Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Down Your Local - BBC Radio Durham


The eighth of the BBC's experimental local stations opened in Durham fifty years ago today. It enjoyed just a tad over four years on air, its final fate sealed by the introduction of two neighbouring stations based in Middlesbrough and Newcastle.

In January 1962 Durham had hosted one of the closed circuit experiments that Frank Gillard instigated to convince the government and the BBC of the need for local hometown radio. Six years later when the Corporation was still trying to get political, and financial, buy-in from local authorities   for a full broadcast service it was a toss-up between Lincoln and Durham. In the event Lincoln had to wait until 1980 for its station and another large potential player, Manchester, dropped out of the running so resources that had been earmarked for the city were shifted up to Durham.        


Radio Durham launched on 3 July 1968 on 96.8MHz (it later shifted to 94.5MHz) from studios based in Merryoaks on the southern edge of the city in an old country house called Peak House (pictured above). At the time the property belonged to the National Coal Board and nowadays houses the St Cuthbert's Hospice. 

The station was officially launched by Edward Short, the former Postmaster General who'd just taken up the post of Education Secretary and was a former Durham University student. The station used the theme The Lambton Worm, a tune based on the Durham folklore story of John Lambton. The first station manger was Kenneth Brown who was succeeded by Tim Pitt who later was Radio Carlisle's first station's manager before moving on to manage Radio Sheffield.     

Tony Baynes at the controls
Typical of the early local stations Radio Durham offered a variety of short programmes totalling about six or seven hours each day but in between times dipping in and out of the national programmes on Radio 2 and Radio 4 . It's breakfast opt-out from Today was The Daily Durham and the teatime news round-up Durham Tonight. There were the usual smattering of record request shows, coverage of local events, consumer news, children's programmes, sports news and its own version of Women's Hour called Bird's Eye View. Reflecting the areas' industrial cultural heritage meant the station gave prominence to farming , with regular livestock prices and a weekly review in  The Durham Farmer, and mining with coverage of the Durham Miners' Gala and performances from colliery and other brass bands in The Town, The Place and The Music (and later in Brasstime). Being just a stone's throw away from the university it also offered budding student broadcasters airtime on University Term Time - future BBC news correspondent  Gavin Hewitt was one such student.      

Here's an early Radio Times schedule for the week commencing 5 October 1968.    
   

Best known of the Radio Durham alumni was Kate Adie (pictured below) who spent a couple of years at the station before moving on to Radio Bristol. Her initial broadcast was supposedly reporting on a pigeon race. "My own minor part in this was to be stuffed into a pigeon loft on the outskirts of Ferryhill with the birds' owner."




Other broadcasters heard on the station include:
  • Mike Hollingsworth - had worked as a newspaper journalist and for BBC TV in Newcastle and Anglia TV before joining Radio Leicester in late 1967. At BBC Radio Durham he presented the opening programme.  Moved down to London to help set up the General News Service, working as an assistant editor on Today and then running BBC TV's Breakfast Time, TV-AM and BBC1's daytime output. 
  • Eileen McCabe - a former Northern Echo journalist who joined Radio Durham and moved on to Radio Newcastle. At Tyne-Tees Television she was a presenter and producer went on to be one of the anchors of Northern Life. Died in 2015.
  • Barbara Bailey - presenter of the station's answer to Down Your Way called Barbara's Travels.
  • Nigel Holmes - went to work at Radio Carlisle (later Radio Cumbria). Becoming a lay minister from 1985 to 2010 he worked for the Diocese of Carlisle.
  • John Forrest - moved to Radio Manchester in 1970 then LBC, Thames TV and BBC Network radio mainly producing religious programmes. Was a director on Songs of Praise.  
  • John Jefferson - moved over to Radio Carlisle, became Programme Organiser at Radio Humberside and then station manager at York and Leeds.
  • Geoffrey Lally - the programme organiser
  • Laurie Giles - a former teacher he was a music presenter with Radio Durham with a particular interest in classical music. Later appeared on Metro Radio and GNR.
  • Ken Franks - transferred over to Radio Carlisle
  • Tony Baynes - later had a long association with Radio Teeside (Cleveland)
  • David Self - listed as presenting Write About in the 1970 schedule below. A teacher and then lecturer he began to work freelance for the BBC mainly as a drama writer and feature maker for BBC Schools.
  • Keith Proud - later on Radio Teeside (Cleveland)
  • Geoff Coates - moved to Radio Carlisle and was Metro Radio's first Programme Controller.
  • John Stoker - later on Metro Radio.
  • John Pickles - moved into management firstly as head of radio at BBC Scotland, then station manager at Radio Birmingham (later WM) and Radio Hereford and Worcester
  • Chris Lewis - moved to Radio Carlisle (Cumbria)
  • Anna Duffy - the programme assistant for education
  • Ernie Brown, a news reporter who went on to work for Radio Teeside
  • David Broomfield - former Home Service and Radio newsreader who joined the station in 1972 and then moved over to Radio Carlisle. 
  • Philip Penfold
  • David Ward
  • John Reynolds
  • Peter Hawkins
This schedule from 30 May 1970 shows in some detail how the station weaved its service in between Radios 1, 2 and 4.



This documentary charts the history of Radio Durham. It appears to date from 1971 but I have no idea of the exact date nor who is narrating.



This schedule dates from 20 February 1971.




Following the opening on Radio Teeside on 31 December 1970 and Radio Newcastle on 2 January 1971 Radio Durham was effectively squeezed out and closed on Friday 25 August 1972. The Government had capped the number of BBC local stations at twenty and it was felt that the proximity of the neighbouring stations would hinder the expansion of the remaining proposed areas. This is how the  BBC Year Book reported the news: "The BBC took the decision to close down Radio Durham and to replace it with Radio Carlisle. It was felt that although Radio Durham had provided an excellent and worthwhile service since its opening in 1968, the arrival of Radio Newcastle and Radio Teeside had proved that there was no need for three stations in the North east. The whole of Radio Durham's area has now been duplicated by one or other of these stations. Radio Carlisle, however, will from its opening in 1973 fill a broadcasting gap in its locality. "

The station closed with a concert recorded a Durham Cathedral followed by The Programme to End All Programmes, 3 hours of  "nostalgia, reminiscences, humour and entertainment from one thousand five hundred and fifteen days of local broadcasting".

With thanks to David Ballard.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Inside the Enigma


Famously it was Winston Churchill who, speaking in 1939,  said of Russia that "it is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma".

By 1988 it was becoming less of an enigma as Gorbachev was extolling the virtues of glasnost in a period of rapid change in what proved to be the dying days of the Soviet Union. In this Radio 4 documentary Erik de Mauny, the BBC's first Moscow correspondent, returned to the country to reflect on the changes in the intervening years since he first reported on Wynne-Penkovsky trial in May 1963. And there's a hint of the seismic events that are just around the corner as he talks about "repressed nationalist sentiments." 

Joining Erik (pictured above) on Inside the Enigma are a number of former BBC Moscow correspondents: Dennis Blakely, Daniel Counihan, Philip Short, Kevin Ruane, John Osman and Peter Ruff as well as the then-current incumbents Jeremy Harris, the radio correspondent and Brian Hanrahan who reported for BBC TV.  

Inside the Enigma was first broadcast on Thursday 28 April 1988 and was produced by Harry Schneider.   

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Big Dan



The epitome of US top 40 radio in the 1960s must surely be the deep, fast-talking voice of Dan Ingram and those fabulous PAMS jingles where every link reinforces the station brand. "It's 20 WABC minutes to 7". Cue jingle "Dan Ingram."

It was a style and pace that must have influenced a generation of US jocks and even permeated to Britain via the offshore pirates who were encouraged to listen to tapes of those WABC airchecks.


Dan Ingram's radio career had started in 1958 but his greatest on-air reign was at WABC beaming out across the eastern seaboard from the studios in New York City from 1961 to 1982 alongside other legendary voices like Ron Lundy, Cousin Brucie and Harry Harrison. When the station flipped formats to talk radio he would eventually find a new audience at WCBS-FM until his retirement in 2003. The news of Big Dan's death was announced this week.  

Thankfully there are dozens of recordings of Dan online but here's a scoped aircheck I have from late 1976 with his show punctuated by JAM shotguns.


JAM Creative Production head and lifelong Dan Ingram fan Jon Wolfert wrote this tribute.     

I grew up hearing this man's radio show on WABC New York in the 60s. He influenced everything from my love of radio to my sense of humor. There were many days when listening to him after school was the best thing that happened. Fortunately, in later years I got the opportunity to tell him so and thank him.
At JAM we sang his name in jingles many times. He narrated several of our demo tapes. We even worked together on a syndicated radio show for a while in the 80s.
'Big Dan' was simply the best top-40 DJ of all time. He influenced countless people in our industry, and touched millions of listeners. His ratings in the afternoon are legendary. I'm sure you will find tributes all over the web today that will explain the details, and they are well deserved. There will never be another with his wit, timing, and feel for the medium.. Dan Ingram was truly one of a kind. Our condolences to his family.
Bye now, Kemosabe. And thanks again.

You can read and hear more about Dan on the musicradio77website. Allen Sniffen presented a tribute programme yesterday and there's also a 6-hour Rewound Radio special from 2016. This coming weekend Rewound Radio will feature a selection of Dan's show at WABC and WCBS-FM.  

Dan Ingram 1934-2018

Friday, 22 June 2018

Down Your Local - BBC Radio Leeds


When BBC Radio Leeds burst onto the scene fifty years ago this month the small team of broadcasters were determined to make an impact: from talking budgerigars, the Only BBC Programme That Money Can Buy, the World Tune-gargling Contest and Bring a Disc. But amongst the funny and the frivolous was a commitment to collect and broadcast their own news, at the time a decision that went against the grain of the existing BBC experimental local radios.  The man who successfully got the backing from the BBC bigwigs in London was the first station manager Phil Sidey.


Sidey had first broadcast with the British Forces Network (BFN) in Klagenfurt, Germany before working in a number of journalistic posts including a spell with AP. He joined the BBC in 1956 as a sub-editor for External Services news and moved to television news in 1964 where his roles included news producer on Twenty-Four Hours. At the time of his appointment as manager at Radio Leeds the local radio system, which had just started to roll-out the previous November, was that local news was to be sourced from newspapers and news agencies in the area. Sidey convinced Frank Gillard, then Director of Sound Broadcasting, and others that he "wanted to collect my own news in Leeds and construct my own bulletins, mixing the local with national and international news," a scenario which is now, of course, the norm.


His news team included the Yorkshire Evening Post's Allan Shaw as news editor (who went on to manage Radio Teesside in 1970 and then Radio Manchester from 1975), Jim Brady as sports editor, Derek Woodcock (later station manager at BBC Radio Newcastle and then BBC Radio Bristol), Geoff Hemingway and Stephen Phillips.

A camera crew from BBC1's Twenty-Four Hours was on hand to capture the opening of the new station.



As this page from the Radio Times week commencing 26 April 1969 shows the station pinned its news credentials to the mast. "Leeds and the World. New-style bulletins of international, national and local news, and interviews; with direct lines to Leeds City Police and the West Yorkshire Police Headquarters  and live reports from the Radio Car."

Amongst the names in the 1969 schedules are Liz Oyston who opened the station and worked at Radio Leeds for nearly 20 years, mainly under her married name Liz Ambler.  Experienced broadcaster Rory O'Dowd was also on air at the launch, he'd worked in New Zealand radio and TV for years and Diana Stenson moved on to Radio Manchester in 1970 and later network radio in the city as a producer for Woman's Hour and Gardeners' Question Time.     

Joan Elliott, with her programme "for women to interest the men", was a former local news journalist with the Leicester Mercury and Portsmouth Evening News. Married for a time to Gerald Nethercot - who went on to be the BBC's man in the Midlands and the first station manager at BBC Radio Nottingham - she started to freelance for the BBC and contributed to Sunday Out, for the Midlands Home Service, Woman's Hour and Today.  Moving to the north east she was the woman's editor on the Newcastle Evening Chronicle and began to appear on Tyne-Tees  and the BBC. When her then husband Jeffrey Slack moved to Leeds, Joan eventually joined the new local station. Her show Joan Elliott Calls came complete with a Delia Derbyshire composed theme tune. A further move to London meant that Joan would work for BBC Radio London becoming a senior news editor. On retirement the family moved up to Durham. She died in 1999 aged 81.   


One of Radio Leeds' regular broadcasters in the twenty years or so was organist Arnold Loxam. Bradford-born Loxam had been playing the theatre organ since the 1930s and made many post-war broadcasts on the Home Service and Light Programme. Here he's listed presenting Sit Down and Sing recorded at Leeds City Varieties.

Geoff Leonard's radio experience was all behind the scenes. He'd joined the BBC as a junior engineer in 1941 in the Birmingham control room, later at 200 Oxford Street, a Studio Manager for the Features department and attachments to TV presentation, TV news and the BFN as a producer before the move to Radio Leeds as a production assistant and then engineer. Geoff moved south again to BBC Radio Medway until his retirement in 1980. He died in 2004.

Listed under Leeds on a Sunday is a young Phil Hayton who'd cut his broadcasting teeth on pirate Radio 270 and in the early 70s went off to Look North and then BBC News in London as a reporter and newsreader. His co-presenter Dave Williams was also an ex-pirate as a newsreader on Radio Caroline North.

Angus Turner, presenter of Sounds Interesting, had worked for the BBC in the Leeds regional office on Woodhouse Lane. Journalist Michael McGowan was, from 1984 to 1999, the MEP for Leeds. Second engineer Bill Holt was also a  folk artist and is here listed as producer of Country and Folk. His engineering colleague John Orson also appeared on air presenting Sweet and Low, he went on to be chief engineer at Pennine Radio. Robin Worman later joined Radio Solent and was the first voice on air when it launched in 1970. 

Not listed here but working at the station in 1969 was Gerald Jackson who moved over the Pennines in 1971 to help launch BBC Radio Blackburn (now BBC Radio Lancashire) where he remains to this day.

The prize for the best title must surely go to Hoof Beat the Friday evening programme on horses and show jumping.

As for Phil Sidey he went back to television in 1970 first as an assistant editor on Nationwide and then as Head of Network Production for the BBC in Birmingham. In 1994 he wrote a superb insight into the early days of BBC local radio called Hello, Mrs Butterfield..., grab a copy if you can. He died the following year.  

Page from the 1978 booklet Serving Neighbourhood and Nation
When Radio Leeds launched on Monday 24 June 1968 its studios were in that testament to sixties concrete brutalist architecture the Merrion Centre; later they moved to Woodhouse Lane and then in 2004 to St Peter's Square. This wasn't the first time that the city had been the home of a local radio service. From 1924 until the early 1930s BBC operated the Leeds-Bradford relay station (initially called 2LS) which carried the programmes of 2ZY in Manchester, and later the Regional Programme,  but with occasional local input. The studios were on Basinghall Street before a move to Woodhouse Lane in 1933 on the site of an old Quaker Meeting House. This would remain the main Yorkshire outpost of the BBC for the next seventy years and for a while in the 50s and 60s had a strong drama production base for the radio network under the direction of producer Alfred Bradley.

1968 was a good year for broadcasting in Leeds. In March the BBC TV regional news magazine from Manchester, Look North, split and a Leeds-based alternative east of the Pennines was launched with Barry Chambers, David Seymour, James Hogg, John Burns and David Haigh. Meanwhile a month after BBC Radio Leeds came on air down at Kirkstall Road Yorkshire Television opened.    

A couple of years after launch (for the week commencing 21 August 1971) the Radio Leeds schedule looked like this.




On Saturday John Helm is listed as the sports editor. John, of course, went on to work for Sport on 2 and then ITV as a football commentator. Co-presenting Sweet and Low is Nigel Fell. Nigel had made his radio debut sending in taped shows under the name John Martin to the pirate station Radio City. He joined Radio Leeds in 1969, staying with the station for 30 years.

For the week commencing 29 March 1980 Radio Leeds had this line-up.




On Radio Leeds AM is former teacher John Hendry, later a freelance actor and now a spiritual healer.  Alongside Liz Ambler on West Riding is Dave Hodgson, most recently associated with Kirklees Local Television, as is Barrie Davenport, listed here as a producer on Concert Pitch and Just Jazz (later he presented Great Northern Brass). Simon Says presenter was Simon Peters who was also a matchday announcer at Elland Road in the 70s and 80s. Simon's co-presenter was Claire Hansbro, later on BBC Radio Sheffield as Claire Kavanagh.

Note that Sports of Good Friday lists Yorkshire broadcasting legend Harry Graton (sic) as one of its presenters.  

Finally this schedule dates from week commencing 16 December 1989, and there are some very familiar names here amongst them Alvin Blossom, Peter Levy who now woos viewers to Look North from Hull and Miles Harrison who moved onto BBC sport, ITV and is now Sky's rugby union commentator.  

Ex-Pennine jock Tony Fisher was on breakfast show duty. He's had an extensive radio career, moving on from Radio Leeds to Radios Cleveland, Newcastle, Minster FM, Century, Kiss 105, Galaxy 105, Invicta, Wyvern, Southern Counties, Hereford and Worcester and currently appearing on BBC Essex. On mid-mornings was ex-Radio Aire's Jon Hammond. The lunchtime DJ is Ian Timms who then went to BBC Radio Devon and is currently on BBC Radio Cumbria.

Two presenters are still on air at Leeds: Gary Copley playing big band and swing music and Tim Crowther who's looked after the Sunday morning gardening slot for over two decades, first with the late  Joe Maiden and now with Graham Porter.     

BBC Radio Leeds is celebrating its 50th birthday this weekend with a Sunday afternoon special narrated by Tim Daley followed throughout the week by a number of special shows from a pop-up studio in the Merrion Centre.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Radio Lives - Paddy Feeny


Listeners in far-flung corners of the globe tuning in their short-wave radio sets to the World Service 30 or 40 years ago would, no doubt, if asked to name a voice who represented the BBC, who was the authoritative voice of Britain, have suggested Paddy Feeny. For 36 years on Saturday afternoons he guided overseas listeners through the myriad of sporting events and fixtures on Saturday Special. “It’s a combination of timing, co-ordination, understanding the subject and a pinch of telepathy" he explained in 1993 just two years before he stood down.

1978 heat of Young Scientist of the Year. The full programme can be found on YouTube

To listeners and viewers at home, however, Paddy's talents as a presenter were aimed at a younger audience; from question master on the inter-school quiz Top of the Form, narrating programmes for schools, presenter of  Young Scientist of the Year, and in the process making a unlikely TV star out of boffin Professor Heinz Wolff, to spinning the discs on Junior Choice.

Paddy was born in Liverpool in 1931 and educated at Ampleforth College in North Yorkshire. "From the age of five onwards I knew I wanted to do some kind of job in the entertainment business." His first job was as a film projectionist and he progressed to stage electrician, stage manager and "an extremely bad actor"   Having passed a BBC audition his first broadcast was in the  radio play Duel of Honour for the BBC in Birmingham in 1952 where, he later recalled, his first line was one that years later he still did not understand: "You mean that  you admit that Dujarier was one of your seconds."

A typically jokey biog for Paddy from
London Calling April 1981
After a spell in repertory he joined the BBC's European Services as a studio manager. By a stroke of good luck the sports producer was looking for someone to present the summer sports coverage, step forward an enthusiastic Paddy Feeny. On 9 May 1959 from studio C21 in Bush House he first presented what turned out to be a regular gig for the next 36 years. Eventually Saturday Special extended its hours and became a year round fixture in the schedules  rather than just a summer event. The World Service employed its own sports team but also shared coverage with the domestic sports programmes on the Sports Service (later Sport on 2 and Sport on 5) with commentators regularly welcoming "listeners to the BBC World Service."  Here's Paddy in action on 9 April 1988.



As early as 1963 Paddy began his association with Top of the Form, initially alongside Geoffrey Wheeler for three years on the BBC TV version (1963-66) and then a longer run on the radio version between 1978 and 1985, sharing duties with Tim Gudgin. This edition of Top of the Form dates from 28 October 1980 and features a contest between Hessle High School and Hornsea School and Institute of Further Education.   
    


Records Round the World was a long-running BBC World Service show.
In 1966 and 1967 Paddy co-presented with Judith Chalmers and Maggie Clews
with the show also heard on Wednesday lunchtimes on the BBC
Light Programme
On domestic radio Paddy occasionally presented Children's Favourites and looked after its successor Junior Choice between Leslie Crowther and Ed Stewart (1967-68). He teamed up with Judith Chalmers for Records Round the World (1966-67) a weekly World Service/Light Programme simulcast.  Together with Tim Gudgin and Bob Holness he introduced the Home Service regional opt-out news bulletin South-East (1967). Further radio appearances for the junior end of the listenership included various schools programmes, the Saturday afternoon compendium 4th Dimension  and the Radio 2 natural history quiz Give Us a Conch (1984-85).

Recording the Radio 4 schools programme Springboard (1969-73)
On BBC TV Paddy was best known for Young Scientist of the Year (1966-78 initially billed as Science Fair), a series that must have spurred many a budding scientist to experiment in the school science lab.   

When all this other work fell away Paddy maintained his position at the helm of Saturday Special until his final show on 24 June 1995. He also appeared on the World Service series At Home with... (1984), the sports quiz Game, Set and Match (1993-95) and the station's Feedback equivalent Write On (1987-96).  Here's an edition of Write On from January 1996.

“In over 40 years of broadcasting, I have kept to one maxim,” Feeny explained, “that I am involved in a relationship with one person, not millions. I want the listeners to relate to me as a friend.”

Paddy died earlier this week after a short illness. Mike Costello paid tribute to him on the BBC World Service.

Paddy Feeny 1931-2018

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Radio Lives - Teddy Johnson


Who presented the first British chart show on the radio? Before you all shout out Alan Freeman or David Jacobs, I'm talking about the late 1940s and a certain DJ on Radio Luxembourg.


Teddy Johnson is perhaps best remembered - for those with long enough memories - as the one half of the husband and wife singing duo ' Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson'. At the height of their fame in the 1950s they made regular appearances on TV and radio and, in 1959, represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest with that annoyingly catchy little ditty, Sing Little Birdie.

By the time Teddy made his first UK broadcast in 1944, singing with Jack Payne and his Orchestra, he'd already been performing for ten years as a drummer and vocalist with assorted dance bands. After the war he decided to go freelance and chance his arm as a singer/comedian. On the recommendation of a friend it was suggested he contact Frank Lee, at the time Head of the English Service of Radio Luxembourg at their London offices in Davis Street. Teddy was told to report to the IBC studios for a voice test and that same afternoon received a phone call asking if he'd like to take a trip over to the Grand Duchy and have a try-out. He was on-air the following weekend, playing mostly Geraldo records alongside station boss Geoffrey Everitt. He was immediately given a full-time job - starting on 20 May 1948 - broadcasting each night of the week, apart from Friday, and on Sunday afternoons with Everitt.


The scarcity of announcers at the post-war station (aside from the pre-recorded programmes shipped over from London) meant that Teddy was forced to appear under more than one name; an approach also adopted by Pete Murray (one wonders if listeners were really fooled by this) at a time when the station's schedule was packed with 15 or 30 minute shows. So his first programmes might be something like Topical Half Hour introduced by Teddy Johnson followed by the famous Luxembourg gong and then back on Music for Everyone with E. Victor Johnson and later Irish Half Hour with Edward V Johnson.   

Around late 1948 or early 1949, no-one is exactly sure when, Geoffrey Everitt came up with the idea of a weekly Sunday night programme playing music based on the sales of sheet music. The rundown was in reverse order, from twenty to one. As it was likely that the same song could've been recorded by more than one artist they had alternative versions to play. These early shows established a format that exists to this day, one picked up by the BBC, as Pick of the Pops in 1955.

Teddy's stay at Luxembourg was brief, he left the station in 1950 as he was itching to get back to singing, releasing records such as Beloved Be Faithful and Tennessee Waltz. As a performer he regularly appeared on BBC radio in the early 50s on shows such as Stanley Black's Black Magic singing alongside Pearl Carr - they met for the first time whilst recording this show and married in 1955 - and Diana Coupland (long before her Bless This House days).   

He was back DJ-ing in 1951 on Housewives' Choice. The whole show had to be scripted and Teddy worked on it to ensure that it maintained the conversational style he'd adopted in the Grand Duchy. However, part-way through the  week was out he was summoned into a meeting in which his script was excised of "everything in them which was me." After his Saturday show he was told that they hadn't liked what he'd done. It was eleven years before he was back in Broadcasting House.

Despite the lack of faith from Anna Instone, the head of the Gramophone Department, Teddy continued to broadcast as a band singer for both the Home Service and Light Programme on Sweet Music, Melody from the Stars, Variety Bandbox, Showtime, Variety Matinee and Worker's Playtime. 

Teddy & Pearl billed as guest stars on Winifred Atwell's
ITV show on 19 May 1956 
The diary was also filling up with TV appearances; Teddy's first programme for the BBC was in 1953 - again singing with Pearl - and they were both regulars on Crackerjack (1957-60), The Ted Ray Show (1958-59). Over on the new commercial channel Teddy and Pearl appeared with the ivory-tinkling Winifred Atwell (1956) and later on The Arthur Haynes Show (1960) whilst Teddy was the host of ATV's  Music Shop (1958-60).

That Eurovision hit Sing Little Birdie came in March 1959 after an exuberant performance at the contest in Cannes secured them a second place. They were also in the running the following year when they took part in the heats but in the event it was Teddy's brother Bryan who represented the UK with Looking High, High, High - it also came second.

Let's Face the Music - a Light Programme series
promoted by this Radio Times article 28 October 1965
Even though Teddy was no longer on the staff at Radio Luxembourg he continued to record programmes for the station: Tune Into Teddy, The Winifred Atwell Show and Meet Mr and Mrs Music in the mid-50s and appearing with Pearl in the 60s on The Postal Bingo Show. Meanwhile by 1962 he was back in favour with the BBC with another stint on Housewives' Choice, regular guest appearances (with Pearl) on Benny Hill Time and Harry Worth as well as their own star vehicle Let's Face the Music.  Teddy also had acting roles in a number of  series penned by the Scottish thriller writer Edward Boyd. Steve Gardner Investigates, the story of a singer turned private eye was heard only by listeners to the Scottish Home Service in the 1950s but later series were broadcast  nationwide on the Home Service and then Radio 4: The Candle of Darkness (1967), Enough Fingers to Make a Hand (1968) and The Wolf Far Hence (1971). The Candle of Darkness is being repeated on BBC Radio 4 Extra this week.

By the early 1970s Teddy was a regular in The Ken Dodd Show and, for eighteen months from October 1972, became the afternoon DJ on BBC Radio 2. Even when that stint finished in March 1974 he presented plenty of other programmes for the station: The Song Stylists (1973-4) and The Vocal Touch (1974), both written by former record producer Ken Barnes, The All-Time Hit Parade (1975-6) with singers Rosemary Squires and Nick Curtis and introducing the big bad sounds of Syd Lawrence and his Orchestra (1976). He was back spinning the discs and reading the dedications on a Saturday mid-morning show between October and December 1977.

Pictured in the Radio Times for Teddy Johnson's 78 Show
15 April 1988
During the 1980s and early 1990s Teddy's radio appearances were mainly deputising for holidaying DJs: David Jacobs, Ken Bruce, Desmond Carrington and Alan Dell, though there were two music nostalgia series, The Music Goes Round and Round at 78rpm (1987) and Teddy Johnson's 78 Show (1988). Teddy's broadcasting voice was warm and relaxed as evidenced by this clip from Radio 2's Sunday afternoon show Sounds Easy from 1992.


Even when Teddy's recording career dried up in the early 1960s, his light crooning style was out of fashion, both he and Pearl continued performing in variety, panto and musicals until well into the 1980s. Teddy was last heard on the radio in 2011 as a guest of Desmond Carrington in his series Icons of the 50s. Here are extracts of those interviews.



In 2016 David Lloyd spoke to Teddy (and Pearl) - audio posted here on Audioboom.

Teddy and Pearl lived out their latter years at Brinsworth House, the retirement home run by the Royal Variety Charity. Teddy's death was announced this week.

Teddy Johnson 1920-2018

Friday, 1 June 2018

Superman on Trial


June 1938 and Action Comics publishes the first ever Superman cartoon strip. June 1988 and Superman stands on trail accused of crimes against humanity. Prosecuting is his arch nemesis Lex Luthor. Defending the super hero is one Lois Lane. Witnesses from the comic world and the real world are called into court including the late Adam West.

This was the premise of the Radio 4 drama documentary Superman on Trial that aired thirty years ago to mark the golden anniversary of the man of steel. Written and directed by Dirk Maggs it was first broadcast in a 45 minute slot but was eventually extended and remixed for a 2010 CD release.

Superman garnered a Radio Times cover, though there was a BBC1 documentary that week too, together with some specially commissioned artwork, shown below.

Superman on Trial hasn't been repeated since its 1988 broadcasts. First heard on long wave only on 5 June my recording is of the Tuesday 7 June FM evening transmission. It was given another repeat on Christmas Day 1988. The success of the programme spurred the BBC to commission Dirk Maggs to write a full-blown adventure series in 1990 (5 episodes) and in 1991 (10 episodes).      

Over to station WGBS from Galaxy Communications in Metropolis.









Thursday, 3 May 2018

Listen to the Band


The sound of brass band is quintessentially British, from the working class traditions of works and colliery bands to the bandstand concert in the park and the seaside where, as we all know, they play "Tiddely-om-pom-pom!" Think too of the military bands playing at parades, Remembrance Day or Trooping the Colour.

One of  the victims of this month's Radio 2 schedule reshuffle is Listen to the Band (presenter Frank Renton pictured above).. Even though there is still a strong brass band tradition in the UK with good grass roots support from young players the decision has an air of inevitability about it with the programme offering little in the way of new material and having been pushed further and further to the margins of the schedule.

Listen to the Band has been running weekly on BBC Radio 2 since 1976 but the title is of a much older vintage tracing back to 1941. That show along with Bandstand (in its various incarnations), Music While You Work and Marching and Waltzing have showcased brass and military bands for decades.

The 1928 BBC Handbook features the BBC's in-house Military Band
The first broadcast of a military band concert, the Band of HM Irish Guards, was as far back as 23 January 1923. Some of the regional stations had their own military bands, the one at station 2ZY in Manchester was conducted by Harry Mortimer, more of whom later. In 1924 2LO's musical director Dan Godfrey formed the 2LO Military Band, later known as the Wireless Military Band and then the BBC Military Band. The band's regular conductor was Bertram Walton O'Donnell, nicknamed 'Bandy' and then, following his untimely death from pneumonia in 1938, by his brother Percy O'Donnell. It became the main broadcasting military band, heard most weeks and playing both established pieces and music specially commissioned for it. It was disbanded, as a cost-saving measure, in 1943.   

Alongside the in-house bands were the usual suspects such as Grenadier Guards, Royal Marines, the central Band of the RAF, various police bands and, post-war, the National Military Band.      

On pre-war radio broadcasts the stations would often cover the brass band competitions, including the national one from Crystal Palace (later at Alexandra Palace) and the Belle Vue contests in Manchester. Some of the famous colliery and works brass bands were also heard and continued to be featured in dozens of post-war programmes and these still perform to this day (albeit with slightly changed names): Foden's Motor Works, Black Dyke Mills, the Brighouse and Rastrick, Fairey Aviation Works and Grimethorpe Colliery.

When Music While You Work started in 1940 it regularly included military and brass bands, through it tended to favour the former. In later years one of the Wednesday editions was given over to one of the military or brass bands.

Such was the importance given to this music genre that in July 1936 the BBC appointed Denis Wright to the post of Supervisor of Brass and Military Bands within the music department. A former teacher and then music editor at Chappell & Co he introduced some innovations in the broadcasting of this type of music. Realising that much of the music was written to be performed outdoors he re-arranged pieces for studio performances.  He also changed the band formation to provide a better sound balance. Wright moved on to the Corporation's Overseas Services music division in 1942 and post-war continued to write and arrange for brass bands.  

One of the biggest names in banding is, of course, Harry Mortimer. From a very musical family - his father Fred conducted the Luton Band and then the Foden's Motor Works Band and made dozens of broadcasts until his death in 1953 - he played cornet and trumpet for Fodens and a number of orchestras including the BBC Northern Orchestra (now the BBC Philharmonic). He was also encouraged to conduct and to compose and by 1942 was asked to take over the post of Supervisor of Brass and Military Bands following the departure of Denis Wright.

Under Mortimer's purview he introduced a number of programmes featuring brass and military bands the most significant of which was Listen to the Band. (The title Oh, Listen to the Band had previously been used during the war for a programmes with bands played out on record).  Starting in February 1943 it featured a different band on each show and ran weekly on the Home Service, at first on Sunday mornings but then settling into a Saturday afternoon slot through to March 1963.

Harry Mortimer introduces the 1964 series
of Listen to the Band
Listen to the Band returned in September 1964 for a 3-month series, this time over on the Light Programme. By now Harry Mortimer had retired from his BBC post but was still heavily involved in brass band music and he presented the new series. It was back again in October 1965 but this time using one of the other preferred BBC titles for brass and military band music, Bandstand (later billed as Saturday Bandstand), with Harry and then Paul Martin "inviting you to Listen to the Band."

With Mortimer leaving the BBC responsibility for overseeing this music fell initially to each of the regions and then in 1965 to Geoffrey Brand and later William Relton until he moved on to manage the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 1970.  

When the Light became Radio 2 in late September 1967 the original title was back in use but now announcer John Dunn was presenting followed by Jimmy Kingsbury between 1970 and 1972 when the programme was dropped. In the summer of 1972 brass and military bands were now only included in the show Brass and Strings and Other Things (later just billed as Brass and Strings) performing alongside the likes of the BBC Radio Orchestra or the BBC Midland Radio Orchestra, all linked by one of the staff announcers.   

In October 1976 Listen to the Band returned to Radio 2 and has remained on air ever since. By now Charlie Chester was presenting, though I'm not aware that he had any particular interest in the music and, in a nod to its history, the first band was the Morris Concert Band conducted by good old Harry Mortimer.

Here's a clip of Charlie with Listen to the Band from 26 January 1982 featuring the Western Band of the RAF.


There's a complete edition of the programme with Charlie Chester presenting  over on the Masters of Melody website. Dating from 27 July 1977 it features the Band of the Women's Royal Army Corps.

This edition dates from 11 May 1977 and features the Hammonds Sauce Works Band. 



In 1987 composer and brass band conductor Roy Newsome took over presenting duties followed in 1995 by Frank Renton who had considerable experience of both brass and military bands.

In this edition of Listen to the Band from 4 February 2016 Frank talks to trombonist and arranger Bill Geldard.



In the 1970s brass band music received something of a fillip when it featured in the UK singles charts. In the 1972 hit You're a Lady Peter Skellern was accompanied by the Hanwell Band and six years later the Grimethorpe Colliery Band appeared on his single Love is the Sweetest Thing. Meanwhile in 1977 the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band reached number two with The Floral Dance with Terry Wogan championing the record on his breakfast show. Later that year Terry recorded his own version, this time with the Hanwell Band, and made a couple of unlikely appearance on Top of the Pops in January 1978.  

The history of brass and military band broadcasting can't ignore another couple of programmes: Bandstand and Marching and Waltzing. Brass Bandstand was a series that ran for a few weeks each year on the Home Service between 1945 and 1954, with regional variations such as Scottish Bandstand, Midland Bandstand and so on. Meanwhile on the Light Programme we had the daily show Bandstand from 1945 to 1950 and then appearing weekly from 1953 to 1964. The title was resurrected again in March 1965 when the daytime Music Programme of the Third Programme extended its hours and included a weekly show alternating brass and military bands. Not surprisingly Harry Mortimer was back again on the first edition conducting the combined BMC (Morris Motors), Fairey and Fodens band. Bandstand continued on Radio 3 until as late as 1988. There are excerpts from the programme on YouTube.    

BBC radio ran a number of brass band knockout competitions between 1961 and 1974. The Northern Brass contest heard only in the North, Midlands and Northern Ireland regions became the national Challenging Brass in 1964 flipping between the Home Service, the Music Programme, Radio 4, Radio 2 and then Radio 3.

The sound of various Salvation Army bands were  heard on Sunday mornings between 1975 and 1979 when Ray Moore presented Banners and Bonnets.

Marching and Waltzing provided, as the title suggests, a mix of waltzes played by a light orchestra and marches played by a military or brass band. It started on the Home Service in 1940 and for the first decade was a record programme. By 1950 it started to regularly feature the Raeburn Orchestra on the waltz side under the direction of Wynford Reynolds who had, during the war, being the organiser of Music While You Work.   

By the early 60s Marching and Waltzing was back to being a record only show but got a new lease of life on the Light Programme with a couple of series in October 1965 and October 1966 in a joint production with the World Service - with World Service announcer Peter Reynolds providing the introductions. Geoffrey Brand, the brass band conductor and BBC producer who had taken over Harry Mortimer's old role as Supervisor of Brass and Military Bands, writing in the Radio Times was quite effusive about the programme and the pictures it conjured up: "Parade grounds filled with soldiers in red tunics moving in perfect formation; armies marching into battle to the sound of the band; or perhaps a Carnival procession with its gaiety and excitement, all being headed by a band playing a march. In contrast the waltz - and the soft lights and smooth sounds of the orchestra in the ballroom. Lovely evening gowns colourfully float across the floor as dancing couples glide rhythmically to the lilt and charm of the music."    

Marching and Waltzing made a return in September 1967 on the newly launched Radio 2 with Jimmy Kingsbury announcing the various brass and military bands plus the BBC Midland Light Orchestra under Gilbert Vinter - himself a composer who'd written a number of pieces for brass bands during the sixties.  Later the BBC Northern Ireland Orchestra was the main outfit providing the waltzes. It was again dropped in 1970 but made one last gasp between 1980 and 1984 with various staff announcers looking after the programme and one of the main orchestras being the London Studio Players led by Reginald Leopold and conducted by Iain Sutherland.    

In this edition of Listen to the Band from 25 April 2017 Frank Renton recalls the Marching and Waltzing era.  


And here is an edition of Marching and Waltzing kindly provided to me by Paul Langford. Paddy O'Byrne introduces the Band of the Coldstream Guards conducted by Lt Col Richard Ridings and the Orchestra led by Reginald Leopold and conducted by Marcus Dodds. It was broadcast on 4 August 1981.



Local radio didn't ignore brass band music and a number of BBC stations used to have programmes devoted to it. Up in Yorkshire I know that Radio Leeds had Brass Tacks with Mike Meadmore and Great Northern Brass with Barrie Davenport whilst Radio Sheffield had a regular competition called Bold as Brass. BBC Radio Durham had Brasstime and Radio Birmingham ran a competition titled Birmingham Brass. Commercial radio was less interested though in the 1970s Radio Clyde had The Sound of Brass with Bob Mason, Radio Forth used the same title for programmes presented by Bill Torrance, at Radio Hallam Roger Moffat looked after Best of the Brass and even Viking Radio when it started in 1984 had Viking Bandstand.  

Although Listen to the Band has long since dropped brass and military band sessions, relying instead, for the most part, on commercial recordings, the axing of the programme has rightly been seen as a blow to the banding world. Although Radio 2 has promised to support the annual Young Brass Awards as part of Friday Night is Music Night this leaves the only radio programmes dedicated to playing this kind of music as David Hoyle's Yorkshire Brass on Radio Leeds and Paul Hunt with The Sound of Brass on BBC local radio in the south west. Listeners on the Isle of Man can hear Manx Radio's Time for Brass with Ian Cottier and both Angel Radio and Serenade Radio occasionally play music of this genre. As for Frank Renton he'll continue to feature brass band music in a  fortnightly online show from brasspass.tv called Frank Renton: Still Listening to the Band. 

The final edition of Listen to the Band airs on Tuesday 8 May. Phillip Hunt will be marking the end of the programme on the 13 May 2018 edition of Sounds of Brass  

For an informed opinion on the demise of the programme see Iwan Fox's article for 4barsrest

Reference material:
BBC Genome
The Modern Brass Band from the 1930s to the New Millennium by Roy Newsome (Ashgate Publishing 2006)

Music While You Work by Brian Reynolds (Book Guild Publishing 2006)



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