Music Programmes

Listen to the Band :This was (and still is) a brass and military band programme which commenced during the second world war and has continued, on and off, to the present day. Early programmes were sometimes comprised of records but studio performances soon became standard, with brass bands alternating with military bands in a half hour of mainly light music. In recent years brass bands have been used almost exclusively, due to military bands being required to charge a fee which is compatible with professional Musician Union rates. During the seventies the programme was replaced for a while by 'Strike Up the Band' - the only difference being a slightly lighter and more commercial repertoire. After sixty years, the signature tune of 'Listen to the Band' , Lionel Monkton's 'Soldiers in the Park' was inexplicably dropped by the BBC a few years ago.  The programme has been a permanent feature of Friday night on Radio 2 for many years now and is now one of the few remaining programmes on the station to feature instrumental music. (Information kindly provided by Brian Reynolds).

Concert Hour : The hour was between noon and 1pm, on weekdays on the Home Service from March 1946 to December 1964, when music was commonplace on the Home Service - as opposed to the much rarer event which it is today.

Grand Hotel : Relays of Light classical music started in 1925 from The Grand Hotel in Eastbourne and were, to quote the Radio Times of the era, 'Music of the Palm Court Orchestra'. The Lounge Hall of the Grand was used - it did not actually have a Palm Court.
The 'Grand Hotel' programme itself ran on Sundays from 1943 to 1973 and was generally broadcast live, usually from the Concert Hall at Broadcasting House but occasionally on location.
It was hosted by violinist Albert Sandler until early in 1948 when he was taken ill and left the programme being replaced by Tom Jenkins (Sandler died the following August)
.  Both had previously been musical directors of the Grand Hotel Eastbourne  (Sandler 1924-28 and Jenkins 1938-40). However other hotels were also used, notably the Royal Bath, Bournemouth and these programmes were not called 'Grand Hotel'.
It lapsed for a couple of years before returning for its final series in 1951 when it was pre-recorded and introduced by Tom Jenkins with the Palm Court Orchestra and guest baritone Alfred Swain. Max Jaffa took over in 1956, succeeding Jean Pougnet, and stayed to the end. Featured artists at this time were Jack Byfield, Max Jaffa and a different singer each week. Vanessa Lee was a favourite of the programme, but many other operatic sopranos were also invited to appear.

Reginald Leopold directed the Palm Court orchestra for 17 years, until 1973.

The programme was revived for a while in the eighties using Max Jaffa and subsequently the show went round the regions using different musical combinations. It was revived in 1995 for a one-off celebration using a larger orchestra conducted by Roderick Dunk

The programme's signature tune was Strauss's 'Roses from the South'.

There was a similar programme, now forgotten, called 'Carnival Concert', which featured John Blore and his orchestra (with interval music by organist Charles Smart) playing 'music from the Winter Garden'. offers a 'Reginald Leopold and Grand Hotel' CD for 9.95 (ref .C110)

Memories for You : requested tunes played in strict tempo by Victor Silvester's Ballroom Orchestra in a series heard on both Light and Home services.

Your Hundred Best Tunes : Gentle, quiet and serene record programme presented by Alan Keith on Sunday evenings since 1959. (It was called 'The Hundred Best Tunes in the World' until February 1960). Alan Keith was the longest-serving disc jockey on British radio; his rich and mellifluous tones could be heard every Sunday evening for 44 years on Radio 2's Your Hundred Best Tunes, bringing a touch of solace and relaxation to the airwaves.
The programme was devised by Keith in 1959 and first broadcast in November that year. It was a simple formula; Keith would choose a selection of light classical music from the BBC gramophone library and introduce each extract in his matchless modulated style. He died, whilst still presenting the programme weekly, in March 2003. Richard Baker then took over the programme until it was axed in 2007,
after 48 years, to make way for a new-look schedule.

Melody on the Move : was a breakfast-time light music programme broadcast (initially) at 8.30a.m until 9.00a.m provided by a different BBC staff orchestra each day ( the BBC West of England Light Orchestra , for example). It ran without a break between September 1958 and December 1960, by which time it had been extended to 45 minutes (commencing 8.15 a.m) but the number of editions had been reduced to three per week.  It returned in January 1962 for a further 21 month run on Monday mornings, this time extended to 60 minutes and usually featuring the London Light Concert Orchestra or the London Theatre Orchestra, both of which were augmented versions of the BBC's London Studio Players, conductors being Michael Krein and Reginald Kilbey respectively. Sometimes a guest ensemble or soloist was also included.  Its final incarnation was in the late sixties as a thirty minute programme every weekday at 11.30a.m. again featuring mostly BBC orchestras but this time presented by the avuncular Jimmy Hanley. Not surprisingly 'Melody on the Move' had, as its signature tune, the Clive Richardson composition of the same name. (Information kindly provided by Brian Reynolds). Click Here!

Signature Tune

Mid-Day Music Hall : was a variety show which started in 1953 and was broadcast live every Monday and Friday (alternating with Worker's Playtime on Tuesday and Thursday). It was originally compered by Michael Miles and then later, in the sixties, it was introduced by Bill Gates. Max Miller appeared in the programme regularly once a month towards the end of his career when he had more or less retired. The signature tune was 'Over The Sticks'.

Henry Hall's Guest Night : One of the major musical figures from the golden age of wireless, Henry Hall's 'chat show' saw Britain through the dark days of war, and bearing a famous signature tune in 'Here's to the Next Time', it ran for 972 editions until the late '50s. Hall's regular greeting, 'Hello everyone, this is Henry Hall speaking', became something of a national catchphrase.

Click Here!
Signature tune
Housewives Choice : A very popular record request programme broadcast on the Light Programme from 1946 to 1967. Specifically aimed at women at home, at an hour (09:10) when their menfolk were supposed to have left for work, it was nonetheless nearly always presented by men. - among them Godfrey Winn, Edmundo Ros, Gilbert Harding, Richard Murdoch, Sam Costa and Eamonn Andrews.

The one who enjoyed the closest association with the show, however, was vocalist and bandleader George Elrick, whose bright and breezy style was heard, on and off, for two decades. His hallmark was to hum along to the signature tune which came about by accident when he did it without realising he was still on air. He feared the sack but the producer liked it and so did the listeners so it became standard.

The very first presenter was Robert MacDermott on 4th. March 1946.

The signature tune was called In Party Mood by Jack Strachey and is available on CD here and here

The Cliff Adams SingersSing Something Simple with the Cliff Adams Singers (right) : "Songs simply sung for song-lovers" was the subtitle for this half-hour of non-stop pop-songs. It became a warm, smooth, cosy and sentimental Sunday-evening institution. Beginning on the Light Programme in 1959, initially on Fridays but soon moving to Sunday nights where it stayed every week until the death in October 2001 of Cliff Adams. The Adams Singers were originally accompanied by accordionist Jack Emblow and his quartet.

Pick of the Pops began in 1955 and was presented by Franklin Engelmann as 'a choice of current popular gramophone records'.  He was succeeded by Alan Dell and then David Jacobs who hosted it at 10.40pm on Saturday nights. In 1961 it was incorporated into 'Trad Tavern' with presenter Alan Freeman. Its theme tune was 'At the Sign of The Swinging Cymbal'. It Later it moved to Sunday teatime.


Jack JacksonJack Jackson - Record RoundupRecord Roundup : Jack Jackson's Saturday night programme.

Record Roundabout : Jack Jackson also later presented this programme on Saturday lunchtimes with lightning cutting between, and mixing of, comedy extracts and music.

Jack Jackson had a fictitious cat called Tiddles who used to meaow at appropriate moments when he liked a tune, hence the picture of Jack with a cat. Jack would often ask what Tiddles thought about a particular record, receiving a suitable squawk.

Tip-Top Tunes : Bandleader Geraldo's 'Tip-Top Tunes' series that ran on both the BBC Light Programme and General Overseas Service featured mostly the regular Geraldo line up heavily augmented into a large concert orchestra personnel. The earlier programmes featured singers Carole Carr, Dick James, Sally Douglas and Archie Lewis and top big band soloists playing everything from small group swing to adventurous concert arrangements by the likes of Robert Farnon and Wally Stott (later Angela Morley). The 'Tip-Top Tunes series ran mainly from 1946 to 1954 after which there were some revivals later on in the era as well as one off occasional specials later on. (Information kindly provided by Phil Farlow)

Kings of the Keyboard : was a showcase for piano music, broadcast in the late fifties. The writer recalls getting out of school football on Friday afternoons to visit the Concert Hall, Broadcasting House to attend the recordings of this series, transmitted on Sundays.
The idea of the programme, which had been entitled 'Concert Grand' several years previously, was to present contrasting styles of piano music performed by a number of well-known pianists. A typical programme from August 1959 featured Valerie Tryon (concert pianist), Reub Silver and Marion Day (two pianos), Bill McGuffie (latin-american music) and the
Ian Stewart Quartet (rhythmic piano music).
The fact that female pianists took part may explain why, when the series was revived in the early seventies, it reverted to its original title 'Concert Grand'.
(Information kindly provided by Brian Reynolds).

Continental Serenade : Ran from 1942-53 on Saturday afternoons on the Light Programme. Jacques Vallez and his Septet broadcast from 1956 and featured Jacques on cello and Musical Saw (he often played the saw on TV in the fifties). The programnme continued to be broadcast with the Septet until 1963.

Marching and Waltzing : A light music programme which ran (albeit intermittently) for over 40 years. Starting during the war, initially as a record programme, it soon graduated to using studio music using a military or brass band to play the marches and a light orchestra to play the waltzes. For many years the resident orchestra was The Raeburn Orchestra conducted by Wynford Reynolds. When Reynolds became terminally ill in 1958, Bernard Monshin conducted his orchestra for a while. Other orchestras took over after the death of Wynford Reynolds in January 1959 with Anton and his orchestra eventually becoming resident orchestra. The programme commenced and ended with the band playing the Sousa march 'King Cotton' and the orchestra playing a part of 'Vienna Blood' (Strauss), a novelty feature being that band and orchestra would combine for the last part of the waltz. However,this idea could only be used when both contributions were live ( the marches were sometimes pre-recorded) and ceased altogether when,in the sixties, it was decided to utilise BBC staff orchestras to play the waltzes. The Midland Light Orchestra did it for a while but were known to hate the programme because it meant a three-hour session (rehearsal plus the one - hour broadcast) playing in three-four time which they found monotonous! After their participation ceased, the orchestral part of the programme was provided by the BBC Northern Ireland Light Orchestra, apart from a series around 1980 when it was decided to use the London Studio Players (augmented with brass) for the waltzes, with a different guest conductor each week. The BBC,in its infinite wisdom decided to bill this in the 'Radio Times' as - 'The Orchestra conducted by......'. The writer thought this was ridiculous and told the producer, Charles Clark-Maxwell that they should find a name for it! So they decided to call it 'The Langham Orchestra' - obviously oblivious to the fact that there had been a Langham Light Orchestra back in the Fifties!

For the final series in 1984, the BBC introduced the idea of having the band and orchestra switch roles for two pieces in each programme. This resulted in the writer's waltz 'Souvenir de Montmartre' being played by the Band of the Royal Artillery (Woolwich) in one of the last programmes! Maybe that was the final straw!

It is worth mentioning that,for a while in the seventies, a variant on 'Marching and Waltzing' was broadcast, initially featuring the BBC Northern Ireland Light Orchestra and guest brass and military bands entitled 'Brass and Strings and Other Things' - a cumbersome title later shortened to 'Brass and Strings', when the orchestral content was provided by a section of the BBC Radio Orchestra. These programmes differed only to the extent that the music did not have to be confined to marches and waltzes. (Information kindly provided by Brian Reynolds).

Music Box : Ran from 1958 until 1967 and was one of several well-remembered shows occupying the 10 a.m. slot on the Light Programme, hitherto occupied predominently by theatre organ programmes. Initially, it featured one of several small ensembles, such as the Billy Mayerl Rhythm Ensemble, Cecil Norman and the Rhythm Players and Sidney Davey and his players. By 1959 it had its own resident group, The Charlie Katz Novelty Sextet, with a guest instrumentalist or singer (sometimes both). It also acquired a resident presenter, Tim Gudgin, whose humorous ( seemingly unscripted) interactions with the players added to the charm of the programme, as did the distinctive high pitched laugh of Charlie Katz - a fine violinist who, as a 'fixer' was one of the most powerful men in the music business. The series spawned two long-playing records entitled 'Every Tuesday 10.a.m. Music Box'. They began and ended with the programme's signature tune 'The Pied Piper' - played on the ocarina! There was a special 'last ever show' in 1963 but public demand soon brought it back and it ran on until 1967, when the Light Programme became Radio 2, and several light music shows ended.  (Information kindly provided by Brian Reynolds).

Click Here!Introduction Make Way for Music : A slice of daytime entertainment from the Light Programme with singer Sheila Buxton accompanied by the Northern Dance Orchestra conducted by Alyn Ainsworth. The signature tune was called 'Melody Time', an unpublished work by Alyn Ainsworth.

Bright and Early : was a cheerful programme of uninterrupted music, rather in the style of Music While You Work, which was broadcast six days a week in the Home Service at 6.30 a.m. for 25 minutes.  Commencing just after the war,initially as a record programme, it started using studio sessions in May 1947 with a different ensemble every day - light orchestras, dance bands, cinema organists and brass bands had their allocated slots each week. Popular contributors included Troise and his Banjoliers, Frank Baron and his Sextet and Primo Scala and his Accordion Band. The show continued until September 1958, the last year featuring predominantly BBC staff orchestras. It returned in January 1962, this time on the Light Programme for a full half hour but as a brass band slot on Thursday mornings. Although this delighted many, the BBC received a few complaints from people who preferred to be soothed out of their slumber - one correspondent to 'Radio Times' suggesting that  every note was created 'in the devil's forge'!  In the Autumn of 1963 the programme reverted to a six days a week format ,once again featuring mostly BBC orchestras. An exhiliarating start to the day, 'Bright and Early' finally bowed out on 1st January 1965. (Information kindly provided by Brian Reynolds).

Morning Music : During its 20 year reign on BBC radio, 'Morning Music' probably gave more air-time to light music than any other programme. It started in November 1945, broadcast between 7.15 and 7.50 a.m every day except Sunday on the Home Service and was an important vehicle for the many light music combinations on the air, which included major recording artists such as Mantovani, Charles Williams and Sidney Torch. Dance bands such as those of Lew Stone and Felix King also contributed as did all of the BBC's Staff light orchestras. The programme had brief announcements and time checks every ten minutes.

In 1949 the programme moved to a later slot - between 8.15 and 9.00a.m. again using a mixture of theatre orchestras such as Harold Collins, speciality orchestras formed essentially for radio such as those of Louis Voss and Anton, plus large recording orchestras under the direction of the likes of Ron Goodwin, Frank Chacksfield, Norrie Paramor etc.  

1957 saw a major overhaul of BBC schedules and 'Morning Music' transferred to the Light Programme, running from 7.00 to 9.00 a.m.  and consisted of unannounced studio-recorded instrumental music from three or four contrasting orchestras or ensembles every day.  The programme varied in length over the years and by January 1965 was running from 5.30 to 9.00 a.m and utilising over 35 musical combinations each week!. For clarity it should be pointed out that at certain times during the early sixties, similar styled programmes such  as 'On Your Way',  'Melody On the Move', 'On with the Bands' and 'The Bands Play On'  occupied the last  section  of this marathon and at certain times the day opened with the 30 minute programme 'Bright and Early' (mentioned elsewhere in these pages).  But from January 1965 it was three and a half hours of 'Morning Music' - undoubtedly the longest daily programme on radio . In October 1965 the programme was re-named 'Breakfast Special' - added ingredients being a presenter and vocalists on record,thus reducing the need for so many studio orchestras. It continued until 1972 when it was replaced by the 'Terry Wogan Show'  which used records to the exclusion of studio recorded music and must have come as a severe blow to the studio musicians for whom breakfast time radio had for so long represented a major part of their livelihood. (Information kindly provided by Brian Reynolds).

Albert SempriniSemprini Serenade : 'Old Ones, New Ones, Loved Ones, Neglected Ones....' A series, produced by Alastair Scott-Johnston, had previously featured pianist Arthur Young, but he was emigrating to Australia.  An actor, Michael Brennan, during his army service, had heard a pianist in Italy, became his agent, and brought him to Britain.  His name was Albert Semprini (left). He was accompanied by Harry Rabinowitz and the BBC Revue Orchestra. Some critics dismissed it as musical treacle but a loving and loyal audience lapped it up for more than 25 years during which he made more than 700 programmes.

The Ted Heath Band Show : Ted Heath and his Band
Ted Heath Band Show introduction

Peter Calls the Tune : Saturday evening show on the Light Programme with Peter Haigh playing records.

Those were the Days : A programme of old time dance music which ran from 1943 until 1976. Harry Davidson and his Orchestra provided the music and the studio audience were invited to dance to the Boston Two-step, The Palais Glide, The Veleta and The Empress Tango, and countless other dances. The various old-time dance societies were well represented in the studio audience, thus ensuring a high standard of performance - rather important, as the sound of people falling over each other, followed by expletives would not have been desirable on the air!   Complete with a master of ceremonies, this delightful programme of light music really evoked the charm of an earlier age. Harry Davidson continued as M.D. until declining health forced his retirement in 1966.  He died early in 1967 by which time the music was in the hands of Sidney Davey and his Orchestra. Sidney had held the position of pianist, chief arranger and deputy conductor of Harry Davidson's orchestra for many years and was the obvious successor. The programme ended with Sidney's retirement in 1976.

There were other radio programmes featuring old -time dance music during this period, noteably 'Time for Old Time' with Sidney Bowman  and his orchestra and 'Take Your Partners'  featuring the Sydney Thompson Old-time orchestra and, from 1976, the Bryan Smith orchestra was a popular ingredient of 'Radio Two Ballroom'.
(Information kindly provided by Brian Reynolds).

The Jack Payne Record Show : Saturday lunchtime show on the Light Programme with Jack Payne introducing 'popular gramophone records from here, there and everywhere'.

Melody Hour : was a light music programme, broadcast on Sunday afternoons from 1954 to 1961 and featured well-known orchestras contrasted with a guest vocalist as well as an instrumental ensemble, such as George Scott-Wood and his Music or Henry Krein and the Montmartre Players or maybe a two-piano partnership.   The programme boasted some of the top names when it came to the orchestras used: High profile conductors such as Robert Farnon, Cyril Ornadel, Peter Yorke, Frank Chacksfield, Ron Goodwin, Sidney Torch, Geraldo, Jack Coles, Gilbert Vinter, Bernard Monshin, Max Jaffa, Michael Collins and Lou Whiteson were amongst those who contributed programmes over the years. The BBC Concert Orchestra also sometimes took part and, on one occasion in 1957 combined with the BBC Midland Light Orchestra for a special edition, broadcast live to Germany as well as simultaneously being seen on BBC television!   In 1960, the programme was extended to 90 minutes and additional guest artists were included in the line-up. Because of the extra time, the programme was retitlled 'Melody Time'. Although the Sunday series ended in 1961, a similar show entitled 'Midday Melody Hour' was broadcast at 11.30a.m during the sixties. (Information kindly provided by Brian Reynolds).

Desert Island Discs was originally introduced by Roy Plomley in 1942 and has had over 2000 castaways in its long run, including Royals, Prime Ministers, stars of stage and screen, legions of the great and the good - and invited each to chose eight records to spend the rest of their lives with. The signature tune is called 'By the Sleepy Lagoon' by Eric Coates. The first castaway in 1942 was Vic Oliver, comedian.

Show Band Show : Long running music and comedy series 'spotlighting the world of popular music' and showcasing the new BBC Show Band directed by Cyril Stapleton.

The Stargazers; (Lto R) Cliff Adams, Dick James, Marie Benson, Freddie Dachtler and Ronnie Milne

Rikki Fulton was the Scots compere in the first broadcast in October 1952 introducing Cliff Adams and The Stargazers, Julie Dawn and the Show Band Singers with Harold Smart at the organ. Features included 'Melody-Go-Round'. 'Hit Parade', 'Down South' with Freddy Randall and the Dixielanders, Happy Birthday', 'I Hear a Violin' with Louis Stephens, 'Melodies and Memories' with Bill McGuffie at the piano and 'South American Way' with the Show Band Strings in Tango Time.

Click Here!
Show Band Show Intro

By 1955 the comedy compere was Alfred Marks reading scripts by Dick Vosburgh and Brad Ashton.

The new series beginning in August 1956 was written and introduced by Bob Monkhouse and Dennis Goodwin and introduced new singing star Dawn Lake.

Saturday Club : Two hours on Saturday morning on the Light Programme which weaned a generation of youngsters on squeaky clean pop music. Brian Matthew was mine host from 10am. to noon. It ran from 1957-69.

A Golden Treasury of Music and Song : Home Service series at noon on Saturdays from 1956-65

Flat Spin : Jimmy Young's first programme as DJ in 1953.

Organ Programmes

Reginald Foorte
Reginald Foort at the original BBC Theatre organ in the BBC Studio at Langham Place

The most famous Theatre Organist of all time was Daventry born Reginald Foort who made his radio debut as a pianist on 15 January 1923, and as an organist on 12 May 1926 in a relay from the New Gallery cinema in London. This was the first of a long series of cinema organ recitals : he reached his thousandth on 9 July 1939. To mark the occasion, he returned to the BBC Theatre Organ, for which he had become the BBC's resident Organist from 20 October 1936. He resigned in 1939 to tour the country with his mighty Moller "Portable" organ which was transported in a series of large removal vans! Foort wrote his original signature tune, 'Regal Chimes', for the organ carillon at the Regal Cinema, Marble Arch.

Dudley Savage MBE at the keyboard of the Royal Plymouth
Dudley Savage MBE for many years broadcast a hospital request programme from the Royal (ABC) cinema in Plymouth. He both introduced & played requests on the Royal organ. When it was axed, the resultant petition was said at the time to be the largest the BBC had ever encountered. 
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Dudley Savage's signature tune - Smiling Through

Ronald Brickell at the keyboard of the Gaumont Bournemouth
Melody For Late EveningRonald Brickell played the organ of the Regent / Gaumont Bournemouth with Mervyn Saunders (singer) & Harold C Gee (violin).

  Sandy MacPherson
Sandy MacPherson at the BBC Jubilee Hall Studio organ

Sandy was originally the organist at The Empire Cinema, Leicester Square (1928). He became BBC staff organist from 1938 when he succeeded Reginald Foort. Throughout the War, and until his retirement some years after, he remained extremely popular. He made his 6000th. broadcast on 12 July 1952, still the soft-spoken Canadian 'Sandy' loved by millions who never knew his real names were Roderick Hallowell MacPherson. His many popular series included Sandy's Half Hour, Twilight Hour, From My Postbag, At Your Request, and the long-running, atmospheric series Chapel in the Valley.

Reginald Dixon
Reginald Dixon 'I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside' was his apt signature tune as he was the resident organist of the Tower Ballroom, Blackpool for almost fifty years. He toured in the off season & whilst in the RAF in the war he appeared at the Gaumont Exeter for a Sunday concert before the organ was damaged by enemy action. Dixon also presented Housewives Choice on a number of occasions.

See Also:

Music While You Work

Billy Cotton Bandshow

Friday Night is Music Night

Music and Radio
Yahoo Group - Music and Radio 1920s-1950s

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