim Rice

Series 8 TB DH

19 May-4 Aug 1980

Dave Dee, Lance Percival, Mike Batt, Vince Hill, Joe Brown, Tim Rice, Duggie Brown, Bernard Cribbins, Bobby Knutt and Johnny More

An edition of Pop Score from this series is on Mixcloud here though sadly the last couple of minutes are missing.

Series 9 DH Ray Moore (RM)

24 Aug -9 Nov 1981

Faith brown, Johnny More, Duggie Brown, Lance Percival, Rolf Harris, Tim Rice, Joe Longthorne, Dave Evans, Vince Hill, Acker Bilk and Joe Brown

Series 10

20 June-5 Sep 1983

Helen Shapiro, Acker Bilk, Joe Brown, Vince Hill, Duggie Brown (also captain on two shows), Patrick Mower, Susan Maughan, Freddie Garrity and Mike Berry

I've unearthed the 7th programme from this series.

Series 11 DH (Other captain was either Duggie Brown, Joe Brown or Helen Shapiro)

19 Feb-14 May 1985

Rolf Harris, Mike Berry, Acker Bilk, Helen Shapiro, Clodagh Rodgers, Susan Maughan, Frank Ifield, and Russ Conway

I've previously posted the 11th programme in this series before but only recently uploaded it to YouTube

Series 12 DH Ken Bruce (KB)

15 Mar-24 May 1986

Frank Ifield, Acker Bilk, Duggie Brown, Helen Shapiro, Lonnie Donegan, Vince Hill, Helen Shapiro, Tim Rice, Des Cluskey, Con Cluskey, Noddy Holder and Paul Nicholas

Series 13 DH KB

14 Mar-20 June 1987 (includes 200th edition with Pete Murray, Terry Wogan and Tony Blackburn)

Alvin Stardust, Helen Shapiro, Lynn Sheppard, Denny Laine, Rick Wakeman, Noddy Holder, Steve Marriott, Acker Bilk, Tim Rice and Frank Ifield 

Series 14 Helen Shapiro (HS) + either Joe Brown, TB, Adrian Love or Paul Jones (First to be compiled by Phil Swern)

12 Mar-28 May 1988

Cathy McGowan, Adrian Love, Tony Blackburn, Duggie Brown, Dave Dee, Gloria Hunniford, Rick Wakeman, Tommy Vance, Noddy Holder, Robbie Vincent, Tom McGuinness

Series 15 HS + either Adrian Love or Alan Freeman (AF)

25 Mar-10 June 1989

Duggie Brown, Rick Wakeman, Rolf Harris, Peter Dickson, Noddy Holder, John Craven, Tim Rice, Alvin Stardust, Paul Jones and Vince Hill

Series 16 HS AF (Producer Dirk Maggs)

21 Apr-7 July 1990

Janice Long, Adrian Love, Sheila Ferguson, Paul Jones, Duggie Brown, Stephanie de Sykes, Joe Brown, Rose-Marie, Don Powell, Lyn Paul and Colin Berry

The first edition of this series is available on Mixcloud here. 

Series 17 HS AF

27 April-15 June 1991

Cheryl Baker, Adrian Love, Wendy Richard, Noddy Holder, Alvin Stardust, Janice Long, Rose-Marie and Colin Berry

Series 18 HS AF (Prod Phil Clarke)

28 Feb-17 April 1992

Terry Wogan, Pete Murray, Adrian Love, Lyn Paul, Lynsey de Paul, Alvin Stardust, Noddy Holder and Rose-Marie

As is typical with virtually all Radio 2 panel shows from this era they've never been repeated since they ended so if you've got any recordings of Pop Score please let me know.

Saturday, 22 May 2021

Cons and Laws


"How well do you know the law? Find out by joining us for The Law Game. Along with our celebrity panel you can hear details of law cases and judge which side you think won. And on the bench as usual presiding over the programme is your chairman Shaw Taylor."

Back in the day when panel games had a regular place in BBC Radio 2's schedule The Law Game was one of the best known and longest-running - 17 series over 16 years. The premise was straightforward enough: three playlets were acted out by three members of the BBC's Drama Repertory Company in which matters of the law are played out in various settings or in court. After chairman Shaw Taylor dings his bell to end the sketch the celebrity panel have to identify what laws have been broken and by whom. Team members then bet points, from their starting pot of 50 points, on the outcome of the case. "It's quite educational, not just an excuse for three celebrities to fool about", said Shaw Taylor to the Radio Times in 1985. 

The Law Game was devised by comedy writer Brad Ashton and he wrote all the mini-dramas, offering injecting the odd comedy line. Ashton had been writing since the mid-1950s on radio shows such as Show Band Show, London Lights and later series of Life with the Lyons. On TV he wrote for Tommy Cooper, Dick Emery, Mike and Bernie Winters, Lennie Bennett and Jerry Stevens and for Little and Large. The format of The Law Game was perhaps inspired by the guess who committed the crime programme Guilty Party (1954-62). See John Arlott blog post.

Shaw Taylor, best known on TV for Police 5, seemed a natural choice as series chairman with a mix of light-hearted authority. He was not unfamiliar in this type of role having presented a number of ATV game shows in the late 1950s/early 1960s when commercial television was devouring as many US formats as it could get through. On Radio 2 in the 1970s he also chaired The 78 Show and Pros and Cons, more of which later.

The Law Game
first aired on Radio 2 in September 1976. The celebrity panel usually featured at least one actor together with journalists, broadcasters and comics, though not as many as today's panel games are stuffed with. Favoured panellists were Claire Rayner, Denise Coffey and Nerys Hughes. Produced by the Light Entertainment department initially under the guidance of Richard Willcox, though over the years several young producers who went on to bigger things got a chance to work on the show including the late Danny Greenstone, Paul Mayhew-Archer, Richard Edis, Jan Ravens, Andy Aliffe, Dan Patterson, Lissa Evans, Sioned William, Sarah Smith and Caroline Leddy.

The Law Game hasn't been repeated since it ended nearly 30 years ago so here's an opportunity to hear a couple more (in addition to the two I've already uploaded to YouTube in 2015 and 2020.

From 23 November 1981 this edition has a panel of Diane Keen, John Junkin and Lance Percival. Acting out the scenes are Miranda Forbes, Nicholas Courtney (so one for Doctor Who fans)and Ronald Herdman.

From the following year, 19 July 1982, we have Sandra Dickinson, Matthew Kelly and Fred Housego sitting in judgement. The actors are Steve Hodson, Miranda Forbes and Vincent Brimble.   

The other Brad Ashton creation was Pros and Cons. In fact it started the year before The Law Game but had a shorter run, just seven series over eight years. A number of the cons were experienced by Brad himself, including one in the 1982 edition below. Many others came from contacts he'd made at Scotland Yard. Writing in the Radio Times in 1980 he admitted that "I get strange looks when I tell people that my hobby is collecting confidence tricks. So far I've got 340 and used 144 of them in the sketches aimed as fooling the panel." His interest began on a trip to new York in 1956. "I was a prototype for all innocents abroad. The airport cab driver circled the whole of New York State to get me to my hotel just two miles away. He was about to do a lap of honour when I recognised a store we'd passed three times."

The format of Pros and Cons was the same as The Law Game, three short sketches played out with enough clues to help or mislead the three celebrities on the panel to identify the con, the person(s) doing the conning and the person(s) being conned. The panellists were a pretty mixed bunch (see series details below) but included a fair number of personalities from the sister show. The series  producers included some very experienced BBC hands such as Alistair Scott-Johnson of The Navy Lark fame, Ian Fenner and Trafford Whitelock, as well as Ros Bartlett, Jamie Rix and Richard Edis.    

In this edition from 17 November 1980 the sleuths are Claire Rayner, David Jason and Roy Hudd. The repertory company are Rowena Roberts, John Church and Trevor Cooper. 

The second recording comes from 24 February 1982. The panellists here are Kenny Everett (that week's Radio Times cover star), Stephanie Turner (at the time known for her lead role in cop drama Juliet Bravo) and Derek Nimmo. Acting out the scenes are Adrian Egan, Miranda Forbes and George Parsons.

The Law Game Series Guide

Series 1: 22 September-27 October 1976

Diana Dors, Pete Murray, Leslie Randall, Rachel Heyhoe-Flint, Patrick Mower and Bob Wilson 

Series 2: 30 March-27 April 1977

Margaret Howard, Francis Matthews, Pete Murray, Rachel Heyhoe-Flint, Barry Norman, Claire Rayner, James Burke and Patrick Mower

Series 3: 30 November 1977-4 January 1978

Claire Rayner, Francis Matthews, Dr Magnus Pyke, Rachel Heyhoe -Flint, Patrick Mower, Leslie Randall, Henry Cooper, William Franklyn and Anoushka Hempel

Series 4: 4 December 1978-15 January 1979  (no tx 25 December 1978)

Claire Rayner, Francis Matthews, Peter Purves, Shirley Anne Field, James Burke, Dr Magnus Pyke, Diana Dors, Russell Davies and Patrick Mower

Series 5: 7 January-18 February 1980 (no tx 4 February)

John Junkin, Aimi Macdonald, James Burke, Peter Purves, Diane Keen, William Franklyn, Lance Percival, Shirley Anne Field and Francis Matthews  

Series 6: 20 January-24 March 1981

Julia McKenzie, David Jason, Andrew Sachs, Liza Goddard, John Junkin, Lance Percival, Judy Carne, Graeme Garden, Don Maclean, Patricia Hayes, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Frank Windsor, Nyree Dawn Porter, Ray Alan and Duggie Brown

Series 7: 16 November 1981-11 January 1982 (no tx 28 December)

Diane Keen, John Junkin, Lance Percival, Stephanie Turner, William Franklyn, Alfred Marks, Joyce Blair, Patrick Mower, Matthew Kelly, Diana Dors, Lionel Blair and Glyn Worsnip

Series 8: 19 July-6 September 1982

Sandra Dickinson, Matthew Kelly, Fred Housego, Janet Street Porter, Nigel Dempster, Wendy Richard, Patrick Moore, Denise Coffey, Christopher Biggins, Rob Buckman, John Peel and Paddy O'Byrne

Programmes listed on BBC Genome in 1983 are repeats of series 7 and 8

Series 9: 12 March-30 April 1985

Christopher Biggins, Denise Coffey, Patrick Moore, Bill Oddie, Aimi Macdonald, Ian Lavender, Stubby Kaye, Bettine Le Beau, Andrew Sachs, Gyles Brandreth, Katie Boyle and Dr Magnus Pyke

Series 10: 4 March-6 May 1986

Barry Took, Patricia Hodge, Steve Jones, William Franklyn, Jean Rook, Nigel Rees, David Hamilton, Anna Carteret, Martin Jarvis, Mark Curry, Toni Arthur, Chris Serle, Iain Johnstone, June Whitfield and Christopher Biggins

Series 11: 28 April-7 July 1987 (no tx 26 May)

Ian McCaskill, Pat Coombs, Peter Jones, Jimmy Perry, Claire Rayner, Steve Jones, Denise Coffey, Colin Baker, Brian Johnston, Stephen Fry, Anna Raeburn, Morwenna Banks, Neil Mullarkey, John Junkin, Patrick Moore and Su Pollard

Series 12: 5 January-23 February 1988

Nerys Hughes, Kenneth Williams, Ian McCaskill, Brian Johnston, Denise Coffey, Derek Nimmo, Stephen Fry, Patricia Hodge, John Gordon Sinclair, Alfred Marks, June Whitfield and Alan Titchmarsh

Series 13: 21 November 1988-23 January 1989

Barry Cryer, Ian Hislop, Nerys Hughes, Denise Coffey, Alan Titchmarsh, Susan Rae, Sally Burton, Graeme Garden, Trevor McDonald, Martin Jarvis, Ian McCaskill, Claire Rayner, John Gordon Sinclair and Alfred Marks 

Series 14: 3 October-21 November 1989

Lynda Bellingham, Duggie Brown, Bob Holness, Joe Brown, Barry Cryer, Claire Rayner, Sue Cook, Chris Emmett, Nerys Hughes, Polly James, Wendy Richard and Tim Brooke-Taylor  

Series 15: 14 November 1990-9 January 1991

Mark Steel, Jenny Eclair, Barry Cryer, Rob Newman, Tony Slattery, Claire Rayner, Bob Downes, Nerys Hughes, Denise Coffey, Barbara Windsor, Wendy Richard and Graham Garden

Series 16: 24 September-12 November 1991

Michael Melia. Cynthia Payne, Craig Charles, Emlyn Hughes, Helen Atkinson-Wood, Geoffrey Durham, Lesley Joseph, Ken Livingstone, Neil Mullarkey, Susie Blake, Frances Edmonds and Craig Ferguson

Series 17: 9 September-4 November 1992 (no tx 14 October)

Anna Raeburn, Peter Jones, Paul Ross, Bill Pertwee, Denise Coffey, Bill Tidy, Fred Housego, Jan Leeming, Chris Dunkley, Miles Kington, Sandi Toksvig and Chris Stuart

Pros and Cons Series Guide

Series 1: 24 July-28 August 1975

Marj Proops, Pete Murray, Sydney Tafler, Bettine Le Beau, Leslie Randall, Fred Trueman, Eleanor Summerfield, Tony Brandon, Sheridan Morley, Norma Ronald, Brian Johnston, Leonard Sachs, Charmain Innes, Percy Edwards, Alfred Marks, Isobel Barnett, , George Layton and Barry Took

Series 2: 31 December 1975-24 March 1976

Kathleen J. Smith, Sheridan Morley, Ian Wallace, Jessie Matthews, Brian Johnston, Ned Sherrin, Miriam Karlin, Noel Edmonds, Barry Took, Eleanor Summerfield, Robert McKenzie, John Julius Norwich, Sheila Van Damm, Peter Bull, Patrick Moore, Bettine Le Beau, Deryck Guyler, Bill Jupe, Jonathan Miller, June Whitfield, Fred Trueman, Linda Blanford, George Layton, Wynford Vaughan-Thomas, Patricia Hayes, Milton Shulman, Michael Bentine, Thora Hird, Professor Eric Laithwaite, Sydney Tafler, Katie Boyle, Jonathan Aitken, Larry Adler, Beryl Reid, David Jacobs, Dan Maskell, Marj Proops, Pete Murray and Leslie Randall

Series 3: 7 July-25 August 1977

Patricia Hayes, Michael Robbins, Jean Rook, George Chisholm, Pat Coombs, Sheila Scott, Henry Cooper, Jenny Hanley, Yootha Joyce, Keith Fordyce, Liz Fraser, Claire Rayner, Lionel Blair, Sara Leighton, Aimi Macdonald, Joyce Blair, John Snagge, Bob Todd, Bettine Le Beau, Patrick Moore, Marj Proops, Bill Owen, Wendy Richard and Terry Wogan

Series 4: 16 April 1979-9 July 1979

Leslie Phillips, Thora Hird, Paul Jennings, Roy Hudd, Dora Bryan, Roy Plomley, Peter Jones, Sheila Van Damm, Barry Took, Jack de Manio, Mirima Karlin, Ian Wallace, Johnny Morris, Mollie Sugden, Barry Cryer, Leslie Randall, Sheila Hancock, Bill Oddie, Brian Rix, Janet Brown and Terry Wogan

Series 5: 10 November-29 December 1980 

Roy Hudd, Claire Rayner, David Jason, Nerys Hughes, Bernard Cribbins, Francis Matthews, Ray Alan, Lorraine Chase, John Craven, Liza Goddard, Don Maclean and Ian Lavender

Series 6: 27 January-3 March 1982

Honor Blackman, Terry Wogan, Tony Haygarth, Diana Dors, Martin Jarvis, Lennie Bennett, Kenny Everett, Stephanie Turner and Derek Nimmo

Series 7: 5 January-9 February 1983     

John Junkin, Stephanie Turner, Roger Cook, William Franklin, Liza Goddard, Garfield Morgan, Jeremy Beadle, Joanna Munro and Matthew Kelly

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Down Your Local - 50 Years of BBC Radio Derby


Fifty years ago today, at 5.50 pm, the last of the BBC's second tranche of local stations, Radio Derby, came on air.

Broadcasting from the studios at 56 St Helen's Street (and by my reckoning the only one of the original stations still to be in the same building five decades later) like all the BBC local stations it was initially heard on VHF only (on 96.5 MHz), transmitting from Sutton Coldfield some 25 miles away. Medium wave reception on 269 metres (1115 kHz) became possible a couple of years later when the site at Burnaston Lane was opened, by which time a VHF/FM relay was also in use on 94.2 MHz.

In common with a number of the other local stations, Radio Derby had made an impromptu appearance before the official launch date. In this case it wasn't weather related but was for the breaking story, in late February, of the bankruptcy of Rolls-Royce, a major employer in the town.

The station's first manager was an old BBC hand. George Sigsworth had worked for the corporation since the 1950s and was the Midland's Home Service agricultural correspondent producing programmes such as Farming Today and, in the late 60s, In Your Garden. He was succeeded in the post by John Bright. George's deputy was the Programme Organiser Roger Matthews (ex-Radio Leicester). The station's first news editor was Barrie Eccleston a news agency journalist who'd provided the news for Radio Leicester from Roly Orton's agency. Barrie also worked as a football commentator and reporter at a time when Derby County was riding under Brian Clough and then Dave Mackay.

The earliest Radio Times with Radio Derby listings that I have comes from the week of 18 November 1972. It's the usual mix of weekday shows concentrated around the key times of breakfast, lunchtime and teatime/drivetime with Radio 2 and Radio 4 output acting as a sustaining service in between. Weekends offer more specialist shows, sports coverage and, like virtually every other local station at the time, a Saturday mornings kids show. Derby's breakfast show Up and About was presented by a rota of the presenters, this particular week by Michael Murray, a former Home Service announcer who'd been part of the launch team at Radio Leicester in 1967. His voice had opened Radio Derby. The local news bulletins were given the somewhat Americanised title of Dateline Derby. The teatime show is Five O'Clock Monday etc. but a year or so later that too got the 'dateline' treatment with Dateline Monday and so on.      

Other presenters included Mike Warr (who a decade later would be the station manager when Radio Jersey launched), John Stiles (a former station assistant at Radio Stoke who opened Radio Derby in 1971.  He stayed with the station until the early 1990s), Kit Poxon (ex-Radio Nottingham who'd go on to present the Down Your Way type show Kit at Large), David Graham, Jack King, Maureen Axelrod, Leslie Robinson, Ralph Laing and sports presenter Graham Clarke. Producing the educational programmes including the daily 5-minutes Nutshell are Peter Legge and Ann Toy.    

Moving on a couple of years to this schedule for the week commencing 28 September 1974 which includes the name Stewart White, who'll be immediately familiar to viewers of BBC One's Look East which he's presented for the last four decades. Listed here as the presenter of Up and About, Derby Country and The 78 Show he'd joined from Radio Brighton. Stewart would move over to BRMB before joining ATV (later Central) and then back to the BBC in 1984. On a couple of separate occasions he's also presented a Saturday morning show on Radio Norfolk.  

Another very familiar radio name is that of football commentator Mike Ingham. Growing up in Belper he'd joined Radio Derby as a station assistant in 1973 after gaining some hospital radio experience in Birmingham. Initially presenting music shows, in this week Back Track and Up and Coming, he switched to sports presenting following the death of Graham Clarke.  Mike moved down to London in 1979 to join the Radio Sport department where he presented Sport on 2, Sunday Sport and the Sports Desks before becoming a match commentator and later the football correspondent. He retired in 2014. You can hear Mike speaking to Radio Derby's Andy Twigge on the BBC website here.  

With the local cinema news In the Picture is, I'm guessing, the same Ian Christie who went on to be a renowned film historian (at the BFI and now Professor of Film and Media History at Birkbeck, University of London). In 1969 he'd got a job teaching at the Derby College of Art where he established one of the country's first film studies courses.  

Unusually for many of the BBC local station's at this time Derby had an evening show Late Night Derby originally introduced the previous year to provide some late-night company during the power cuts when the television service was forced to closedown at 10.30 pm.  

Presenting a Saturday morning pop show is Al Kay, the name that Alastair Yates had adopted at the time. Alastair was running a mobile disco when he got the chance to try out radio broadcasting when Radio Derby held a DJ for a Day contest in 1971. He joined the stations two years later eventually using his real name when he was offered some speech shows including a time on Up and About. He moved to Pebble Mill in 1978 to work at Radio Birmingham, Midlands Today and read the regional news on the Radio 4 VHF opt-out. TV news work followed at Grampian, Anglia and the newly launched Sky News before long stints at BBC World and BBC News 24. He retired in 2011 and died suddenly in 2018.    

With thanks to Michael Wincott  @RadioMerch

Other Derby presenters in the 1970s/early 80s included John Burton, Simon Shaw, Paul Baird, Arthur Coyne (jazz shows), Canon Noel Vincent (later a religious programmes producer for BBC radio and TV), Norman Innes, Richard Else, Richard Sykes, Chris Baird (ex-Radio Trent and one of Derby's longest-serving presenters until the mid-2000s), Tommy Owen (The 78 Show), Peter Gore, Nigel Dean, Dave Fern , Neil Everton (also the news editor for a time), Rodney Malcolm, Mike Robinson, Yvonne Guy,  Glen Wright (long-time presenter of Black Roots), Richard Dallyn (later IRN Political Correspondent, Radio 5 live and LBC) and Satvinder Rana (one of the original presenters of Aaj-Kal when it started in September 1981 and still on air today).

Behind the news from the 1979 Radio Derby magazine (with thanks to David Ballard).
In 1989 the station would win a Silver Medal at the International Radio Festival
of New York for its coverage of the M1 Kegworth air disaster. 

Amongst the news reporters in the 70s were Bob Egginton (later heading up the BBC's GNS and launching BBC News Online in 1997), Nigel Kay (later the Corporation's Head of Journalism Development) and Paul Leighton (later a general presenter before joining Radio 4 and then Radio 2 as a continuity announcer and newsreader).  

Editor Simon Cornes hands over a cheque to the Matlock Red Cross following
the final Money Mountain Appeal in 2008. The charity appeal first ran in 
1983 and over 25 years raised more than £1m

One of Radio Derby's most unexpected appointments was Terry Christian, some eight years before The Word came along. Christian presented the early evening music show Barbed Wireless between 1982 and 1988 picking up two Sony Awards on the way. The BBC Handbook described the show as mixing "music with information about jobs, alternatives to work and suggestions about the sort of things that can constructively fill otherwise empty days". Terry moved back to Manchester to Key 103 and on to television from 1990. Audio from a 1988 edition of the show is on Mixcloud.

One of the Barbed Wireless team was Kevin Fernihough who also presented the show when Christian was on leave. Fern moved up to Radio Cumbria for the first of three spells at the station, in- between appearing on Radio Stoke (twice), Signal Radio and Century 106. Also on Barbed Wireless was Devon Daley who years later would produce Trevor Nelson's shows for Radio 1 and 1Xtra and has presented A Touch of Soul (2007-20) and currently DJ Delights across the East Midlands.  

Jumping forward to the week commencing 11 January 1992 where Ian Skelly is the weekday breakfast show host. Ian started with the BBC in 1984 initially at BBC WM before moving to Radio Shropshire and then Derby but is best known as a Radio 3 presenter (Essential Classics and now Afternoon Concert).

On mid-mornings is the late Graham Knight (14 years with the station, ex-Radio Trent and host of Radio 2's weekend early show 1987-91). Another former Radio 2 early show presenter was David Yarnall (ex-Beacon, Mercia Sound and Radio Stoke) here presenting the Saturday morning breakfast show. On weekdays after lunch with Paul McKenzie the station was still taking Dennis McCarthy's Afternoon Special, something it had been simulcasting since 1980.    

Amongst the specialist music shows is Folkwaves, a folk music show that ran from 1985 until it was axed in December 2010. The longest serving presenter was Mick Peat (who died in January of this year) alongside Bob Hazelwood, Barry Coope and finally Lester Simpson.   

Other voices on Radio Derby over the years have included Alex Trelinksi (also at Leicester, Nottingham and Humberside), Steve Orme, Ian Gatford, presenter of Level Out Mark Sheldon (later at XFM and producer at 6 Music and Radio 2), Colin Gibson (sports), Graham Richards, Mick Smith (country music shows), Ashley Franklin (at Derby for 22 years also on Radio Nottingham Stoke and Saga), David Harvey, Dave King (1985-2011), Aleena Naylor (1999-2021), David Rider, Andy Whittaker (breakfast show presenter for 13 years followed by 13 years at breakfast on Radio Nottingham), John Shaw (ex-Radio Trent, also on Radio Nottingham and Saga), Howard Turner, Canon Donald Macdonald, Tom Price, Nigel Cash, Ian Perry (currently at Erewash Sound), Julia May-Brown (also on BFBS now freelance producer), Graham Wright (ex-Trent), John Holmes (perhaps best known for his time at Radio Nottingham), Gary Andrews, Rob Underwood (also at Radios Nottingham and Lincolnshire), Frances Finn (now on Radio Nottingham, ordained as an Anglican minister in 2020), Shane O'Connor (ex-BBC WM later at BBC CWR), Ed George, Dean Jackson (presenter of The Beat), Ross Fletcher, Johnny Kinch, Phil Trow (currently at Radio Manchester), Rev Nicholas Henshall (presenting the Sunday morning religious show 2004-09), Adrian Lacey, Maria Richmond (now with Radio Lincolnshire), Ed Dawes, Dave Fletcher, Sally Pepper (see the 2013 Face behind the voice feature above), Dylan Roys, Mike Carey (Memorable Moments), Andy Twigge (ex-Trent, Oak FM), Jeff Harris, Ian Skye, James Watt, Tony Lyman, Richard Spurr, Rob Watts, Dean Pepall, Ed Stagg, Martyn Williams, Steve Jordan (ex-Lincs FM, Viking, Magic 1161, Century 106, Leicester Sound, KCFM, Asda FM, Real Radio, Yorkshire Coast and Greatest Hits Network- I may have missed some!), Chris Coles, Rachel New, (ex-Heart), Donna Alos, Jen Thomas and Simon Morykin.

Special mention must, of course, go to two Radio Derby broadcasters who have sadly died in the last few years. In January 2017 Andy Potter, who been with the station since 1999, announced that he had terminal cancer. A blue plaque was placed on the studio building in January 2018.   

Colin Bloomfield spent 10 years at the station. Suffering from skin cancer in February 2015 he initiated the Colin Bloomfield Melanoma Appeal which went on to raise over £150,000. Colin passed away just three months later aged just 33. In April 2016 the studio complex at St Helen's Street was named Bloomfield House in his honour.               

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