Radio News
Andrée Melly, the actress, died on 31st January 2020 aged 87 (27 February 2020)
Andrée Melly was born on 15 September 1932 in Liverpool, and was educated in Liverpool and in Switzerland. Her mother and father were Edith and Francis Melly and her brother is jazz legend, George Melly.
Andrée began her career at the New Theatre, Bromley alongside such stars as Robin Bailey, Leslie Phillips and Arthur Lowe. Moira Lister had played Tony's girlfriend in the first series of Hancock's Half Hour', and Andrée took over for the second and third series, appearing in a total of 32 episodes.
Perhaps most noticeable about her first three appearances in the series was that she played alongside Harry Secombe, while Hancock was absent. She was (re)introduced into the series when Hancock and Bill smuggled her back to East Cheam from Paris, where they had ended up after setting out for Southend!
In the early years of the long-running BBC radio comedy 'Just a Minute' she was a regular panellist. Along with Sheila Hancock, she was one of the most regular female contestants, appearing in fifty-four episodes between 1967 and 1976. In 1972, she chaired an episode. She was the first panellist to win points for talking for the prescribed 60 seconds without hesitation, repetition or deviation.
She also appeared in several episodes of the 'Benny Hill Show'. She continued to appear on British television until 1991.
She was the last surviving regular cast member of Hancock's Half Hour. 
Pearl Carr, singer, has died aged 98 (16 February 2020)
The young Pearl was put into one of CB Cochran’s shows and then joined the Three in Harmony singing group, who appeared in Best Bib And Tucker with Tommy Trinder at the London Palladium in 1942.

She sang with Cyril Stapleton and his Orchestra and then joined a vocal quartet, the Keynotes, for whom she was the lead singer in 1946. The Keynotes were regular guests on two radio shows, Take It From Here and Breakfast With (Bernard) Braden.
Teddy Johnson had worked as a drummer and DJ, and then had a hit single with Beloved, Be Faithful in 1950. When he appeared on the BBC radio show Black Magic, hosted by the bandleader Stanley Black, Carr was asked to sing with him. The partnership worked well, although they had no plans at the time to repeat it. However, by 1952 they were dating and they started appearing on the same shows, performing separate acts and coming together for Idle Gossip and Shadow Dance, which Johnson would sing while Carr danced.
They were also regulars on the Winifred Atwell Show on TV (1956-57), as well as on Big Night Out and Blackpool Night Out and the new children’s series Crackerjack, and they hosted shows for Radio Luxembourg, advertised as Mr and Mrs Music.
The couple represented the UK in 1959 at the Eurovision Song Contest with the song ‘Sing little birdy’ and finished 2nd with the “Sing, Little Birdie”. The song peaked at No. 12 on the UK Singles Chart.
Actor, comedian and broadcaster Nicholas Parsons has died aged 96 (28th January 2020)
After several years working in radio variety, Parsons’ breakthrough came in 1956 on independent television when he was asked to play straight man to droll comedian Arthur Haynes. The show, with scripts supplied by Johnny Speight, who went on to pen Till Death Us Do Part, was a resounding success and Parsons’ partnership with Haynes lasted 10 years, during which time they enjoyed a season at the London Palladium and appeared six times on The Ed Sullivan Show in America.
During this period he was a regular face on British television comedy and variety shows, even providing the voice of Sheriff Tex Tucker in the Gerry Anderson TV puppet series Four Feather Falls (1960). He also began to appear in British film comedies, cast mainly as amiable posh twits or sundry ineffective lower-order government officials in the likes of Carlton-Browne of the F.O. (1959) with Peter Sellers and Terry Thomas, Doctor in Love (1960), Carry on Regardless (1961) and Murder Ahoy (1964), featuring Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple.
Beryl Calder, actor, has died aged 93 (8th January 2020)
Beryl Calder was born in the Isle of Wight, England.
She featured as Gwen Dale in the popular radio serial Mrs Dale’s Diary, a twice-daily fixture on the BBC Light Programme throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
A seasoned member of the BBC Repertory Company, she joined the cast in the spring of 1951, the third actress to take the role of Gwen, daughter of Dr Jim Dale (Douglas Burbidge) and his wife Mary (Ellis Powell), whose genteel diary of life married to a suburban London GP had framed the narrative since the serial launched in January 1948.
Remembered for Mary Dale’s recurring refrain “I’m a little worried about Jim”, the BBC’s first postwar radio soap opera was aimed mainly at housewives, Mrs Dale’s Diary being broadcast every weekday afternoon at 4.15pm and repeated the following morning at 11am. Each episode lasted a quarter of an hour, the equivalent, one critic observed, of a cosy chat with a neighbour.
Beryl was also a member of the Women's Chorus in the film Murder in the Cathedral (1951).
Dame June Whitfield, comedy actor, has died aged 93 (29 December 2018)
On radio June Whitfield became a national favourite playing the eternal fiancée Eth, coaxing her dozy Ron Glum (played by Dick Bentley) towards the altar in the Frank Muir-Denis Norden 1950s radio series 'Take It From Here' (in the portion of the show known as "The Glums"), and began her association with Roy Hudd in 'The News Huddlines' in 1984, which lasted into the new century.
On Television June became a regular on Arthur Askey’s 'Before Your Very Eyes' in 1956, then played his wife in the 'Arthur Askey Show' in 1961. She also appeared in the 'Tony Hancock Show', the comic’s first series for ITV, and when he moved back to the BBC in 1961 she went with him. She went on to perform a long running double-act as the long-suffering wife of overgrown boy scout Terry Scott in the archetypal suburban sitcom 'Happy Ever After' (1974-78) and its follow-up 'Terry And June', which ran from 1979 until 1987 when it was axed by the BBC as out-of-touch in the age of "alternative” comedy".
She later captivated a new generation as Jennifer Saunders’s vague but sometimes acerbic mother in 'Absolutely Fabulous'.
Richard Baker, former BBC newsreader and presenter dies aged 93 (17 November 2018)
Richard Baker served on a minesweeper with the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve during the Second World War, attached to the supply convoys to Russia.
A keen amateur dramatist, Baker resumed his education after the war and joined the BBC in 1950 as a radio presenter.
His voice introduced the first news bulletin broadcast on BBC television in 1954 but it was a year before he was actually seen on screen, going on to become one of the most familiar faces on TV. In 1969 he was narrator of the BBC children's series, Mary, Mungo & Midge, which ran for 13 episodes, and he later narrated another children's series, Teddy Edward, made three guest appearances on Monty Python's Flying Circus and was a regular on the panel game, Face the Music.
In 1982, he decided to leave the TV news desk but his voice continued to be heard on BBC radio where he presented, among other programmes; Start the Week, These You Have Loved and Your Hundred Best Tunes.
For many years he fronted the Last Night of the Proms from the Royal Albert Hall, resplendent on a balcony festooned with streamers.
Babs Beverley, member of the Beverley Sisters,has died aged 91 (28 October 2018)
The first broadcasts by the Beverley Sisters were on wartime radio shows. When the BBC’s television service reopened after the war, they were featured almost daily.
Their first television series, in 1947, was called Three Little Girls on View. Rebranded as Those Beverley Sisters, it ran for a further seven years.
Following their TV success, the Beverley Sisters were not short of offers for summer seasons at seaside theatres and seasonal pantomimes. There were spells at Blackpool, Great Yarmouth and Bournemouth. When they were booked to appear in Cinderella in Liverpool in 1956, the script was adapted so they could play a trio of principal boys.
The Beverley Sisters appeared at the Royal Variety Performance five times, beginning in 1952 and ending 50 years later for the Queen’s golden jubilee celebrations. In later years they supported ex-service personnel charities, notably the Burma Star Association. All three were made MBE in 2006.
Ray Galton, comedy script writer, has died aged 88 (5th October 2018)
Ray Galton joined up with Alan Simpson when, as boys, they had both suffered from tuberculosis and met in the same sanitorium. The two boys found they were on the same wavelength and teamed up to become writing partners. Together they created Hancock’s Half Hour – on radio and later on television – for Tony Hancock, a programme that, in 1954 was one of the first "situation comedies", based on characters and experiences rather than on gags.
For seven years, Galton and Simpson wrote every word uttered by Hancock, a difficult and touchy man who embraced the illusion that he could do better than his writers, and parted company with them. His career never fully recovered.
Galton and his writing partner, now part of Associated London Scripts, a co-operative writers’ agency, along with Spike Milligan, Eric Sykes and Howerd, were rescued by the BBC TV series Comedy Playhouse, a vehicle for individual plays. They contributed number four, The Offer, featuring an old rag-and-bone man and his deluded and snobbish son. Both writers thought these characters too good to waste and saw the comic possibilities of a series. It became Steptoe and Son, a TV programme that drew audiences as high as 28 million. They also wrote for the comedians Frankie Howerd and Les Dawson, and lived a Rolls-Royce lifestyle far removed from their working-class roots.
Denis Norden, comedy writer and TV presenter, has died aged 96 (18 September 2018)
In 1942, Norden joined the RAF. He became a radio operator and also wrote stage shows to entertain the troops: one of them benefited from the talents of the servicemen Eric Sykes and Bill Fraser. While in northern Germany, Norden encountered the horrors of the recently liberated Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
On demob in 1945 he started to write gags for variety comedians, including Nat Mills and Bobby and Issy Bonn.
Norden met Muir in 1947, when both were working for a script-writing agency run by a top comedy writer of the day, Ted Kavanagh. Norden was providing material for a young Australian comic, Dick Bentley, and Muir was writing for handle-bar-moustached Jimmy Edwards. A BBC radio producer, Charles Maxwell, suggested that the two young writers team up to work on Take It from Here, starring Edwards, Bentley and Joy Nichols (later replaced by June Whitfield).
Norden and Muir moved into TV with several successful shows – Whack-O!, for example, also starring Edwards as the charlatan headmaster with a traditional faith in the value of caning (1956-60, with a colour TV revival in 1971-72) – and worked as joint consultants to the BBC TV light entertainment department (1960-64).
Norden and Muir moved into TV with several successful shows – Whack-O!, for example, also starring Edwards as the charlatan headmaster with a traditional faith in the value of caning (1956-60, with a colour TV revival in 1971-72) – and worked as joint consultants to the BBC TV light entertainment department (1960-64).
Teddy Johnson, singer, has died aged 98 (6 June 2018)
The British entry has finished second in the Eurovision song contest 15 times. The first of these was in 1959 when Sing, Little Birdie was performed by the husband-and-wife duo Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson. In addition to his singing career as a soloist and with his wife, Johnson was a well-known radio personality on Radio Luxembourg and the BBC, and an occasional actor.
After the war he joined the resident band at the Locarno dance hall in Streatham, south London, and broadcast as a singer with the bandleader Jack Payne. Johnson worked with several more dance bands before he was hired in 1948 as chief announcer for the English language programmes of Radio Luxembourg.
In 1950, Johnson briefly presented the record request show Housewives’ Choice until BBC managers deemed him be too informal.
He had more luck as compere of the radio variety show Black Magic, which also featured Carr, an established singer and member of the vocal group the Keynotes. This was the start of their long professional and personal collaboration. They toured together in variety shows during the 1950s and were regular guests on the BBC children’s programme Crackerjack. The couple married in 1955.
Ronald Chesney, harmonica player and comedy writer, has died aged 97 (23 April 2018)
On leaving school at 16, Ronald Chesney became a professional harmonica player.
Exempted from serving in the forces during the second world war after having a TB-infected kidney removed, Chesney played his part by teaching musical skills to the troops and other listeners in the radio programme Let’s Play the Mouth-Organ (1940). His own eponymously titled show followed in 1941 and 1947, along with long runs in the radio series Variety Band-Box (1944-51) and Workers’ Playtime (1949-56).
While providing musical interludes with his "talking harmonica" during the entire run of the radio comedy Educating Archie (1950-60), featuring the ventriloquist Peter Brough and his doll, Chesney met Ronald Wolfe, who joined the show as a scriptwriter in 1955. They teamed up and, with Marty Feldman, wrote for the final two series, as well as a TV version (1958-59).
When Feldman left to team up with Barry Took, Chesney and Wolfe continued together – Chesney giving up his career as a harmonica player – and created the 1961 radio sitcom It’s a Deal, starring Sid James as a bungling property developer.
The Rag Trade then began 20 years of hit comedies for the pair on television.
Katie Boyle, actress and presenter, has died aged 91 (20 March 2018)
A love of cinema pushed Boyle from an early modelling career towards the film world. As Catherine Carleton she played school secretary Miss Weston in the comedy Old Mother Riley Headmistress (1950), with music-hall stars Arthur Lucan and Kitty McShane.
Boyle also danced in the chorus at the Theatre Royal, Windsor, in the pantomime Dick Whittington (1949-50), starring Paul Scofield and Geraldine McEwen. Although she acted in another film, The House in the Square (1951), she then became a full-time model, still as Catherine Carleton, with catwalk jobs and work for Vogue.
Her growing fame led the BBC producer Richard Afton to feature Boyle in the "Beauty Spot" on his variety show Quite Contrary (1953). After one programme, he made her its presenter.
This introduction to television led to an appearance in the 1954 Royal Variety Performance and a return to acting. Billed as Catherine Boyle, she was in several films as well as a string of television plays.
She landed the starring role in the BBC adventure serial Golden Girl (1960). As Katie Johnson, she was the secretary who through an unexpected inheritance becomes the world’s richest woman.
However, the Eurovision Song Contest brought Boyle fame in her own right and she left acting behind. She presented the ITV advertising magazine Mayfair Merry-go-round and, over the years, was a panellist on Juke Box Jury (1960-1965), Call My Bluff (1967-1970), Punchlines (1981-1983), Blankety Blank (1979-1985) and the English, American and Italian versions of What’s My Line? She hosted her own BBC Radio 2 show, Katie & Friends in 1990.
Betty Davies, BBC radio producer, has died aged 100 (18 February 2018)
After the end of the first world war the family moved to London, where Betty was raised, and where she took a degree in English and Latin at University College. She joined the BBC in June 1939, and initially worked as a secretary, gradually contributing scripts to radio programmes from 1943, such as The Telephone, a “story with a surprise by Betty Davies” for Forces Radio.
It was through Mrs Dale’s Diary, the benign middle-class tales of a doctor’s wife, that she firmly established herself as a producer. Joining the programme in 1953 as assistant to the “main producer” Antony Kearey, she became the main producer in turn when Kearey left in 1955 and she produced the 2,000th episode on 14 November that year.
Veteran Saturday Club presenter Brian Matthew has died aged 88 (8 April 2017)
Brian Matthew was born to musical parents in Coventry in September 1928, it is unsurprising that he blossomed on the radio music scene, capturing the attention of BBC producers after his first appearance on the new 'Saturday Skiffle Club' - later renamed 'Saturday Club' - in 1957.
He originally found employment as a news reader for the BBC Home Service, studying under the veteran broadcaster, John Snagge. He moved to the Light Programme and presented the occasional programme such as 'Housewives’ Choice' and was the announcer for the comedy programmes, 'Take It From Here' and 'Hancock’s Half Hour'.
His talents in front of a camera saw him take on television roles during the 1960s - including hosting shows 'Thank Your Lucky Stars' and 'Swinging UK' - before he cemented himself as a much-loved regular radio presenter.
And it was his 27-year stint as presenter of the Saturday morning show, 'Sounds Of The 60s', which kept him firmly in the hearts of radio listeners all the way into the 2000s. His broadcasting career spanned almost 70 years, but to many Brian Matthew's name will always be synonymous with the sounds of the 60s.
Sir Antony Jay, writer, broadcaster and director, has died aged 86 (23 August 2016)
After National Service in the Royal Signals, Antony Jay joined BBC Television in 1955, and was a member of the team that launched the current affairs programme Tonight, which he edited from 1962 to 1963. After a further year as head of Television Talk Features, he left the BBC to work as a freelance writer and producer.
From 1981, Jay was co-author, with Jonathan Lynn, of Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister, the political comedies which kept the nation laughing through the Thatcherite 1980s. Yes, Minister ran for three series, before the advancement of Jim Hacker’s career (due to his valiant defiance of a new Euro directive redefining the British banger as an “emulsified offal tube”), led to its relaunch as Yes, Prime Minister, with the same cast (Sir Humphrey promoted to Cabinet Secretary), in 1986. The series ran until 1988. However, not many, perhaps, were aware that the serial was commissioned with a serious political purpose: to popularise public choice theory. It is because it succeeded spectacularly that Jay received a knighthood in 1988.
Jay also wrote the BBC TV documentaries Royal Family and Elizabeth R, for which he was appointed CVO in 1993 for personal services to the Royal Family.
Cliff Michelmore, television and radio broadcaster, has died aged 96 (17 March 2016)
Cliff Michelmore was one of the most familiar faces on British television in the 1950s and 1960s, notably as presenter of Tonight, which ran for some 1,800 editions between 1957 and 1965. In the late 1950s and early 1960s he was appearing in as many as 300 programmes a year and on screen he invariably appeared confident, calm, unhurried and unflappable.
In 1935 he joined the RAF and underwent initial training at RAF Halton, in Buckinghamshire. Having survived the war and on the strength of having done some radio commentaries on inter-service games, he was sent to Hamburg as Officer Commanding Royal Airforce Element, the British Forces Network in Germany. His rank was, by now, squadron leader.
When the regular Hamburg presenter of Two-Way Family Favourites, the Sunday lunchtime link between the forces in Germany and their families in Britain, was taken ill, Michelmore was drafted in to replace him. Before the programme began he used to chat on the closed line to the presenter at the London end, Jean Metcalfe, in whom he detected a distinctly flirtatious tone. She helped him through the early programmes, and when, in the spring of 1949, he came to London and met her, romance immediately blossomed. They married in 1950.
Michelmore’s breakthrough to evening television came in 1955 when Donald Baverstock asked him to join his topical programme Highlight, which pioneered a grittier style of interviewing. Michelmore also worked for Panorama and as a reporter on Saturday Sport. He had therefore served a thorough apprenticeship by time he was offered his big chance on Tonight.
In no time, Michelmore was rivalling Richard Dimbleby as the BBC’s leading current affairs specialist, less heavyweight no doubt, but still scrupulously well informed, and a good deal less pompous.
Joy Beverley, singer, has died aged 91 (1 September 2015)
Joy Beverley was the eldest of the Beverley Sisters, the close-harmony trio whose novelty songs became hits in the 1950s who found fame in the pre-rock and roll era with novelty songs such as I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus and Little Drummer Boy.
During the war, the girls were evacuated together to Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, where they amused themselves by singing close harmony. Spotted by a man recruiting for the “Ovaltinies”, the harmony-singing advert for Ovaltine on Radio Luxembourg, they soon caught the eye of Glenn Miller and went on to record with his orchestra. Having signed their first contract, with Columbia Records, in 1951, by 1952 they were starring at the London Palladium. The following year they had their first Top 10 hit with I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, which reached No 6 in the charts.
As well as pop hits, for seven years during the 1940s and 1950s they had their own BBC television series , and they frequently topped the bill at the London Palladium, alongside such stars as Danny Kaye, Bob Hope and Max Bygraves, taking part in several Royal Command performances.
George Cole, actor, has died aged 90 (6 August 2015)
George Cole was a comic actor who excelled at playing shifty 'spivs’ such as the roguish Arthur Daley in Minder.
He appeared in a couple of films before joining the RAF in 1943. After the war Cole returned to acting, appearing in a variety of mediocre films including My Brother’s Keeper (1948), The Spider and the Fly (1949) and Gone to Earth (1950). He had greater success with Alastair Sim in the classic comedies Laughter in Paradise (1951) and Scrooge (1952).
Over the next decade, Cole and Sim repeated their screen partnership in a string of films, the most successful of which were the St Trinian’s series, directed by Frank Launder. In the first, The Belles of St Trinian’s (1954), Cole (as the spiv Flash Harry) received third billing after Sim and Joyce Grenfell. The film was extremely successful and was followed by five more, including Blue Murder at St Trinian’s (1958) and Cole’s only film in the series without Sim, The Pure Hell of St Trinian’s (1961).
Between films, Cole starred as the bumbling bachelor David Bliss in the long-running BBC radio series A Life of Bliss (118 episodes, 1952-67). The show was broadcast on Sunday afternoons. Cole recalled it as “wholesome to the point of nausea”, and insisted that the best part of the show had been Percy Edwards’s performance as Psyche the dog. more....
Val Doonican, singer, has died aged 88 (3 July 2015)
Val Doonican, the Irish singer who has died aged 88, rose to fame in the early 1960s when he appeared in Sunday Night at the London Palladium; his relaxed manner and easy charm made him extremely popular with family audiences, who appreciated his whimsical renditions of folk songs such as Paddy McGinty’s Goat, O’Rafferty’s Motor Car and Delaney’s Donkey.
Doonican distinguished himself from other performers at that time by sporting a range of knitwear more usually seen in Lapland and by performing many of his songs while sitting in a rocking chair.
In 1951 Val Doonican moved to London and made his radio debut as a member of the Four Ramblers on Riders of the Range. He played one of a number of bunk-house boys who were heard crooning cowboy songs in the gaps between the action. At the same time he was supplementing his income by writing musical accompaniments for Tex Ritter.
When not performing as cowboys, the group toured Britain, appearing at various variety venues. By 1953 they were working regularly in cabaret, performing at American Air Bases.
In 1959 Val Doonican auditioned as a solo performer with BBC radio and was offered a spot on Dreamy Afternoon which led to his own show, Your Date with Val. Doonicans’s mix of songs and stories proved popular and the following year he was touring the country with his own show. In 1964 Val Doonican was offered a spot on ITV’s Sunday Night at the London Palladium and was acclaimed as an “overnight star”. Within a year he was appearing on BBC television in The Val Doonican Music Show and was voted BBC Personality of the Year (an award he won three times altogether).
Marguerite Patten, food writer and broadcaster, has died aged 99 (10 June 2015)
Marguerite Patten helped the nation to feed itself through the war years and for the next half century taught the British how to cook "sensible food in an appetising manner".
As a home economist with the Ministry of Food during the war, Marguerite Patten showed housewives how to get by with a tin of Spam and a ration book. She rose to prominence in the post-war years, becoming one of the BBC’s first food broadcasters, on Kitchen Front and then on Woman’s Hour.
Marguerite Patten predated Philip Harben, the Cradocks and Elizabeth David and endured for decades longer. She was the most prolific cookery writer ever, the author of more than 165 cookery books, which sold over 17 million copies worldwide. She was also one of the few people ever to have been decorated for their services to cookery.
From 1947 Marguerite Patten was the BBC’s first regular television cook, on Kitchen Front. She gave recipes on Woman’s Hour from its second day, and even starred in cookery shows at the Palladium. In 1952, she wrote a regular column for The Daily Telegraph called “Merry-go-round of Meals”.
Over the next 40 years, as Britain moved from being the nation with the reputation for the worst cooking in Europe to the most cosmopolitan food culture on earth, Marguerite Patten played a full part in showing the amateur cook how to get to grips with the huge new range of ingredients and fashions.
Ronnie Carroll, Eurovision singer, has died aged 80 (14 April 2015)
After Carroll appeared in a BBC television talent show, Camera One in 1956, positive reaction to his warm baritone led to a recording contract with Philips and to frequent radio appearances on the Light Programme and Radio Luxembourg. Carroll was also a guest on the television shows of Morecambe and Wise, Bruce Forsyth, Kathy Kirby and others.
Also in 1956 his first hit record, Walk Hand in Hand, reached No 13 and the following year The Wisdom of a Fool entered the top 20. Further records were less successful, until in 1962 Carroll had a top 10 hit with Roses Are Red (My Love).
In 1962 Carroll was also chosen as the national standard bearer for that year’s Eurovision song contest. His song, Ring-a-Ding Girl, came a creditable fourth, a good enough position to ensure that Carroll became the first vocalist to represent Britain in the contest for two years running. His 1963 entry, Say Wonderful Things, composed by Norman Newell, also achieved fourth place.
Gerry Wells, radio enthusiast, has died aged 85 (December 2014)
Gerry Wells was a self-confessed obsessive whose life was dominated by his fascination with radio apparatus.
By the time of his death he had amassed a collection of more than 1,300 radio and television sets and associated equipment, covering the entire pre-transistor history of broadcasting. This had become the British Vintage Wireless and Television Museum, and today it occupies his lifelong home, a substantial Edwardian house in Dulwich, south-east London. The collection contains many working examples, most of them found and brought back to life by Wells himself. Visitors can have the unique and somewhat unsettling experience of watching live television programmes in the old 405-line, black-and-white format, abandoned in 1984.
Ronnie Ronalde, artiste famous for his whistling and yodelling, had died aged 91 (13 January 2015)
In 1950 the EMI record producer Norman Newell was in a pub on the Edgware Road when Ronalde performed "If I Were A Blackbird" on the radio. As the customers were silent as he performed, Newell realised that this could be a hit record. That and "In A Monastery Garden" became best-selling records and favourites on the BBC programme Housewives' Choice.
He recorded the songs of the day, singing and whistling his way through "Hair Of Gold, Eyes Of Blue" and "Mocking Bird Hill". He discussed bird song with the ornithologist Percy Edwards and when he recorded "Ballad Of Davy Crockett" he made sure that his choice of birds was right for the area. He could mimic flutes and violins, while his version of "I Believe" highlighted his commanding tenor voice.
Ronalde was a major attraction and audiences marvelled at his lightning-fast versions of "Tritsch Tratsch Polka" and "Can-Can". He hosted variety series for the BBC and ITV, but in the late 1950s there was a decline in variety acts and he was seen as an anachronism.
Bill Kerr, Australian actor, has died aged 92 (30 August 2014)
Bill Kerr made his name on the radio in Britain in the 1950s, becoming particularly well-known for his role (alongside Sid James and Hattie Jacques) as one of Tony Hancock’s three cronies in Hancock’s Half Hour.
But Kerr was also a character actor of distinction, giving memorable performances as a racketeer in My Death is a Mockery (1952); as the bomber pilot Micky Martin in The Dam Busters (1955); and as a mentally disturbed crook in Port of Escape (1956), co-starring Googie Withers and Joan Hickson. His other films of this period included Appointment in London (1952), You Know What Sailors Are (1954) and The Night My Number Came Up (1955).
In 1954 he joined Hancock’s Half Hour, which ran on the radio for six series and later moved on to television. As Hancock’s Australian lodger at the dilapidated 23 Railway Cuttings, East Cheam, Kerr appeared as the gormless, slow-on-the-uptake butt of his landlord’s humour. The role made Kerr a household name in Britain, and he later resumed his partnership with Sid James in the first series of the television comedy Citizen James (1960).
Juno Alexander, actress, broadcaster and local politician, has died aged 88 (2 August 2014)
Juno Alexander was the older sister of the Conservative politician Lord St John of Fawsley (Norman St John Stevas) and the first wife of the actor Terence Alexander; she made a name in her own right as an actress, broadcaster and local politician - and as a woman of idiosyncrasy and verve.
During the war she joined the Free French and worked with the Resistance; later she served as a Conservative councillor on Richmond council, south-west London.
From the late 1940s to the 1960s, Juno Alexander made frequent appearances on television, in programmes such as The Alfred Marks Show, The Max Miller Show and The Eamonn Andrews Show. After the births of her children, she did less work, but still had small parts in films and in television series, among them Compact and Garry Halliday (a precursor to Dr Who in which she appeared with her husband as his air stewardess girlfriend), and also appeared in series such as Harpers West One (1961) and Love Story (1963), She also appeared on television and radio panel shows including Petticoat Line, with Anona Wynn, Just A Minute and Going for a Song.
Neal Arden, actor and one of the voices behind Housewives’ Choice, has died aged 104 (1 August 2014)
Neal Arden was for more than 20 years one of Britain’s favourite presenters on Housewives’ Choice, the popular record request programme broadcast every morning, six days a week, from 1946 to 1967 on the BBC Light Programme.
In a long and varied career in theatre, film, radio and television, Arden worked with many of the leading stars of their day, from Richard Tauber, Leslie Henson, Trevor Howard and Dulcie Gray to Roger Moore, Harry Secombe, Prunella Scales, Donald Sinden and Doris Day. He was an assiduous fundraiser for charity and, as an actor, took numerous supporting roles both on stage and in television series such as Maigret, Ivanhoe, Z Cars, Dixon of Dock Green and I, Claudius. He also wrote songs, plays and film and television scripts.
He made his screen debut in the 1934 film Princess Charming. Other film credits over the years included the wartime anti-Nazi thriller “Pimpernel” Smith (1941); John Wesley (1954); and The Shakedown (1960). His most substantial role was in Norman Walker’s Life of St Paul (1938), in which he played the saint from beardless youth to bewhiskered old age.
His early theatrical credits included Toad of Toad Hall (Royalty, 1933); Blossom Time (1942, with Richard Tauber, Lyric); Night of the Garter (Strand, 1942); and The Lilac Domino (His Majesty’s, 1944).
In the 1950s Arden wrote many scripts for the new Independent Television and record reviews for newspapers and magazines.
Antony Hopkins, composer and broadcaster, has died aged 91 (14 May 2014)
The name of the composer Antony Hopkins is synonymous with the radio series Talking About Music, which started in 1950 and ran for 36 years on the BBC Radio. He chose the works himself, from a schedule of music coming up for broadcast, and his engaging delivery and gentle humour, accessible to the general listener without talking down, made his voice one of the most familiar on the air. Several of these talks can still be heard on the internet.
In 1939 he entered the Royal College of Music, eventually studying with the pianist Cyril Smith and with Gordon Jacob for orchestration. He won the Chappell Gold Medal for piano and the Cobbett Prize for composition, and it was his extraordinary aptitude for the latter that brought Hopkins his first work, writing incidental music for the BBC drama department, including for Louis MacNeice's productions of The Golden Ass and Cupid and Psyche (for which he produced 130 pages of orchestral score in less than a week). These were followed by many commissions for radio, film and theatre, notably The Pickwick Papers (1952 – again, all done in 11 days), Cast a Dark Shadow (1955) and Peter Ustinov's Billy Budd (1962), and many productions in the West End and at Stratford. He twice won the Italia Prize, a radio award, in 1952 and in 1957.
Geoffrey Wheeler, presenter of Songs of Praise and Top of the Form, has died aged 83 (2 January 2014)
Geoffrey Wheeler began making radio programmes for the BBC while studying Law at Manchester University and in 1954 was appointed the Corporation’s radio producer for the northern region.
He cut his teeth on variety shows, working with such entertainers as Ken Dodd, Benny Hill and Morcambe and Wise.
As the smartly-blazered, avuncular question master on Top of the Form from the early 1960s to 1975, Wheeler earned a place in the cultural hinterland of a generation of vaguely bookish, mostly middle-class, viewers of the sort who now do sterling service as members of pub quiz teams.
The show began in 1948 on the BBC’s Light Programme and Wheeler joined as co-question master with Paddy Feeny. Each would present his half of the show from a different school hall, the two being connected by a then state-of-the – art (for the BBC) landline.
In 1962 the show transferred to television, slimmed down to a single location and with Wheeler as its sole presenter.
Wheeler went freelance in 1963 and as well as presenting Top of the Form, appeared as a panellist on Call my Bluff, as a story teller on Jackanory, and spent 21 years as a regular presenter of Songs of Praise, now the world’s longest-running television religious programme.
David Coleman, Sports |Commentator, has died aged 87 (21 December 2013)
David Coleman was the face and voice of BBC Television sport for 40 years, the anchorman for the flagship Grandstand programme on Saturday afternoons and later the affable host of the popular quiz A Question Of Sport.
In 1953 he started freelance radio work in Manchester and the following year joined the BBC in Birmingham as a news assistant. Having made his first television broadcast on Sportsview in May 1954 on the day Roger Bannister became the first runner to break the four-minute mile, Coleman was appointed sports editor, Midland Region, in November 1955. After the editor of Sportsview, Paul Fox, had seen him interview the footballer Danny Blanchflower on regional television, Coleman transferred to London. In 1958 the BBC’s Head of Sport, Peter Dimmock, offered Coleman the frontman’s job on the new sports magazine programme, Grandstand.
He made his name on the programme where his ad libs and mastery of football trivia standing alongside the teleprinter as the football results came in revealed remarkably acute and detailed research. But he became frustrated by being always studio-bound and yearned for a new challenge. In 1967, however, after repeated wooing by ITV, he signed a new seven-year BBC contract at £10,000 a year, making him the highest-paid broadcaster in television sport.
Jean Kent, actress, has died aged 92 (1 December 2013)
Jean Kent adopted a variety of stage names. At different times she was Peggy Summers and Jean Carr, finally adopting the name Jean Kent in 1943 in It’s That Man Again, a film version of the popular radio show ITMA, starring Tommy Handley.
Her big break came when she was hired as a dancer and understudy in the Max Miller show Apple Sauce (1941) at the Palladium. During rehearsals one of the leading ladies was sacked and Jean was asked to replace her at short notice. She was then spotted by Weston Drury, casting director at Shepherd’s Bush studios, and signed to a contract with Gainsborough Pictures.
She landed her first leading role, in Caravan (1946). In the interim, she had played supporting parts in such pictures as Champagne Charlie (1944), a Tommy Trinder musical about the heyday of music hall, Madonna of the Seven Moons (1944) and The Wicked Lady (1945).
Through much of the Fifties, Jean Kent concentrated on the theatre, appearing in plays and pantomimes (notably a Prince Charming in Cinderella) for which she had hitherto had little time.
In later years she was seen more frequently in television. She played Good Queen Bess in a 1962 series based on the life of Sir Francis Drake and subsequently appeared in such long-running series as Emergency Ward 10, Up Pompeii, Crossroads, Lovejoy and Shrinks.
Graham Stark, actor who was frequently cast in supporting roles in comedy films starring his close friend Peter Sellers, has died aged 91 (31 October 2013)
After the war Stark joined the bohemian coterie frequenting the ornate Grafton Arms pub in Victoria where up-and-coming entertainers like Terry-Thomas, Jimmy Edwards, Tony Hancock, Dick Emery and Alfred Marks held court. It was in the Grafton’s back bar that Stark renewed an RAF friendship with Peter Sellers while Sellers and Spike Milligan experimented with material that, in 1951, would metamorphose into The Goon Show.
As well as providing madcap voices for The Goons, Stark also appeared in other popular radio shows of the day, notably Educating Archie, with the ventriloquist Peter Brough, and Ray’s A Laugh, starring the Liverpool comedian Ted Ray.
Whenever Spike Milligan failed to turn up for a Goon Show recording, Stark would stand in for him; and when Milligan and Sellers moved into television with A Show Called Fred in 1956, Stark joined the cast.
In 1964 Stark starred in his television comedy sketch series, The Graham Stark Show, which — although written by Johnny Speight, later to create Till Death Us Do Part — proved a flop.
Singer Joan Regan, who had chart success in the late 50s and early 60s, has died aged 85 (15 September 2013)
Joan Regan had a number of hit records, including Ricochet, May You Always and If I Give My Heart to You.
Regan also had her own BBC television series, Be My Guest, for several years.
The singer starred on both sides of the Atlantic with artists such as Perry Como, Max Bygraves and Cliff Richard.
Regan, who was born in 1928 in Romford in Essex, was one of the most popular British singers of her era and appeared regularly on radio and TV.
Her career took off after theatrical impresario Bernard Delfont heard her recordings and signed her up with his agency.
Regan soon won a recording contract with the British record label, Decca Records, although only for a trial period of three records, which by her own admwwaission "didn't exactly set the hit parade alight".
However, Decca released a recording she had made some months earlier of a song called Ricochet.
The record paved the way for theatre, radio and television engagements.
Regan was later to feature on American television with major performers including Eddie Fisher, Tennessee Ernie Ford and Perry Como.
She appeared at the London Palladium many times, with other entertainers such as Max Bygraves, Cliff Richard, Russ Conway and Edmund Hockridge.
In 1984, she hit her head in the shower causing a blood clot on the brain which left her paralysed and without speech.
But after therapy she made a complete recovery, singing again in Britain on radio and in concerts.
David Jacobs, actor and radio and TV broadcaster, has died aged 87 (3 September 2013)
David Jacobs' first acting role was as Laurie in the BBC's first TV adaptation of Little Women (1950-51). When Charles Chilton's Journey into Space proved to be a great radio hit in the 1950s, Jacobs introduced it and took 22 roles.
After a period on Radio Luxembourg he was offered the freelance job of disc jockey on the radio programme Housewives' Choice, on which Jacobs had to play record requests and punctuate them with anodyne chat.
He was perfect for the job. It was a natural progression when he took over Juke Box Jury on TV, chairing a celebrity panel as they assessed likely chart hits – hailed with a hotel-reception-counter bell – or misses – dismissed with a hooter. At one time Jacobs seemed to be always on television whenever the on-switch was turned, with appearances on What's My Line, Top of the Pops, the Eurovision Song Contest, Come Dancing, Miss World and many more.
When a senior BBC executive advised him that it was all too much, he reinvented himself as a player with more gravitas, to succeed Freddy Grisewood on Any Questions? Having conceded that he was "too square for the pop scene", Jacobs became a stalwart of Radio 2, presenting music programmes in a succession of formats right up until a few weeks before his death.
David Spenser, child radio star of the 1940s and 50s, has died aged 79 (2 August 2013)
David Spenser was the predominant child radio star of the 1940s and 50s and will be best remembered for his portrayal on air of Just William. The author Richmal Crompton cast him in the role, in a series of dramatisations of her novels about the raucous but endearing 11-year-old outlaw.
This was in 1948, when David turned 14 and was already a seasoned radio actor. He had come into acting through a ruse set up by his ambitious mother and a BBC friend: he was lured into Broadcasting House and found himself in a studio being auditioned by the Children's Hour producer Josephine Plummer. For playing the lead in Just William he received the standard juvenile fee of four guineas – one-liner or starring role made no difference to the sum.
In the early 1950s, he managed a wobbly treble to play the part of Hurree Jamset Ram Singh in a TV serialisation of another children's favourite, Billy Bunter of Greyfriars School.
Arnold Peters, Archers actor, has died aged 87 (14 May 2013)
Arnold Peters was an established member of the BBC drama company in Birmingham when he first joined The Archers in 1953, to play a farmhand with marital problems called Len Thomas. Len was written out after 13 fraught years, but Peters returned in 1968 and — with a different accent and personality — became the Rev David Latimer, vicar of Ambridge (the fictional setting for the series).
That role lasted five years until the trendy vicar, who was ahead of his time for most of the villagers (he wanted them to call him David), was killed off by the scriptwriters in 1973. After that Peters took a seven-year break from Ambridge. He returned in 1980 to take over as Jack Woolley after the death of the fruity-voiced Philip Garston-Jones, who had played the character for 18 years.
Like most Archers actors, Peters pursued a vigorous career alongside his commitment to Ambridge. He wrote and directed pantomimes, produced Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, and was both a drummer in a folk dance band and a country dance caller.
Daphne Oxenford, Radio presenter and actress, has died aged 93 (4 January 2013)
Known to millions as the voice of Listen With Mother, Daphne Oxenford would open each programme by asking: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin."
She was also one of the original cast members of Coronation Street, playing Esther Hayes, and was a cast member of Midsomer Murders until 2008.
Debuting in 1950, Listen With Mother consisted of stories, songs and nursery rhymes for children under the age of five. It began at 1:45pm every weekday, to coincide with the end of children's lunchtime meal. At its peak, it had an audience of more than a million.
Oxenford narrated the programme from 1950 to 1971, and her meticulously modulated opening phrase was eventually included in the Oxford dictionary of quotations.
But regular listeners will also recall the words that would precede her arrival: "And when the music stops Daphne Oxenford will be here to tell you a story".
Charles Chilton, radio author and producer, has died aged 95 (4 January 2013)
Charles Chilton, created two of the BBC’s classic 1950s radio serials, 'Riders of the Range' and 'Journey into Space' and in 1963 wrote the stage show 'Oh, What a Lovely War!'.
Chilton was a prolific talent, writing and producing scores of popular and successful BBC radio programmes. The adventures of Jet Morgan in Journey into Space recounted man’s conquest of the Moon and an expedition to Mars. The serial ran for only two years, but it enthralled an entire generation for whom a lunar landing was still a far-fetched fantasy, and by 1955 it had built an audience of five million, so becoming the last radio drama to record higher ratings than television.
His earlier radio success, Riders of the Range, had been launched in January 1949. Chilton drew on authentic background material about the Wild West, assembled from documents and diaries of contemporary Americans, to shape the adventures of his cowboy hero, Jeff Arnold (played by Paul Carpenter), and his companions Luke, Jim Forsythe and faithful dog Rustler.
Chilton went on to produce the comedy series Take It From Here, followed by documentaries on subjects as diverse as Victorian Britain, the General Strike, the Mormons and the American Civil War. Then his treatment of the Great War, based on his father’s experiences, brought him enormous success on the London stage with Oh, What a Lovely War!
Patti Page, popular singer, has died aged 85 (3 January 2013)
Patti Page had a huge hit in the United States with 'How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?' and became the biggest-selling female star of the 1950s. With its mawkish lyric and barking dog obbligato, How Much Is That Doggie In The Window? seemed unlikely hit material. But American sales exceeded two million in 1953 alone and, confounding the critics, Patti Page’s total sales ran to more than 40 million.
Patti Page catapulted to fame with her first hit, Tennessee Waltz (1950). It was released as the B-side of Boogie Woogie Santa Claus, but proved infinitely more popular with record buyers and radio stations than the seasonal hokum on the A-side.
At the time she was singing thrice-nightly at the Copacabana nightclub in New York, where her act had been largely ignored by the noisy, inattentive crowd. But the success of the gentle, lilting Tennessee Waltz propelled her to national stardom on television when she was booked as a summer stand-in for Perry Como in 1952.
By 1958 she was hosting her own television show, drawing notices approving of her homespun personality, and the following year she was cast in a small singing role in the film Elmer Gantry (1960), starring Burt Lancaster. Two further films followed, Dondi (1961) and Boys’ Night Out (1962), but it was not long before she realised that Hollywood was not for her, and thereafter she concentrated on recording and live performances, returning to New York for appearances at the Copacabana and the Waldorf-Astoria. She continued to have chart hits into the mid-1960s, her last being in 1968 with a version of Little Green Apples.
Kenneth Kendall, the first BBC newsreader to appear on television, has died aged 88 (14 December 2012)
Kenneth Kendall's long association with the BBC began in 1948, when he became an announcer on the Home Service. He transferred to Television News in 1954, presenting with Richard Baker.
At first the newsreader did not appear in vision, for fear that facial expressions would suggest that he had opinions of his own. Instead briefings were read over a series of still images and maps. Only in 1955, with the imminent launch of ITN promising a less formal news service, did the BBC decide to take a risk; Kendall became the first "in-vision" newsreader, broadcasting from Alexandra Palace on September 4.
He stayed with BBC News on and off for three decades, gaining a reputation for his immaculate appearance, clear diction and unflappability.
In the end, however, his firm adherence to Reithian values led to clashes with his producers, and in 1981 he left the BBC, three years before he was due to retire, complaining about the “sloppily written and ungrammatical” stories he was expected to broadcast.
Max Bygraves, singer and comedian, has died aged 89 (1 September 2012)
Max Bygraves became famous for his stage performances, notably in 19 Royal Variety Performances, and went on to lead the market in the kind of foot-tapping nostalgia which characterised his “Singalongamax” recordings.
He had spent the war as a fitter in the RAF, and in 1945 went to work as a carpenter in East Ham when a chance meeting with an RAF contact — outside the London Palladium — secured an appearance in the BBC variety show 'They’re Out'.
The bandleader Jack Payne heard the programme, and this led to a spot in a new show, 'For the Fun of It', in which Bygraves starred with Donald Peers and a young Frankie Howerd. In 1950 Jack Parnell and Cissie Williams hired him as a replacement for Ted Ray at the Palladium, a role he filled so successfully that he was back in Argyll Street a few weeks later, appearing with Abbott and Costello at the theatre which was to become, for a number of years, his second home.
He gave his first Royal Variety performance in November 1950, and was invited to join the radio ventriloquist Peter Brough in 'Educating Archie', the show which "launched", among others, Tony Hancock; Bygraves’ then scriptwriter, Eric Sykes; and 14-year-old Julie Andrews, who was ousted from her singing spot when Bygraves arrived.
During the 1950s there were numerous stage appearances in Britain, notably in 'Wonderful Time', and in 'We’re Having a Ball', which also starred the Kaye Sisters and Joan Regan. Bygraves took some time off from having a ball to write You Need Hands, a song which ran for several months in the Top 20.
Alf Pearson, singer who moved successfully from music hall and variety to radio and television, has died aged 102 (7 July 2012)
The brothers Bob and Alf Pearson were one of the most popular music hall acts of the 1930s and 1940s and, after the war, they found national fame as part of Ted Ray's radio series, Ray's a Laugh. They would introduce themselves with the words, "We bring you melodies from out of the sky, my brother and I" and would harmonise popular songs to Bob's piano accompaniment.
Recording for a variety of labels, the brothers made an impact with "Ro, Ro, Rollin' Along", "Great Day" and "When You're Smiling". They worked with Sir Harry Lauder and Gracie Fields and toured with both Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. They were the first duo to appear on TV, although as Alf said, "There were only about 400 sets in the country and the picture was the size of a cigarette card."
In Ted Ray's series, Bob performed as a variety of characters. Alf recalled: "Ted would say, 'Why, it's a little girl, what's your name?' and Bob would say, 'Jennifer' and there would be a comedy routine." The brothers toured on the strength of Ray's a Laugh and had dolls made that they would give to girls called Jennifer.
They toured in a stage show for another radio success, Take It From Here, and had some of the biggest-selling records for Parlophone, sometimes working with a young George Martin. Their singles included "Red Roses For a Blue Lady", "Careless Hands" and a song for the Coronation, "In a Golden Coach". The work dried up with the advent of rock'n'roll but during the 1970s they became involved in music hall revivals. In 1985 they appeared on Highway with Harry Secombe.
Eric Sykes, comedian, actor and scriptwriter, has died aged 89 (4 July 2012)
Sykes became a national figure through his long-running television partnership with Hattie Jacques. The series, entitled either plain Sykes or Sykes and a [whatever was the theme of that week’s episode], ran from 1960 to 1965 - at which point Sykes announced that he was finished with it for ever - and then from 1972 to 1979.
In 1941, four days before his 18th birthday, he joined the RAF. Trained as a wireless officer, he served on the beaches of Normandy (where the noise of the guns affected his hearing) and at the siege of Caen, and was present at the German surrender on Luneberg Heath.
Sykes also had the opportunity to join an entertainments section run by the actor Bill Fraser, later Snudge in the television series Bootsie and Snudge.
After the War, Frankie Howerd invited him to provide material for the radio show Variety Bandbox. Sykes was soon working for Tony Hancock and Hattie Jacques, both of whom he met on the Educating Archie series. He was also occasionally called upon to emulate Spike Milligan as scriptwriter for The Goon Show. Nevertheless, he always longed to perform on his own account.
He directed a number of films with an emphasis on visual humour, notably The Plank (1979), with Arthur Lowe and a cameo role for Frankie Howerd, and Rhubarb (1969), which featured Harry Secombe, Jimmy Edwards and Hattie Jacques.
Sykes had long acted in the cinema, and was especially good as a gipsy in Heavens Above (1963) and as Terry-Thomas’s factotum in Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965). His other film credits included The Bargee (1963), One-Way Pendulum (1964), Rotten to the Core (1965), Shalako (1968), Monte Carlo or Bust (1969) and The Boys in Blue (1983).
more.... tribute....
Bert Weedon, guitarist, has died aged 91 (20 April 2012)
His big musical break came after the war, when he joined Stephane Grapelli’s group as a replacement for Django Reinhardt, then progressed through the rhythm sections of various popular dance bands of the day, including those of Harry Leader, Lou Praeger and Harry Gold. By the early Fifties, Weedon was resident guitarist with the BBC Showband under Cyril Stapleton and worked on regular radio sessions.
Signed to EMI’s Parlophone label as a solo artist, Weedon’s first record, Stranger Than Fiction, was released as a 78rpm single in 1956.
Weedon also became a prolific broadcaster, appearing regularly on children’s television shows such as Tuesday Rendezvous and Five O’Clock Club, as well as on radio and fronting his own long-running ITV series.
Through his skimpy 'Play-in-a-Day' manual, which first appeared in 1957, Weedon introduced aspiring musicians to the three basic chords that underpinned most of the simple rock and roll hits of the Elvis era, and explained what to do next.
Ronald Wolfe writer of Educating Archie, The Rag Trade and On The Buses has died aged 89 (20 December 2012)
Ronald Wolfe was a cousin of the actor Warren Mitchell. He worked as a radio engineer for Marconi before contributing scripts to BBC radio series and writing material for Beryl Reid's stage shows. In 1953, a year after Reid joined the radio comedy Educating Archie, starring the ventriloquist Peter Brough and his schoolboy puppet, he was asked to produce scripts for it and eventually became head writer. The programme also featured Ronald Chesney performing his "talking harmonica" novelty act and at times included Benny Hill, Dick Emery and Bruce Forsyth.
Wolfe and Chesney continued in the same roles for a 1956 BBC television special and the 1957 series Archie in Australia but, when ITV launched Educating Archie (1958-59) on television, Chesney abandoned performing and worked on scripts, doing the same for the final two radio series, finishing in 1960.
Edmundo Ros, bandleader, has died aged 100 (23 October 2011)
Edmundo Ros was the first to hit on the mix of melody and rhythm which made Latin-American dance music so popular in the dreary austerity days of the 1940s and 1950s.
The seductively orchestrated Latin-pop songs that set British feet tapping in the 1940s and 50s made the Trinidad-born bandleader Edmundo Ros a household name. But beside such musical success, Ros made a remarkable reinvention of his life: the mixed-race "outsider" successfully challenged the British class system, to become, as he put it, "a respected gentleman".
During the second world war, Ros briefly drove ambulances before launching his own 16-piece dance orchestra to play at the Coconut Grove Club at 177 Regent Street. He alternated between that and the Bagatelle Club off Picadilly, where members included Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle, and the heads of Europe's allied forces. Most significant to Ros, Princess Elizabeth danced there with her friend Captain Wills.
Ros's popularity escalated in postwar Britain through live radio concerts, produced by Cecil Madden. In 1948, he supported Carmen Miranda for a year at the London Palladium, while still playing the Coconut Grove, and the following year The Wedding Samba sold 3m copies in Britain and entered the US charts.
On the radio, his hit records were a constant presence on programmes like Housewives' Choice and Two-way Family Favourites. On British TV, Ros performed on faux-Spanish sets for The Billy Cotton Band Show, Saturday Night at the London Palladium and the Royal Variety Shows, and in 1965 was hired by Madden for A Night of 1000 Stars, the opening party for the BBC TV Centre, where he backed Vera Lynn and the Beverley Sisters.
Robert Robinson, broadcaster and writer, has died aged 83 (13 August 2011)
Although he had made his first radio broadcast in 1955, it was BBC Television's early 1960s film review programme Picture Parade that first brought him to the public eye. This led to an even more popular programme, Points of View. Originally a five-minute gap filler before the news, Robinson briskly and amusingly conducted the presentation of viewers' letters about BBC programmes.
He became best-known as the host of three long-running quiz shows. On television, from 1967, there was Call My Bluff and Ask the Family. (The first, a wordy parlour game for mid-league celebrities, he satirically renamed Call My Agent.) On radio, from 1973, he hosted Brain of Britain.
In 1971 Robinson was persuaded to join Radio 4's early morning Today programme.
Also on radio Robinson's satirical side was given free reign in his role as chairman of the incestuous but acerbically droll Radio 4 programme Stop the Week, which ran from 1974 until 1992.
Archie Andrews, the dummy loved by millions, is back on stage (19 July 2011)
Ventriloquist dummy Archie Andrews, whose radio show Educating Archie attracted 15 million listeners and featured co-stars like Tony Hancock, is returning to the British stage after 50 years.
The show came to an end in 1958 and following Brough's death, in 1999, the 64-year-old dummy has been in the hands of a private collector.
Now Archie is entertaining crowds once more at the Cromer Pier Seaside Special - exactly 50 years since Brough and Archie performed at the same venue.
Ventriloquist Steve Hewlett said: "Archie insists he has no plans to update his 1950s' garb - cap, scarf, stripy blazer - nor his 1950s' attitudes, so it's been a bit of a headache in the wardrobe department."
Janet Brown, Comic actress and impersonator of Margaret Thatcher, has died aged 87 (27 May 2011)
In 1946, while taking part in rehearsals for a Jack Hylton revue, Janet Brown met the actor Peter Butterworth, who was later to appear in the Carry On films. They married the same year, and she credited him with sharpening her sense of humour.
She appeared with him in the first TV sitcom, Friends and Neighbours, which ran for six episodes in early 1954. They played husband and wife George and Constance Bird, opposite Banny Lee and Avril Angers as Arthur and Maisie Honeybee. The theme tune was a popular hit for Billy Cotton and his Band.
The children's TV show Whirligig alternated with "Telescope" on Saturday afternoons when both started in 1950, but the latter was replaced in 1951 by "Saturday Special" which was hosted by Janet Brown and Peter Butterworth. Whirligig's star was Mr Turnip and his opposite number was Porterhouse the Parrot (voiced by the great and legendary Peter Hawkins).
Janet was also in demand on radio and later appeared on The Goon Show.
On television, Janet Brown appeared in Rainbow Room, Where Shall We Go? and Friends and Neighbours before the Seventies’ taste for impressions led her to concentrate on the showbusiness niche that would make her famous.
On shows such as Who Do You Do (in which she appeared with Freddie Starr) and Mike Yarwood in Persons she gave impressions of the Coronation Street character Hilda Ogden, the entertainer “Two-Ton” Tessie O’Shea, Noele Gordon and Pam Ayres among others.
In 1981 she was given her own show, Janet and Co, making an impact with her impersonations of Mrs Thatcher and the celebrated dog trainer Barbara Woodhouse. She also played Margaret Thatcher in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only (1981) and on Roy Hudd’s The News Huddlines on Radio 2.
James Casey, radio producer, has died aged 88 (25 May 2011)
James Casey was the son of the gravel-voiced comedian Jimmy James and produced the long-running radio comedy show The Clitheroe Kid; he also discovered the comic Les Dawson.
After the war Casey joined his father and his cousin, Jack Casey (better known as Eli Woods), in a three-handed stage comedy act that owed much to the music-hall tradition. When his father moved into radio, Casey became his full-time writer.
He also wrote some of the classic Over The Garden Wall monologues for another northern comedian, Norman Evans.
In 1954 Casey - under the alias Cass James - became a BBC producer, and teamed up with the 4ft 3in comedian Jimmy Clitheroe.
The following year, Clitheroe appeared in Call Boy, a radio comedy series featuring Ted Lune, Margery Manners and Denis Goodwin. Written mainly by Casey, assisted by Frank Roscoe, the show developed into The Clitheroe Kid, broadcast between 1957 and 1972 and produced by Casey.
Bob Block, comedy scriptwriter, has died aged 90 (6 May 2011)
Bob Block was a prolific writer on both radio and TV shows from the '40s until the late '80s. His earliest writing was for the radio show 'Variety Bandbox' where he wrote for Derek Roy and Frankie Howard. He was probably best remembered as scriptwriter of 'Life With the Lyons' from 1951 for ten years. He also wrote for 'Starlight Hour' which starred Vic Oliver, Ronnie Barker, June Whitfield, Kenneth Connor, Dick Bentley, Ronnie Stevens, Bernard Braden and Barbara Kelly and also for 'Arthur's Inn' which starred Arthur Askey.
For television Bob wrote for the children's programme 'Crackerjack!'. See
here for his full CV.
Keith Fordyce, unflappable host of ‘Ready Steady Go!’ has died aged 82 (29 March 2011)
On obtaining his degree, he worked as a football commentator for BBC TV, his first broadcast being on the Leyton v Hereford match on 22 November 1952. A comment on the BBC's files says that "his voice lacked crispness".
Fordyce presented a flagship programme, Housewives' Choice, for a week in August 1955, and this time the assessment was "Professionally-modulated, virile voice and not too smooth; but no strong character, no indication of extra entertainment potential." Also in 1955, Fordyce fought a municipal election for the Conservatives and won a seat on Wimbledon Council, but he was to move to Radio Luxembourg as a staff announcer. He presented their weekly Top Twenty programme and stayed with the station for three years.
In 1960, he compèred Jack Good's ITV show Wham! which featuredBilly Fury, Little Tony and Dickie Pride. That was short-lived but he became the original host for Thank Your Lucky Stars and the Sunday morning radio show, Easy Beat.
In August 1963 Fordyce hosted the first edition of Ready Steady Go! for Associated Rediffusion and it was thought that his know-how would help the inexperience of Cathy McGowan and Michael Aldred. The chaos was all too real, especially on one programme where Marianne Faithfull was to walk down a spiral staircase lip syncing to "Blowin' In The Wind", but the wrong record was cued – the Kinks' "All Day And All Of The Night". The cameras switched to Fordyce to save the day. Among his more embarrassing duties was to preside over a weekly mime competition. Still, he preferred Ready Steady Go! to being the straight man for Groucho Marx in his only UK television series.
Sir George Shearing, jazz pianist and composer, has died aged 91 (15 February 2011)
Sir George Shearing was one of the most successful pianists in jazz, developing a style of such enduring yet broad appeal that it became known as the "Shearing sound"; he also composed several well-known jazz themes, including the standard Lullaby Of Birdland.
Shearing's international popularity was based initially on the quintet which he formed in 1949, featuring the novel and attractive sound of piano, guitar and vibraphone playing in unison. This was much imitated, but no one else could quite replicate its fragile charm, or the fleet virtuosity of the leader's own piano solos. As his career developed, Shearing broadened his musical range, revealing himself to be an immensely resourceful and witty improviser.
Among the Quintet's biggest successes were a version of Jerome Kern's Pick Yourself Up (1950), with its clever introductory eight bars in strict canon, and – in homage to the celebrated jazz club in Manhattan – Shearing's own Lullaby Of Birdland (1952). Ultimately the latter tune acquired such overwhelming renown that Shearing was well-used to being known for little else.
Later in the 1950s, Shearing pursued an interest in Latin-inflected jazz. He had another hit record with Mambo Inn (1954) and appeared leading a Latin ensemble in the 1959 film Jazz On A Summer's Day. In the same year he recorded the hugely popular album Beauty and the Beat with the singer Peggy Lee.
Trevor Bailey, the cricketer, has died aged 87 (10 February 2011)
Trevor Bailey was England's leading all-rounder after the Second World War and known as Barnacle Bailey on account of his dedication to the forward defensive stroke; he subsequently made a living from the game as an author, journalist and (for more than 30 years) commentator on Test Match Special.
In the popular estimation Bailey's reputation for leaden batting tended to obscure his rare talent as a bowler – fast-medium with a model high, sideways-on action which encouraged outswing. At his best he could touch greatness, and never more so than in the first innings of the fifth Test at Kingston, Jamaica, in 1954. On a docile pitch he took seven for 34, shooting out the powerful West Indies batting – Gary Sobers came in at Number 9 – for 139, and enabling England to square the series.
First with Alec Bedser, and then with Fred Trueman, Brian Statham and Frank Tyson, Bailey was one of a quartet of fast or fastish bowlers who established England as the leading force in Test cricket from 1953, when the Ashes were regained after a gap of 20 years, to 1958-59, when the Australians unexpectedly snatched them back again.
Edmundo Ros celebrates his 100th Birthday (7 December 2010)
Caribbean musician, vocalist, arranger and bandleader, Edmundo Ros OBE celebrates his 100th birthday today. He made his made career in Britain and directed a highly popular Latin-American orchestra, had an extensive recording career, and owned one of London's leading night-clubs.
Edmundo Ros was born in Trinidad in December 1910. The family moved to Caracus, Venezuela. Edmundo's musical career started in the army, then he became the tympanist in the Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. He moved to London in 1937 to continue classical studies, but popular music was to become his career. He played drums in the Fats Waller recordings, played percussion and sang in Don Marino Barreto's Cuban band and formed his five-piece Rumba Band in 1940, and the rest is history.
Robert Hudson, broadcaster and broadcasting administrator, has died aged 90 (7 June 2010)
Robert Hudson, a radio broadcaster of impeccable professionalism in the best traditions of the BBC, was for many years a well-known voice at important cricket and rugby union matches and an exemplary commentator on State occasions.
Having obtained a postwar degree from the London School of Economics he shone sufficiently at a BBC audition in 1946 to become a freelance commentator on cricket and rugby.
He also covered the Boat Race three times and became the master of the state occasion. He broadcast from 31 countries, covering six royal tours by the Queen between 1961 and 1967, four state visits and four independence ceremonies. Public events that he described for radio included 21 successive Trooping the Colour ceremonies, 16 Cenotaph Remembrance Day services, four state openings of Parliament, the Queen Mother’s 80th birthday service, the royal weddings of Princess Margaret (1960), Princess Alexandra (1963), Princess Anne (1973) and the Prince of Wales (1981), and the funerals of Sir Winston Churchill (1965), the Duke of Windsor (1972) and Field Marshal Montgomery (1976). For television he covered the annual Lord Mayor’s Banquet, the first and last nights of the Proms, the funeral of Dag Hammarskjöld and President John F. Kennedy’s meeting with the Pope in 1963.
He also presented Songs of Praise, Pick of the Week, Down Your Way, Christmas Bells on Christmas Morning, every year from 1965 to 1981, and, on more than 200 occasions, the Today Programme on Radio 4.
Roland Fox, BBC Parliamentary correspondent throughout the 1950s, has died aged 97 (16 May 2010)
Roland Fox was a BBC Parliamentary correspondent and only the second to hold the post; he covered the last years of Churchill's premiership and the heated Suez debates, the first televised State Opening of Parliament, and accompanied Harold Macmillan on his "Wind of Change" tour of Africa.
There was no guidance, no training and no autocue; he often read straight from his notes on to the air, anticipating the next morning's press by many hours. When Winston Churchill resigned in 1955, there was a newspaper strike, so the story was broken by the BBC's Parliamentary staff.
When regular television news bulletins began in July 1954, it often meant a long taxi journey to Alexandra Palace in north London, allowing Fox some time to learn his lines by heart on the way. Later the Westminster studio was adapted for television.
On one occasion the studio lights suddenly failed in the middle of Fox's piece. He knew what he wanted to say and gamely continued in total darkness to the end of his live report. He never had any editorial supervision; all that was required, he said, was that he come out on time.
Tom Fleming, actor and television presenter on important state occasions, has died aged 82 (20 April 2010)
For 44 yearsTom Fleming gave a very definite Scottish identity to the BBC's coverage of the Edinburgh Tattoo. His musical voice brought a feeling of home-grown passion to the events on the Esplanade. That voice captured the excitement and solemnity of many occasions, starting with the Queen's Coronation in 1953, when Fleming was outside Westminster Abbey. He also provided the television commentary for the funerals of Diana, Princess of Wales and the Queen Mother and numerous other state occasions. Another annual duty was the Ceremony of Remembrance at the Cenotaph in London. Fleming was able to find the correct intonation for any event and make it suit the occasion.
Fleming was a renowned actor and did prestigious seasons with the Royal Shakespeare Company and was closely connected with the epic drama The Three Estates, which he first performed at the Edinburgh Festival in Tyrone Guthrie's celebrated production in 1953.
In 1953, he joined the BBC to commentate on the Coronation and proved a natural: unflappable and always ready with some information when things were delayed.
In 1956 he gave a sympathetic reading of the title role of Jesus of Nazareth: particularly challenging as it was the first time the face of Christ had been acted on television. The 12-part series, shown over Easter, displayed Fleming's acting skills to excellent effect.
One of his more unusual assignments was to front the BBC's coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest from Edinburgh in 1972.
Fleming's contribution to outside broadcasts for the BBC was immense. He commentated on two royal weddings and ten funerals, and the enthronement of two Popes and three Archbishops. One of his last broadcasts was on Radio 4 in 2007, when he was in a dramatisation of Walter Scott's Heart of Midlothian.
Kenneth McKellar, among the most popular of Scotland's singers, has died aged 82 (11 April 2010)
He became familiar to English television viewers courtesy of the BBC and The White Heather Club, a hugely popular Scottish country dance and music show which ran from 1958 to 1968 and, at its peak, drew an audience of 10 million.
The White Heather Club featured stars such as Andy Stewart, swathed in lace and tartan, singing Donald Where's Your Troosers? and Kenneth McKellar with poignant renderings of Song of the Clyde, Bonnie lass o' Ballochmyle and other stirring numbers.
In between, dainty girls in white blouses and laced pumps, and young men with kilts and fixed smiles, would whisk and whoop each other through the Dashing White Sergeant or the Eightsome Reel to the strains of Jimmy Shand and his Band.
After abandoning the operatic stage, in 1954 McKellar signed with the Decca record company. Over a period of 25 years he recorded some 45 LPs, ranging from oratorio to Burns songs, achieving massive sales all over the world.
During the 1950s McKellar became well-known in Scotland through radio, singing Scottish songs, light opera and popular songs on his own series, A Song For Everyone, for the BBC. At the same time, he began trying his hand as a songwriter and was responsible for such ballads as The Tartan, which has been covered by some 40 artistes and The Royal Mile, which was heard by more than four million people during the televised opening of the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.
In 1966 McKellar was chosen to represent Britain in the Eurovision Song Contest, singing A Man Without Love. It was not a happy experience. Despite widespread predictions that he would win, he was placed ninth, a result he attributed to the fact that the Scandinavian nations had "made a mockery of the whole contest" by voting for each other.
Sir Alec Bedser, the Surrey and England cricketer, has died aged 91 (5 April 2010)
His supreme triumph came in 1953, when his 39 wickets at 17.48 apiece in five Tests enabled England to reclaim the Ashes for the first time since the Bodyline series of 1932-33. The other nine bowlers used by England that summer managed only 52 wickets between them.
In the first Test in 1953, at Trent Bridge, on a pitch that was far from vicious, Bedser returned figures of seven for 55 and seven for 45, in the process overhauling Sydney Barnes’s record of 189 Test wickets for England, which had stood since 1914. Later that summer, in which he celebrated his 35th birthday, he established a world record for Test bowling when he surpassed Clarrie Grimmett’s total of 216 Test wickets for Australia. He also became the first England bowler since Barnes to take 100 wickets against Australia.
Alec Bedser continued to play for Surrey until 1960, frequently captaining the side in Peter May’s absence. He played a vital part in Surrey’s run of seven consecutive championships from 1952 to 1958, particularly in 1957, when he temporarily recovered full fitness.
He served on the England board of selectors from 1961 to 1985, and as chairman from 1968 to 1981.
Harry Carpenter, sports journalist and boxing commentator, has died aged 84 (22 March 2010)
For millions of television viewers, Harry Carpenter's boxing match commentary was an essential ringside ingredient.
After wartime service in the Royal Navy as a Morse code operator, he worked on several newspapers before joining the Daily Mail as boxing columnist.
In 1949, Carpenter offered his services to the BBC as a boxing commentator, but because there was no relevant footage to hand at his audition, he had to provide a commentary for a football match instead.
He heard nothing for months, until the head of outside broadcasts, Peter Dimmock, phoned him to ask whether he could fill in as commentator for an amateur boxing night.
Harry Carpenter proved himself adept at commentating on a host of other sporting events, but it was always boxing with which he was most closely associated.
His first fight commentary for the BBC was in 1949 and in the next decade, he was responsible for the first live commentary from behind the Iron Curtain in 1957 and the first via satellite from the United States.
For much of the 1970s and 80s, Carpenter co-hosted the Sports Personality of the Year programme, having first contributed in 1958. He was "flattered and pleased" that he was asked to pay tribute to the Sports Personality of the Century, Muhammad Ali.
Sir John Dankworth, pioneer of modern jazz has died aged 82 (7 February 2010)
Johnny Dankworth, was a leading composer of film music, a tireless champion of musical education, regardless of genre, and a superb instrumentalist in his own right.
In 1950 Dankworth formed his first band, the Johnny Dankworth Seven, containing some of Britain's leading young soloists. The style was neatly arranged bebop, inspired by Miles Davis's band of the time. Although this enterprise almost collapsed in its early days, a modest growth in the audience for modern jazz allowed it to gain a foothold. Within a year, the Seven, and Dankworth himself, figured among the winners in the annual polls conducted by the music press.
In 1951, the Seven appeared in one of the two inaugural jazz concerts at the Royal Festival Hall. In the same year the Seven recruited a young and totally inexperienced singer, Cleo Laine.
Dankworth broke up the Seven in 1953 and launched his first big band, consisting of eight brass, five saxophones, rhythm section and three vocalists.
In the mid-1950s the orchestra had a long-running radio series in which Dankworth made a point of introducing guests from other musical genres. These were mainly classical virtuosi, such as the clarinettist Jack Brymer and violinist Kenneth Essex.
In 1960 Dankworth gave up full-time bandleading in order to concentrate on composition. He composed and conducted the music for Saturday Night And Sunday Morning (Reisz, 1960) and The Criminal (Joseph Losey, 1960). So successful were these, and so distinctive the music, that the Dankworth sound became inseparably linked with the new wave of British cinema in the 1960s.
Among the best known are The Servant (Losey, 1963), Darling (John Schlesinger, 1965), Modesty Blaise (Losey 1966) and Morgan, A Suitable Case For Treatment (Reisz, 1966). To these were added television themes such as The Avengers (1961) and Tomorrow's World (1966), as well as an endless stream of advertising commercials.
John Dankworth and Cleo Laine were married in 1958 and their careers were intertwined thereafter.
Bill McLaren, Rugby union broadcaster, has died aged 86 (20 January 2010)
Bill McLaren spent 50 years commentating on rugby union matches for BBC radio and television.
In this role his powerful Scottish tones, memorable turns of phrase, dedication to research and rigid impartiality proved an awesome combination, enhancing the broadcast experience for millions of listeners and viewers throughout club and international seasons.
In 1948 he was selected for the final trial to represent the Scottish national team but was unable to compete, having been given a diagnosis of tuberculosis. When he recovered he worked for three years as a reporter on the Hawick Express, all the while maintaining his strong interest in rugby. Unbeknown to him, a colleague with BBC connections wrote to a friend in London recommending McLaren’s services as a rugby commentator.
On the strength of this McLaren was offered a commentary test. He was characteristically reluctant to accept the challenge but eventually agreed, making his debut on the Scottish Home Service in January 1952 for the South of Scotland versus South Africa game. This led, in 1953, to his national radio debut covering the Scotland v Wales international. In 1962 he switched to television.
McLaren’s day job was to supervise sport and teach PE in Hawick’s five primary schools. He filled this role from the early 1950s until 1987, and was proud to have taught several of Scotland’s future international players in their youth.
Max Robertson, writer, broadcaster and sports commentator, has died aged 94 (20 November 2009)
Max Robertson was the first presenter of Panorama, of BBC Television's antiques quiz show Going for a Song, and was a commentator at the Queen's Coronation in 1953; but he was best known as the "other voice of Wimbledon", alongside the television pundit Dan Maskell.
Robertson covered every Wimbledon final for the BBC from 1946 to 1986 and transformed the art of tennis broadcasting for radio. He delighted audiences by being able to describe with riveting exactness every stroke that was being played, conjuring up a dynamic mental picture of what was taking place on court.
Following service during the War, he began doing outside broadcasts, initially for the BBC European Service then, from 1949, for Outside Broadcasts. He was chosen to do the commentary for the first postwar Grand Prix at Silverstone in 1948 and covered summer and winter Olympiads. He also covered the royal tour of Canada in 1951 when the young Princess Elizabeth deputised for her father who was too ill to travel.
Robertson established a reputation as a jack-of-all-trades. In addition to his outside broadcasts for radio, he was in increasing demand for television, working on children's programmes, sports broadcasts and conducting interviews. During the Coronation he was to be seen on the Victoria Embankment alongside three cameras, shouting against the full-throated cheering of thousands of schoolchildren as the Queen passed by.
He became caught up - briefly - in BBC current affairs broadcasting when, in 1953, he was appointed to present the new flagship programme Panorama. This was, originally, a fortnightly "magazine" programme with the presenter holding the fort while roving interviewers made their contributions. After Malcolm Muggeridge took over as studio anchor man, Robertson continued to file items on such varied matters as myxomatosis in rabbits, horror comics and rag-and-bone men.
In 1954 he turned freelance. As well as his tennis commentaries, he covered swimming and athletics for television and commentated on summer and winter Olympiads until 1968.
Norman Painting, the voice of Philip Archer on long-running Radio 4 drama The Archers, has died at the age of 85. (29 October 2009)
Born in Leamington Spa in 1924, the actor played the Ambridge farmer since the show's first trial run in 1950.
He is featured in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest-serving actor in a single soap opera.
The Archers began life in the days of food rationing as a propaganda exercise to encourage Britain's farmers, and to fill the slot left vacant by Dick Barton, Special Agent. But it rapidly gained a special place in the affections of millions of listeners, not just in Britain but worldwide.
Painting was originally recruited to write a week-long trial run of the programme. He then found himself cast as one of the principal characters.
Over the years Painting's pragmatic character has been involved in numerous key storylines. One long-running plot strand revolved around who would inherit Phil's farm after his retirement.
One of his most dramatic moments, meanwhile, occurred in 1955 when his first wife Grace died in a barn fire while trying to save a horse.
He published five books, including reflections on the radio soap which had made him famous, Forever Ambridge (1975), and an autobiography, Reluctant Archer (1982).
Clinton Ford, singer and entertainer, has died aged 78 (23 October 2009)
Clinton Ford was among the UK's most versatile entertainers and although he made hit records, notably "Old Shep" and "Fanlight Fanny", he could have had several more. His versatility was both his strength and his weakness as he recorded jazz, country music, romantic ballads, comedy songs, children's favourites and music hall standards.
Ford worked as a Butlin's Redcoat and fronted a skiffle group in a TV commercial for their holiday camps. After the 1957 summer season in Pwllheli, he went to Liverpool and began performing with the Merseysippi Jazz Band at a new jazz club, the Cavern.
Ford fronted the Hallelujah Skiffle Group but their singles didn't sell, largely because skiffle was on its way out. He recorded "Alexander's Ragtime Band", as Al St. George with the Merseysippi Jazz Band, for the Esquire label.
In 1962, Ford sang about Fanlight Fanny, a striptease artist past her prime. George Formby had performed the song in Trouble Brewing (1939) and, with permission, Clinton Ford added new words. Ford was paired with trombonist George Chisholm, who shared his sense of humour.
Kenny Ball asked Ford to join his jazz band and he found himself continually on the road. The band worked for radio's Easy Beat and he was learning new songs all the time, but left after a year as Ball wanted to do more of the singing.
Ian Wallace, opera singer and 'My Music' panellist on radio, has died aged 90 (14 October 2009)
He ranged from singer, character actor, comedian, compère and clown to radio and television panellist, scriptwriter and pantomime king.
What made Wallace a household name was the endearing way he had with silly songs about animals, especially one about an amorous hippopotamus with a chorus which went: "Mud, mud, glorious mud". First broadcast on a Henry Hall Guest Night in 1952, the song virtually became Wallace's signature tune.
Whether in classical opera, musical comedy, plays, films, television, radio or on the concert platform, Wallace's readiness to perform on all kinds of occasion brought him an exceptional range of admirers.
Apart from opera, his dramatic credits included Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream; César in a West End musical version of Marcel Pagnol's Fanny (Drury Lane); and the Emperor of China in Cole Porter's Aladdin (Coliseum).
Wallace was also a regular on the Radio 4 panel game My Music and other quiz shows on radio and television in which he would, sitting down, suddenly break into snatches of opera. With his unpretentious affability he could always put audiences at ease.
Wallace made his Italian operatic debut as Massetto in Don Giovanni at Parma (1950); and was La Cenerentola at Rome (1955), and Dr Bartolo in Il Barbiere di Siviglia at Venice (1956). From 1965, his regular appearances for Scottish Opera included Leporello in Don Giovanni, Pistola in Falstaff and the Duke of Plaza Toro in The Gondoliers. For the Welsh National Opera (1967) he sang Don Pasquale and for Glyndebourne Touring Opera (1968) Dr Dulcamara in L'Elisir D'Amore.
Pearl Hackney, dancer and actress, has died aged 92 (11 October 2009)
Pearl Hackney was the widow of the comedian Eric Barker, with whom she enjoyed a long and successful working partnership.
The couple first found fame during the Second World War in the radio comedy Merry-Go-Round, to which each of the three armed services contributed. Queen Mary was a fan and invited Pearl Hackney and Eric Barker to perform a special show for her at Clarence House to mark her birthday.
After the war Merry-Go-Round split into three separate shows, with Barker (who had been commissioned in the Royal Navy and served in minesweepers) starring with Pearl Hackney in Waterlogged Spa, a spin-off that reflected postwar naval humour.
After the war she regularly appeared with her husband in a satirical show, called Just Fancy, which Barker wrote for the fledgling BBC television service. The couple went on to feature in several other television series, but as Barker sought to expand into films, a stroke at the age of 52 ended his career.
Felix Bowness, actor and warm-up man, has died aged 87 (7 October 2009)
Felix Bowness died on September 13th. He was best known as the jockey Fred Quilly in the 1980s television sitcom Hi-De-Hi!
He worked in radio during the 1950s and began his radio career, billed as That Irresponsible Young Man, in 1950 on Variety Bandbox, followed by Workers' Playtime (1953-59) and Mid-day Music Hall (1954). For BBC TV, he was in the sitcom Hugh and I (1964), with Terry Scott and Hugh Lloyd, and The Benny Hill Show (1965), in Hill's pre-smut days. Bowness was also in Frankie Howerd's 1966 BBC series.
He was the BBC's most prolific "warm-up" man, working on The Morecambe and Wise Show and some 3,000 editions of Wogan. He was cast in Jimmy Perry and David Croft's Hi-De-Hi! in 1980, and went on to appear in their You Rang, M'Lord, and in Oh, Doctor Beeching! by Croft and Richard Spendlove.
Steve Race, the musician and broadcaster has died aged 88 (23 June 2009)
Steve Race became a familiar face on television in the 1950s and went on to host the popular Radio 4 panel game My Music, which ran from 1967 until 1994; he subsequently set a regular crossword for The Daily Telegraph.
His first job was as a pianist with Harry Leader's band, and he went on to play with the bands of Lew Stone and Cyril Stapleton, and to arrange for the Ted Heath band and Judy Garland.
Race first came to notice on BBC children's television in 1953, in the magazine programme Whirligig, a miscellany of items that introduced a generation of postwar children to puppet favourites such as Hank the cowboy and Mr Turnip.
In 1955 Race became light music adviser to Associated Rediffusion, remaining in the post until 1960, when he went on to conduct for many television series, including the Tony Hancock and Peter Sellers shows.
Race enjoyed nine weeks of chart fame in 1963 with his catchy rendition of Pied Piper (The Beeje), which reached number 29. In 1962 and 1963 Race won awards for his commercial jingles for ITV. The most lucrative was the one for Birds Eye frozen peas: "Sweet as the moment when the pod went pop". He also won an Ivor Novello Award for his composition Nicola (named after his daughter).
In 1965, aged 44, he suffered a heart attack, but it did little to halt his prodigious work rate.
Immaculately dressed and sporting a distinguished white beard, Race - although a somewhat shy man - was always confident and assured in front of a microphone or a camera. 'My Music', while pioneered on radio, made a successful transfer to television bringing out the best (and worst, when it came to puns) from the comic writers Denis Norden and Frank Muir, and their fellow-panellists John Amis and Ian Wallace. Neither Race nor Wallace missed a single episode of more than 520 that were broadcast.
Tenniel Evans, Taffy Goldstein in 'The Navy Lark', has died aged 82 (17 June 2009)
On screen, Tenniel Evans was one of those character actors with a face recognisable in dozens of television programmes but whose name was less familiar. He played doctors, police officers, judges and vicars, and even went on to be become a priest himself.
But it was out of vision, acting a look-out in the long-running BBC radio comedy The Navy Lark (1959-77), that Evans could claim to be "recognised". As Taffy Goldstein, alongside Ronnie Barker as Johnson, he was one of the two Able Seamen among an inept crew aboard HMS Troutbridge, a frigate refitted to house undesirable elements of the Royal Navy.
He made his television début as a policeman in an episode of No Hiding Place (1960), before acting Jonathan Kail, alongside Geraldine McEwan and Jeremy Brett, in an ITV adaptation of Tess (1960, based on Thomas Hardy's novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles).
For 45 years, Evans worked solidly in character parts on television, flitting from one popular programme to another - and even playing Hitler in The Roads to Freedom (1970). Occasionally, the actor found regular roles, such as John, one of the solicitor siblings, in the legal drama The Sullavan Brothers (1964-65), Sergeant Bluett in the sitcom My Brother's Keeper (1975-76), Geoff Barratt in the final series of the post-war comedy-drama Shine on Harvey Moon (1985), Teddy Haslam in the zoo vet drama One by One (1987) and Sir Edward Parkinson-Lewis in September Song (1994). He also took over from the late Patrick Troughton the role of Perce, grandfather of Ashley (Nicholas Lyndhurst), in the sitcom The Two of Us (1987-90).
  Lost Tony Hancock TV soundtracks from 1959 to be released by BBC (15 June 2009)
The soundtracks to six lost episodes of the great comedy series Hancock’s Half Hour have been restored to the BBC archives after half a century thanks to the efforts of a bootlegger. They are thought to be the earliest examples of a DIY audio recording made directly from a television broadcast.
The series, which began on radio in 1954 and moved to TV in 1956, was written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, who later created Steptoe and Son. It made Sid James, Kenneth Williams and Hattie Jacques — as well as Hancock — comedy stars.
The BBC will release four of the rediscovered soundtracks as CDs and downloads this year. The sound quality on the two remaining episodes is so poor that it is not certain that they will be made available.
The tapes had circulated among a few Hancock aficionados for some time but were returned to the BBC only last winter with the help of The Hancock Appreciation Society.
One of them, The Wrong Man, lampoons the Hitchcock film of that name. In another, Hancock and James enter a beauty contest, and in The Flight of the Red Shadow Hancock tries to pass himself off as the Maharaja of Renjipur to escape from disgruntled members of the East Cheam Repertory Company. There are cameo appearances from Warren Mitchell and Rolf Harris.
Anne Scott-James, author, journalist and magazine editor, has died aged 96 (15 May 2009)
One of the first female career journalists, Anne Scott-James rose to become Fleet Street royalty. A formidable woman of calm authority and understated glamour, she began her career on Vogue in the 1930s, and during the war joined the staff of the pioneering photojournalistic magazine Picture Post. She later edited Harper’s Bazaar and the women’s pages of the Sunday Express, exercising a keen news sense and demonstrating that articles aimed at women need not focus only on domestic issues and fashion.
While she thrived on the discipline and pressures of journalism, she also enjoyed domestic life; she had two children (her son is the journalist and author Sir Max Hastings, former Editor of The Daily Telegraph), and pursued quiet pleasures. Her passion for gardening (at her cottage on the Berkshire Downs, which she bought in 1938) inspired, in the 1970s, a second career as an author of engaging, no-nonsense books on the subject, some of which were illustrated by her husband Osbert Lancaster. They were well received and remain influential.
She was invited to appear in the popular BBC radio panel game 'My Word', and was a fixture from 1964 to 1978.
Bryan Martin, who has died aged 73, was one of the voices of BBC Radio 4 (22 March 2009)
Recalling his first appearances on the radio as a child actor in Children's Hour when he was about 11 years old, Martin wrote to the BBC and asked for further work. He appeared in a few more Children's Hour productions broadcast from Manchester, including The Mystery of Hold Nickar Mine, with Judith Chalmers playing his sister.
More part-time BBC work followed during his medical photography training, but having qualified in January 1958, he accepted a job at the BBC as a studio manager instead, mainly because he was offered a considerably larger salary than at the NHS.
He travelled round the country from Midland Region to Northern Region, Scotland, the General Overseas Service and London Sound Presentation.
He later became a relief announcer in the Overseas Service (Bush House) and in the regions before being taken on by John Snagge as a full-time announcer in May 1963.
As well as his routine newsreading duties on the Today programme and other current affairs sequences, Martin appeared in The News Quiz, occasionally introduced The Goon Show, and read the spoof "news bulletin" which always featured in the middle of the comedy The Men From the Ministry.
When he joined the BBC, the presentation department covered all three radio networks (the Home Service, Light Programme and Third Programme). Having always been interested in music, Martin opted for introducing as many concerts as possible on the Third Programme, including the Proms, and it was this work that first took him to Snape in Suffolk, where he later settled. When the presentation team was split up in the early 1970s, he was allocated to Radio 4.
He announced the death of Elvis Presley in 1977, news of the Iranian embassy siege in 1980, and became the network's senior newsreader.
Eric Simms, BBC naturalist, has died aged 87 (18 March 2009)
Simms was for 40 years one of the most familiar voices on the BBC at home and abroad as a pioneer of natural history, making more than 7,000 radio broadcasts and appearing on television some 700 times.
As the BBC's resident naturalist and director of wildlife sound recording projects, he was the first person in Britain to record on magnetic tape, introducing parabolic reflectors, radio links and hydrophones. He made the first recordings of badgers, and recorded for the first time an exchange between an adult female bird and its chick inside its unbroken eggshell.
Many of Simms's recordings were first broadcast in The Countryside Programme, which he created in 1952 and which ran for the next 38 years. He produced, with Myles North, Witherby's Sound Guide to British Birds with recordings of 194 species.
In 1961 Simms joined the new BBC Schools TV Service, for which he produced live television programmes and directed and presented films on natural history. After six years, however, he decided to go freelance, so that he could speak freely on matters of conservation. For 11 years he presented the weekly Nature Notebook Programme on the BBC World Service and for another 11 he had a weekly spot on LBC in London. When he appeared on Desert Island Discs he played a recording of a blackbird, which had been made in his garden at Neasden. He also interviewed the Duke of Edinburgh, and spent six hours in the grounds of Buckingham Palace, for a programme called The Queen's Visitors (1975).
Jimmy Boyd, the singer best known for recording the Christmas novelty hit "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" in 1952 when he was 13, has died aged 70. (11 March 2009)
Three weeks after the yuletide kiss-and-tell was released, the song was No. 1 on the Billboard charts. It sold 2 million records in less than 10 weeks. Tens of millions of copies of the much-covered song written by Tommie Connors have been sold over the decades.
It has been interpreted by such artists as the Jackson Five, John Mellencamp and Amy Winehouse.
Although it came to be regarded as a holiday classic, the ditty about a child who can't understand why Mommy is cheating on Daddy with Santa Claus caused controversy in some quarters when the original featuring Boyd's childish treble was released.
The Catholic Church condemned the song for implying even a tenuous link between sex and the religious holiday, and radio stations in several markets banned it. The ban was lifted after the 13-year-old Boyd appeared before church leaders to talk about the lyrics.
His recording career essentially lasted until 1967 and encompassed such hits as "Dennis the Menace," sung with Rosemary Clooney, and several duets with Frankie Laine, including "The Little Boy and the Old Man," "Poor Little Piggy Bank" and "Tell Me a Story."
On television, Boyd made several appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in the early 1950s and moved into acting. From 1958 to 1961, he portrayed Howard Meechim, the high school boyfriend on "Bachelor Father," a sitcom that starred John Forsythe and Noreen Corcoran. He also played the teenage nephew of Betty White's character on "Date with the Angels," a late-1950s sitcom.
Hank Locklin, one of the most celebrated names in country and western music has died aged 91 (10 March 200(0,
Locklin had a huge hit in 1960 with Please Help Me, I'm Falling, considered among the most successful country singles of the rock and roll era.
Locklin's songs epitomised the rich vocal and instrumental style known as the "Nashville Sound". Rated one of the greatest tenors in the genre, he possessed a distinctive nasal voice ideally suited to the lachrymose ballads in which he specialised. His first big success came in 1958 with Send Me the Pillow That You Dream On, a song he had written in 1949.
Locklin enjoyed a particularly large following in Ireland, where he was voted most popular country singer for five consecutive years. In the United States he became a revered figure both on stage and backstage at the Grand Ole Opry – the Nashville theatre from which country music's celebrated radio show of the same name is broadcast – and he was the oldest living member of the Opry regulars.
He made his radio debut singing on a station at Pensacola, strumming his guitar for instrumental backing. In 1948 Locklin and his band, The Rocky Mountain Playboys, landed a morning radio show in Houston, Texas. He made his first record on the Gold Star label in the same year before joining Four Star Records in 1949. In 1954 he had a number two hit with Let Me Be The One before signing to Decca later that year.
A switch to the RCA label in 1957 led to a string of major hits, notably Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On, which spent 35 weeks in the country music charts. Other hits for Locklin included Geisha Girl (1957), Happy Journey (1961), Happy Birthday To Me (1962), and The Country Hall Of Fame (1968). He also enjoyed a long recording career with RCA Victor.
Tony Osborne, composer and arranger, has died aged 86 (3 March 2009)
Osborne's first job was a trumpeter and relief pianist with Cyril Stapleton, and then with Frank Weir, Carroll Gibbons and Ambrose. He played in the BBC Orchestra for the comedy successes, The Goon Show and Take It From Here.
Soon Osborne was working for the major companies of the day, notably with EMI, and he formed his own band, the Brass Hats, for weekly appearances on the BBC TV teenage show, Six-Five Special. When that was superseded by Juke Box Jury in 1959, Osborne wrote and recorded the theme song, "Juke Box Fury", under the name of Ozzie Warlock and the Wizards. When Osborne fell out with the show's producer, Russell Turner, Turner replaced his tune with John Barry's "Hit And Miss", which began Barry's run of success.
In 1960, the American star Connie Francis recorded in England and Osborne wrote and conducted the arrangement for her million-selling "Mama", which was sung in Italian. Among his arrangements were "Sisters" for the Beverley Sisters, "Out Of Town" for Max Bygraves, "Love Is" for Alma Cogan, "Little Donkey" for Nina and Frederik, and "Say It With Flowers" with Dorothy Squires and Russ Conway.
Around the late 1950s, Osborne began recording under his own name, favouring place names for his instrumental titles – the best known are "The Lights Of Lisbon", "The Man From Marseilles", "The Windows Of Paris", which became the theme music for the BBC drivetime programme, Roundabout and was recorded by Bing Crosby, with lyrics by Johnny Mercer, and "The Man From Madrid", a Top 50 entry in 1961. He also had a chart hit with "The Shepherd's Song" in 1973.
Author and dramatist Sir John Mortimer has died aged 85 (16 January 2009)
Sir John Mortimer made his radio debut in 1955 when he adapted his own novel, 'Like Men Betrayed' for the BBC Light Programme. But he made his debut as a playwright with 'The Dock Brief', starring Michael Hordern as a hapless barrister, first broadcast in 1957 on BBC Radio's Third Programme, later televised with the same cast and subsequently presented in a double bill with 'What Shall We Tell Caroline?' at the Lyric Hammersmith in April 1958, before transferring to the Garrick Theatre.
His play, 'A Voyage Round My Father', given its first radio broadcast in 1963, is autobiographical, recounting his experiences as a young barrister and his relationship with his blind father. It was memorably televised by BBC Television in 1969 with Mark Dignam in the title role. In a slightly longer version the play later became a stage success. In 1981 it was remade by Thames Television with Sir Laurence Olivier as the father and Alan Bates as young Mortimer.
Mortimer is best remembered for creating a barrister named Horace Rumpole, whose speciality was defending those accused of crime in London's Old Bailey. Mortimer created Rumpole for 'Rumpole of the Bailey', a 1975 contribution to the BBCs 'Play For Today' anthology series. Played with gusto by Leo McKern, the character proved popular, and was developed into a Rumpole of the Bailey television series for Thames Television and a series of books (all written by Mortimer).
Angela Morley, light music composer, has died aged 88 (16 January 2009)
Angela Morley was born in Leeds, Yorkshire on 10 March 1924. She attributes her entry into successful composing and arranging largely to the influence and encouragement of the Canadian light music composer Robert Farnon.
She was a transsexual woman, and was originally credited under her birth name Wally Stott. She underwent sex reassignment surgery in 1972.
Angela Morley is perhaps best known as a composer of light music, with the jaunty Rotten Row her best known piece. Also notable is A Canadian in Mayfair, a homage to Robert Farnon's Portrait of a Flirt.
In 1953, she began a long association with the Philips record label, arranging for and accompanying the company's artists, as well as releasing records under her own name, including the 1958 LP 'London Pride'.
She is also well known for writing the theme tune and incidental music for Hancock's Half Hour and was the musical director for The Goon Show from the third series in 1952 to the last show in 1960.
In the 1960s she worked with Shirley Bassey, Dusty Springfield and the first three highly regarded solo albums by Scott Walker. In 1962 and 1963, she arranged the United Kingdom entries for the Eurovision Song Contest, Ring-A-Ding Girl and Say Wonderful Things, both sung by Ronnie Carroll.
Morley orchestrated, arranged, and supervised the music for the final musical film collaboration of Lerner and Loewe, The Little Prince. In 1978 she was music supervisor on the Sherman Brothers' musical adaptation of the Cinderella story entitled, The Slipper and the Rose. She won Oscar nominations for both films. Additionally, she wrote most of the score for the 1978 film version of Watership Down, although the prelude and opening was by Malcolm Williamson.
Veteran BBC radio broadcaster Dudley Savage MBE has died at the age of 88 (27 November 2008)
Dudley Savage became the resident organist at the Royal Cinema, Plymouth, in 1938. During the Second World War he interrupted his playing at the Royal to serve with the army in India.
He broadcast BBC hospital request show 'As Prescribed' from the Royal, playing music on the organ for the programme for more than 30 years.
'As Prescribed' began broadcasting weekly in June 1948, and carried on until it was axed by the BBC in 1968.
After a petition with 43,000 signatures was sent to the BBC, it was brought back as a monthly show in 1969, continuing for another 10 years and moving eventually to Radio 2.
He also undertook concert tours of the UK and Europe, bringing the music of his chosen instrument to thousands of people around the world. His signature tune was 'Smiling Through'. A
compilation double CD of his work is due for release in December 2008. more....
Yma Sumac, Peruvian singer who moved from folk music to Broadway and Hollywood, has died aged 86 (4 November 2008)
Yma Sumac was a phenomenon in the 1950s whose varied, tempestuous career started when her extraordinary voice, ranging over several octaves, startled people on the album Voice of The Xtabuy. Featuring traditional Peruvian songs, often directed at the mountain gods, Voice Of The Xtabay (1950) was an unlikely success, selling 100,000 copies.
The album went straight into the bestseller lists and was followed by Mambo!, arranged by Billy May, and Fuego del Ande (1959), perhaps her best record. British radio audiences were intrigued and countless requests flooded in to Children’s Choice, Two-Way Family Favourites and Housewives’ Choice.
Sumac appeared as a foreign princess in the Broadway musical Flahooley in 1951 and in the films Secrets Of The Incas (1954) and Omar Khayyam with Cornel Wilde (1956). She made several other albums, including Legend Of The Sun Virgin (1952), Inca Taqui (1953), Mambo! (1954), Legend Of The Jivaro (1957) and Fuego Del Ande (1959). Although she did not have hit singles, she used her extraordinary voice on a recording of the South African folk song "Wimoweh", in 1952.
Her Spanish name was Zoila Augusta Emperatriz Chavárri del Castillo; her Indian name, which meant “how beautiful”, was Imma Sumack, which she later altered to Yma Sumac. To her annoyance, a gossip columnist spelt it backwards and claimed she was Amy Camus from Brooklyn.
Lita Roza, Sultry interpreter of romantic ballads, has died aged 82 (15 August 2008)
The public know the Liverpool singer Lita Roza for one song above all others, the children's novelty "How Much is That Doggie in the Window?" However, that doggie was her bête noire: she was talked into recording the song and did not consider it representative of her work. There were few to rival her real talent as a sultry and sophisticated interpreter of romantic ballads.
In 1951, Roza recorded "Allentown Jail" with the Ted Heath band. Although record sales were not then collated, it was undoubtedly her first hit, as the song rose high in the sheet-music charts. After "Allentown Jail", her A&R man, Dick Rowe, asked her to sing "How Much is That Doggie in the Window?" and Roza replied, "I'm not recording that, it's rubbish." She recalled, "He said, 'It'll be a big hit, please do it, Lita.' I said that I would sing it once and once only and then I would never sing it again, and I haven't. The only time you'll hear it is on that record."
Even when the record was No 1, no one could persuade Lita to perform her hit, but it did lead to her recording several unsuitable songs. She was appreciated as much for her stunning looks as for her voice and she topped the Melody Maker poll for Favourite Female Vocalist from 1951 to 1955, and a similar one in the New Musical Express from 1952 to 1955.
In 1954, Roza left the Ted Heath band and started working as a solo act: "I would be singing with pit orchestras, who were usually dreadful," she said. "It was like going to the knacker's yard although I always carried my own pianist." In 1955, Lita had hits with two songs she liked – "Hey There" and "Jimmy Unknown" – and then sang "A Tear Fell" on a charity single for the Lord's Taverners Association, which made No 2. She recorded albums of standards, Listening in the Afterhours (1955) and Love is the Answer (1956).
She had recorded another fine album, Me On a Carousel, for Pye in 1958, as well as a stream of variable singles, the better ones including "Volare" and "I Could Have Danced All Night". After leaving Pye in 1960, Roza recorded only sporadically.
Peter Coke, actor who played Paul Temple on radio, has died aged 95 (1 August 2008)
Peter Coke was an actor and playwright best known for his portrayal of Paul Temple in the popular radio detective series devised by Francis Durbridge; in later life Coke also achieved success with sculptures which he created from sea shells.
In the early Fifties, Coke, and his beautifully modulated voice, had begun to be much in demand on the radio. He took the lead role in Ivor Novello's King Monmouth in 1953, and also began to work in fledgling television series, such as The Teckman Biography and Gravelhanger.
In 1954 he first took on the role of Paul Temple (as the seventh actor in the job) with Paul Temple and the Gilbert Case. From then until 1968, when he recorded Paul Temple and the Alex Affair, Coke was indistinguishable in the public mind from the well-spoken private detective who tackles crime with the aid of his wife Steve (Marjorie Westbury). In later years, at his gallery in Norfolk, Coke continued to receive fan letters and visits from admirers of the series.
But while he continued to prosper on stage Coke set out to expand his career as a writer, and had his first substantial hit with Breath of Spring, a comedy at the Cambridge in 1958 which was judged a piece of "pleasant nonsense" by The Daily Telegraph. It ran for a year, and then transferred to Broadway. It also proved a firm favourite with amateur dramatic societies, and provided royalties for Coke for many years. Nine more plays followed.
Coke also continued to take television parts and film roles (he was Lieutenant Lashwood in Carry On Admiral, 1957).
Veteran character actor Tony Melody has died aged 85 (9 July 2008)
Tony Melody became a household name in some of Britain's best loved and longest running comedies and soaps. He started out as a singer with the Northern Dance Orchestra and later became a household name with character and comedy cameos. His breakthrough came during the heyday of radio comedy, in The Clitheroe Kid, the long-running show (1957-72) starring the diminutive, Lancashire-born, former music-hall performer Jimmy Clitheroe in the guise of a naughty schoolboy. Melody played Mr Higginbottom, a 6ft 4in taxi driver and Jimmy's arch-enemy, and he joined Clitheroe in the television version, Just Jimmy between 1964 and 1966
. Later he moved to play more television parts such as in Steptoe and Son (teaching a young Harold Steptoe how to dance), Coronation Street, Heartbeat (helping Greengrass steal a train), Casualty, Emmerdale, City Central, Where the Heart Is and Last of the Summer Wine.
One of his biggest breaks came when he appeared in the film Yanks alongside Richard Gere.
  80 years of BBC shows to go online (11 June 2008)
Every TV and radio programme ever made by the BBC could be placed online as part of an ambitious project unveiled today. The scheme will see a webpage created for nearly every programme broadcast on BBC radio and TV in the past 80 years. Initially, pages will contain information, clips and links about the show, but it is hoped that whole programmes will eventually be made available as part of a massive internet archive. This will either be via the seven-day catch-up service iPlayer or as a new online archive service.
It is unclear whether the archive service will be free. The new details were revealed by Jana Bennett, director of BBC vision, at the Banff television festival in Canada. However, a number of episodes from shows including Hancock's Half Hour, Doctor Who, Steptoe and Son and the Goon Show have been lost.
During the Seventies many tapes were destroyed or taped over to make space in the BBC's storage facilities or because they were considered a fire risk. Others, such as the Quatermass series, were broadcast live and not recorded. Ms Bennett said: "Eventually we will produce pages for programming stretching back over nearly 80 years - featuring all the information we have on the richest TV and radio archive in the world. The BBC is committed to releasing the public value in that archive."
  Nat Temple, clarinettist and dance-band leader who frequently appeared on radio and television has died aged 94 (5 June 2008)
Nat temple was one of the best-known bandleaders of the post-war period, particularly celebrated for his work in radio and television; he was also an exceptionally gifted clarinettist, whose talent received far less recognition than it deserved.
He turned professional at 16, joining the band led by the singer and comedian Sam Costa. In 1940 Temple joined the Grenadier Guards and played with service bands for the rest of the war, including periods in North Africa and Italy. While still in the Army he contrived to play from time to time, and even record, with numerous other bands.
A chance meeting with the Canadian actor and comedian Bernard Braden led to Temple's becoming musical director of a new, "oddball" radio show, Breakfast With Braden. This was followed by the late-night Bedtime With Braden, which gained a sizeable cult following. Temple was cast as the bumbling bandleader, a part he played so convincingly that he got taken on in the same role by other shows – Michael Bentine's Round The Bend, Dick Emery's Emery At Large and Peter Ustinov's In All Directions.
From these, Temple graduated to children's television, acting as genial music-master for Jack In The Box, Telebox and, most famously, Crackerjack, with Eamonn Andrews.
  Humphrey Lyttelton, broadcaster and jazz musician, has died aged 86 (26 April 2008)
After spending the Second World War as an officer in the Grenadier Guards, Lyttelton became a pioneering figure in the British jazz scene. He formed his first band in 1948 after spending a year with George Webb's Dixielanders, a band that pioneered New Orleans-style jazz in the UK. The Humphrey Lyttelton Band quickly became Britain's leading traditional jazz group, and continental tours gave them a following in Europe.
In 1949, he signed a recording contract with EMI which led to a string of records in the Parlophone Super Rhythm Style series and which have become highly sought after. By the late 1950s he was branching out, enlarging his band and experimenting with mainstream and non-traditional material, and shocking his established fans in the process. In 1959, the band made a successful tour of the United States.
He was a keen amateur calligrapher and birdwatcher, and in 1984 formed his own record label, Calligraph. He composed more than 120 original songs during his career. In 1993 he won the radio industry's highest honour, a Sony Gold Award. He also won lifetime achievement awards at the Post Office British Jazz Awards in 2000, and the inaugural BBC Jazz Awards the following year.
It was in 1972 that, against his better judgement, he took on the chairmanship of Radio Four’s I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue. Nobody imagined that his role, somewhat like a naïve and despairing schoolmaster who was forced to read out double entendres that he never understood, would last for the rest of his life. His sharp humour was hilarious and yet without malice.
  Richard Willcox, producer of musical and variety radio programmes, has died aged 69 (5 January 2008)
The first love of BBC Radio producer Richard Willcox was music hall and variety, and for many years he produced the famous Billy Cotton Band Show. The programme, which was broadcast from 1949 to 1968, became a national institution and was as much a part of the traditional Sunday lunchtime as roast beef. Cotton, a former racing driver, was a larger-than-life character who started each show with the cry “Wakey-Wakey!”. This was followed by the band's signature tune, Somebody Stole My Girl. Willcox revealed that Cotton's catchphrase originated in the days when the band had toured the country the week prior to Sunday morning rehearsal. Cotton would arrive in the BBC studio to find weary band members nodding off. “Oi, come on,” he roared. “Wakey! Wakey!” Noting its effect on everyone, it was suggested by a BBC executive that that was how the show should begin.
When the series finished Willcox's knowledge and love of light entertainment made him a natural choice for producing other radio series such as The Windsor Davies Show and The Impressionists. During his long career with BBC Radio he held several posts including assistant head of light entertainment and, prior to taking early retirement.
  British actress Pat Kirkwood, star of stage and screen, has died aged of 86 (26 December 2007)
Pat Kirkwood's career spanned more than six decades and she played the lead roles in the West End shows of Noel Coward, Cole Porter and Leonard Bernstein. After appearing in a talent contest on the Isle of Man she was invited to an audition with the BBC in Manchester She made her professional debut, aged 14, as a singer on the BBC radio programme The Children's Hour.
A year later, in April 1936, she made her first stage appearance at the Royal Hippodrome, Salford, billed as The Schoolgirl Songstress.
The following year she starred in her debut film - Save a Little Sunshine.
After the success of the revue Black Velvet at the London Hippodrome in 1939 she was hailed as "Britain's first wartime star".
She became the first female to have her own television series with The Pat Kirkwood Show in 1954 and also appeared in various TV plays. In Our Marie (1953) she played the music hall star Marie Lloyd; she also appeared in Pygmalion (1956) and The Great Little Tilley (1956) as another music hall star, Vesta Tilley, which was directed by Hubert Gregg and subsequently became the film After The Ball (1957). In 1953, she was reunited with George Formby on the panel of What's My Line but was seen on screen feeding Formby questions to ask the contestants
. more....
  Moira Lister, actress who excelled in sparkling comedy roles ranging from Shakespeare to the moderns, has died aged 84 (29 October 2007)
As an actress, Moira Lister was once compared to the American comedienne Lucille Ball, because of her way of turning glamorous women into witty commentators on life. Whether it was in a play, musical, film or television drama or even as a guest on such TV shows as What's My Line?, Call My Bluff and Life Begins at Forty, she stood apart with her slim figure, bright blue eyes and delicate, upper-class voice. She was an accomplished actress whose regal bearing found her often cast in patrician roles, though she also had a splendid sense of humour and a versatility that ranged from acclaimed performances in Shakespearean tragedy to her award-winning display of farcical expertise in Move Over, Mrs Markham.
In 1954, Moira first teamed up with Tony Hancock in the second series of "Star Bill". She was brought into "Star Bill" to replace Hancock's previous lady foil of the first series, Geraldine McEwan. With considerable film experience behind her, Moira's strong personality proved her to be an ideal match for Hancock.
Her distinctive, husky voice made Lister a radio stalwart in such series as Simon and Laura and A Life of Bliss, and in South Africa her radio roles included the leading parts in Rain, The Deep Blue Sea (she had earlier played a supporting role in the film version) and The Millionairess. On television, she was a sparkling critic of record releases in Juke Box Jury, and she was a guest on such shows as Danger Man, Call My Bluff and The Avengers.
For three years, 1967-69, she starred in her own series, A Very Merry Widow. In 1971 she was the subject of This Is Your Life, and her autobiography, A Very Merry Moira, was published in 1969.
  Peter Tuddenham, actor, has died aged 88 (9 August 2007)
Peter Tuddenham's earliest television appearances included parts in Clara, The Maid of Durham: Or Home Sweet Home (1955) and the BBC's "Musical Playhouse" Ivor Novello productions The Dancing Years (as Franzel, 1959) and Perchance To Dream (as Lord Failsham, 1959). He also had several roles in soap opera, on radio in Mrs Dale's Diary (as Dr Mitchell, who famously once sat on Mrs Freeman's cat) and Waggoners' Walk, and as George Banham in ITV's East Anglian vets serial Weavers Green (1966).
On television, Tuddenham was a regular as the pub landlord in Backs to the Land (1977-78) and as William in Double First (1988). He also guest-starred as priests in the sitcom Nearest and Dearest (1968) and the P.D. James thriller A Mind To Murder (1995), and played doctors in Quiller (1975), The Lost Boys (1978) and Nanny (1981, 1982) and an auctioneer in Lovejoy (1986).
At the age of 60, after spending more than half his adult life as an actor, Peter Tuddenham became most familiar to television viewers as the voices of three computers in the cult science-fiction serial Blakes 7.
  Phil Drabble, 'One Man and His Dog' presenter, has died aged 93 (1 August 2007)
A countryman through and through, the writer and naturalist Phil Drabble shared his love of nature and rural ways in dozens of books but, most famously, as the original presenter of One Man and His Dog, which provided the spectacle of working sheepdogs demonstrating their skills at rounding up flocks in lush, green fields and meadows, moving them around fences, gates and enclosures while following their handlers' whistles and commands.
He had made his radio début with a feature on the Black Country's bull-rings and bull-stakes for the BBC Midland Region in 1947. He continued to make contributions for the next 13 years, especially to the rural programme Countrylover, before presenting its successors, Countryside and In the Country, himself.
Drabble's television baptism came in 1952, when he was invited to show off his tame badger for a live broadcast and he was soon in demand for children's programmes. Then, in 1961, he left his day job to pursue writing and broadcasting full time and, three years later, began a weekly column in the Birmingham Evening Mail that ran until 1990.
One Man and His Dog, screened on BBC2, brought him national fame, as well as more television work, beginning with the rural magazine programme Country Game (1976-79), presented by Julian Pettifer, then Angela Rippon, with Drabble as a contributor.
Aileen Mills, radio actress and author, has died aged 96 (13 June 2007)
Aileen Mills was one of radio's earliest soap stars, playing in At The Luscombes, which began as a West Country forerunner of The Archers; for a time, the Luscombes and their brood were the nation's favourite radio family.
She was cast as Dot, a well-meaning but rather tiresome young woman, worrying mostly about what she was going to wear at the next dance, but whose character developed during the early 1950s into that of a responsible wife and mother.
Launched in September 1948, in the days of valve-powered Bakelite wireless sets, and heard only in the West Region of the old Home Service, At The Luscombes was not the first radio soap opera (that was The Robinsons, later The Front Line Family); however the serial predated The Archers, which was piloted as a Midlands regional fixture in May 1949 before being networked on the Light Programme from January 1951.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s she contributed plays and stories to BBC radio. These included dramatisations of historical episodes for schools radio or Children's Hour, versions of old favourites such as Treasure Island and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, and adaptations of HE Bates and Thomas Hardy.
  Dame Vera Lynn celebrates 90th Birthday (20 March 2007)
Lords and ladies turned out to pay their respects to Britain's Forces' Sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn, who has just celebrated her 90th birthday. The House of Lords hosted a special party sponsored by the Royal British Legion in the first of half-a-dozen parties for a woman whose singing inspired the nation during the darkest days of war.
As one of the guests told her: "You put a smile on everybody's face, even in those terrible times. Our wireless was always on."
A sprightly Dame Vera, who said she felt like she was aged 60, was in chatty mood as she mingled with her friends. Even now she is engaged in charity work for many causes, not simply those involving ex-servicemen.
She said: "I don't know where the years have gone. It is amazing what you can do for others. It is up to everybody to utilise whatever talents they have to use to help others inasmuch as they can. I hope I have spent my life well. I tried to do what I could to help others."
  Bill Threlfall, tennis player and commentator, has died aged 81 (12 March 2007)
Following a career in the Fleet Air Arm during the War, Threlfall's life behind a microphone began with ITV in the 1950s. A spell with BBC Radio followed. His last broadcasts were done with Sky Sports, for whom his annual trips to New York for the US Open were always a highlight of the year.
Threlfall will best be remembered, however, as a member of BBC-TV's commentary team at Wimbledon, where for some 30 years his mellifluous voice could be heard describing the action. As a former player who was still active as a coach, Threlfall spoke with authority about the game he loved and brought a sense of fun to his commentaries.
  Wally Ridley, EMI record producer, has died aged 93 (24 January 2007)
In 1948, Wally Ridley persuaded the BBC to broadcast a radio series live from a theatre. The series starred Donald Peers and his signature tune, which Ridley found, was "Powder Your Face With Sunshine". Ridley expected the BBC to mock his suggestion of a radio series featuring a ventriloquist, but Educating Archie with Archie Andrews and Peter Brough captured 20 million listeners and made household names of Beryl Reid, Max Bygraves, Harry Secombe and Tony Hancock. "I always think that Eric Sykes was the genius behind that series as he wrote the scripts and created the catchphrases," said Ridley:
"Max Bygraves stumbled over long lines and so he gave him short, little lines and it worked perfectly. When I made records with Maxie, I did exactly the same thing. I found him songs with short lines that he could punch in and we had lots of hits".
The same year Ridley joined EMI Records to build up a popular catalogue for the HMV label. The label, decimated by shellac shortages during the Second World War, only had regular releases from Joe Loss and George Melachrino and their orchestras. Very soon, Ridley was having success with Peers, Bygraves, Ronnie Hilton, Malcolm Vaughan, Bert Weedon and Don Lang. There was also Alma Cogan, known as "the girl with the giggle".
  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Concert - Workers' Playtime (posted 12 October 2006)
Friday 1 December, 7.30pm at Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Join the CBSO as they travel back across the airwaves to the bygone the age of the gramophone and wireless. In a glorious evening of British light music nostalgia, the Orchestra pays tribute to the long-running BBC radio programme Workers' Playtime on its 65th anniversary. Take a trip down memory lane with Elgar's Chanson de Matin, Wood's London Cameos, Sullivan's Iolanthe Overture, the theme tunes from The Forsyte Saga, In Town Tonight, Desert Island Discs, Dick Barton Special Agent, Workers' Playtime, and many more jaunty and well-loved British gems. Every composer featured in this concert has a fantastic gift of melody - come along tonight and you could be humming right through to Christmas!
Sir Malcolm Arnold, composer and trumpeter, has died aged 84 (25 September 2006)
Sir Malcolm Arnold had been composing since childhood, inspired, he once said, by a chance meeting with Duke Ellington in a Bournemouth tea room. Louis Armstrong was another influence. He wrote something like 130 film scores, ranging from his first. Avalanche Patrol, in 1947, to David Copperfield in 1969. Along the way, he collected a Hollywood Oscar, for his score for David Lean's film of The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). Other films on which he collaborated were I Am a Camera (1955), The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958), Suddenly, Last Summer (1959), The Angry Silence (1960), Tunes of Glory (1960) and Whistle Down the Wind (1961).
He once claimed that he only wrote film music so that he could conduct it himself and so gain experience in this area. He may just have been teasing, because many of these scores were highly effective. During this period he also composed three operas and three ballets as well as a quantity of works for the concert hall.
  Frank Middlemass, character actor, has died aged 87 (12 September 2006)
Florid-faced, bewhiskered and with a rich fruity voice, Frank Middlemass was one of Britain’s finest character actors. In a career that spanned more than 50 years, he appeared in seasons with the Old Vic and Royal Shakespeare companies, starred in numerous TV dramas and was best known on radio as Dan Archer in The Archers.
His television career began in the early 1950s in series such as Dixon of Dock Green and Z-Cars, and he also starred in early live TV dramas. By the 1980s he was one of television’s busiest actors, appearing in a host of series including The Avengers, Soldier Soldier, Dr Finlay, Miss Marple and others. In 1992 he was one of the original cast of the crime series Heartbeat, playing Dr Alex Ferrenby for 21 episodes. "I very much regret being killed off in Heartbeat," he said. "It was one of my favourite roles." In 1993 he played Clive Parrott in the series A Year in Provence, opposite John Thaw.
Middlemass’s film appearances were few but they were usually in distinguished productions such as Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon (1975), in which he played Sir Charles Lyndon, and the award-winning Second World War drama, One Against the Wind (1991), starring Judy Davis.
Archie Andrews is to make comeback (9 September 2006)
Legendary ventriloquist’s doll Archie Andrews is set to return to the stage for the first time in nearly four decades, after his new owner revealed he is scripting a stage play charting the puppet’s life story.
Colin Burnett-Dick, who bought Archie at auction for £34,000 last November had already also found a new ventriloquist to perform as part of the show - Eastbourne-based entertainer Steve Haylett.
According to Burnett-Dick, the newly-announced production will be “a celebration, a tribute, a walk down memory lane” into the puppet’s past and will feature actors playing many of the famous names who appeared on Archie’s radio show in the forties and fifties, including Tony Hancock, Max Bygraves and Julie Andrews.
He added: “We’re at the writing stage now. It’s going to be an autobiographical journey. It starts at the auction house where I bought Archie and will look back on his career up to then with ventriloquist Peter Brough.”
The show will also include the performance of a complete episode from the Educating Archie radio series. Burnett-Dick is now looking for a producer for the show, which he hopes to have up and running in 2007
  Margaret Hubble, radio broadcaster, has died aged 91 (9 September 2006)
Margaret Hubble was a stalwart of the airwaves for some 30 years, first as chief announcer for the BBC African Service and later on such programmes as Forces Favourites, the wartime record-request show, and Family Favourites, its immensely popular peacetime successor. She was also a friendly velvet-voiced presence on Woman’s Hour, Children’s Hour and children’s television.
She trained the presenter Jean Metcalfe before her debut. “Maggie showed me what to do,” Metcalfe recalled later. “ Turn the big black knob to open the microphone; talk sense with one half of your brain, while the other is reading the clock; never pause more than 15 seconds or the enemy will jam your wavelength; play Lillibullero before every news, and remember in an emergency ‘a good announcer has at hand a stirring military band’ .”
She was a contributor to Children’s Hour on the Home Service and introduced a series called Saturday Excursion, a TV programme about travel to interesting places, which ran from 1953 to 1957.
Maurice Bevan, baritone with the Deller Consort who also sang Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star on Listen with Mother has died aged 85 (21 July 2006)
Maurice Bevan was for more than 40 years the baritone with the Deller Consort, the vocal ensemble that heralded the renaissance of English Baroque and pre-Baroque music. His singing career was rich and varied, and included a similar period with the choir of St Paul's Cathedral as well as contributing regularly to the BBC Home Service's programme Listen With Mother. Midway through Listen with Mother, a plummy voice would ring out: "And here is Maurice Bevan to sing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." What followed would be a deep and resonant rendition of the nursery rhyme that would embed itself firmly in the psyche of many an impressionable toddler. So varied was Bevan's professional life that the same evening he might also be heard singing Compline - in an era when the BBC considered the service of the day worthy of broadcast.
  Hugh Latimer, radio, TV and stage actor has died aged 93 (24 June 2006)
Hugh Latimer' was a handsome, unambitious actor familiar to West End playgoers and television viewers for several decades. In parallel with his busy stage career, Latimer appeared in the film spin off from the wireless series PC 49 and in Mrs Dale's Diary, playing Bob Dale in the latter.
He was in television's Dixon of Dock Green and The Adventures of Robin Hood, Warship and Hunter's Walk, as well as The Dickie Henderson Show and Two in Clover, with Sid James.
After making his film debut in Corridor of Mirrors (1946) he appeared in Stranger at the Door (1951), The Last Man to Hang (1956) and the crime story The Gentle Trap (1960).
Richard Bebb, actor and connoisseur of the recorded voice, has died aged 79 (20 April 2006)
Richard Bebb was an erudite actor on stage, screen and radio whose deep interest in the history of acting turned him into a distinguished collector and student of the recorded theatrical voice. In 1950 he began working regularly in radio and television. He shared the narration with Richard Burton in the original wireless production of Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood, and appeared in more than 1,000 broadcast plays.
A prolific TV and film actor he often played doctors or upper-class figures. He made his TV debut in 1951 playing Octavius to Walter Hudd’s Julius Caesar and appeared in a string of drama series including Dangerman, Softly, Softly, Z Cars and Dixon of Dock Green. For several years he played Dr Harvest in the ITV lunchtime soap, Compact. He was Dr Orlov in Anna Karenina (1977) and Dr Stanhope in The Barchester Chronicles (1982). In recent years he was a regular face (and voiceover) in the Poirot series.
  William Davies, virtuoso pianist and master of the theatre organ, has died aged 84 (18 April 2006)
Willaim Davies was a household name for listeners to the BBC Light Programme. He was one of the most versatile musicians of his time, equally at home at the piano or organ, or when composing, arranging and conducting. He made his first broadcasts for the BBC as accompanist for the “interludes” that were a feature of live wireless and became organist of the Gaumont Theatre, Wolverhampton, and later the Gaumont, Finchley.
In 1953 he joined the Jack Hylton organisation as pianist, conductor and arranger — in particular at the Victoria Palace, where he worked with the Crazy Gang — while maintaining a very busy freelance career. This was the heyday of “Tin Pan Alley” and the golden age of light music. By 1956 he was a member of the London Studio Players, had his own quartet and went on to become the keyboard star in programmes such as MusicBox, Friday Night is Music Night and The Organist Entertains. With his own orchestra he made several series of Strings by Starlight. His extraordinary ability to improvise material to split-second timing was still in evidence in his seventies when he did a series of At the Piano broadcasts, playing fluently for precisely the required time, without rehearsal.
  Ken Sykora, musician and broadcaster, has died at the age of 82 (13 March 2006)
Ken Sykora was, at the peak of his career, one of Britain's most popular radio personalities. A multi-award-winning broadcaster and musician, he made regular appearances on all the BBC's networks. He led his own band in the 1950s, performing with Ted Heath at the London Palladium and Geraldo at the old Stoll Theatre. He was voted Britain's top guitarist five years running in Melody Maker's Readers' Polls.
Music led him into broadcasting and involvement in the creation of a veritable treasure trove of popular radio programming. He contributed to Today, Housewives' Choice, Radio Newsreel, Holiday Hour (with Cliff Michelmore), Home This Afternoon, and schools and sports programmes. The latter included the first radio series on sailing. He took part in the first experimental stereo broadcasts and the first use of radio cars on location.
Sykora's radio career entered its third decade in the 1970s. He was still working as a regular host on those perennial favourites, You and Yours and Start the Week, when he and his family decided to fulfil an ambition to move to Scotland to run the Colintraive Hotel on the Kyles of Bute.
  Ernest Dudley, Crime writer and dramatist has died aged 98. (4 February 2006)
Ernest Dudley was the pen name of Vivian Ernest Coltman-Allen. For enthusiasts of classic mystery fiction, his most enduring achievement was the creation of Dr Morelle, 'the man you love to hate!', psychoanalyst-detective and male chauvinist pig, whose detection powers were dazzling, but whose treatment of females, especially his fluttery secretary Miss Frayle, verged on the abominable.
Overbearing, sarcastic, patronising, contemptuous, cruel and unusually vindictive, Morelle was nevertheless doted upon by millions of listeners to his adventures on the radio in the 1940s and 1950s.
Phil Tate, who has died aged 83, led a popular dance band in the post-war years. (15 December 2005)
In 1950 Tate took up a residency at Hammersmith Palais. His band, which shared the billing with Lou Preager's orchestra, featured the unique blend of three flutes and five saxophones. He began recording ballroom dance music for the Oriole label and, with the launch of commercial television in 1955, made regular Friday night appearances on the Associated Rediffusion show Palais Party. Tate hosted the weekly radio show Non-Stop Pop on the BBC Light Programme, in which he interviewed current pop stars, including the Beatles. He also made regular television appearances with the band on the BBC's Come Dancing. more....
  Ken Mackintosh, bandleader and saxophonist has died aged 86 (29 November 2005)
Ken Mackintosh's suave orchestral accompaniments entertained London's West End.
To dancers at the great London ballrooms of the Empire, Leicester Square, and the Hammersmith Palais, the name of Ken Mackintosh was synonymous with suave orchestral accompaniments, which he provided for more than 14 years in the 1960s and 1970s.
To fans of Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey and Matt Monro, Mackintosh was the bandleader who frequently backed them on national tours. To enthusiasts of big band music, he was a musician who kept the spirit of the great 1940s swing dance orchestras alive, while providing more contemporary fare for younger audiences.
  Archie Andrews dummy sells for £34,000 (23 November 2005)
A private collector has paid £34,000 for the original Archie Andrews dummy used by ventriloquist Peter Brough in the 1950s radio show, Educating Archie. The dummy sold for more than double the £15,000 estimate at Taunton auctioneers Greenslade Taylor Hunt on Tuesday, where it was sold by Brough's family.
  Actress Avril Angers has died aged 87 (11 November 2005)
Avril Angers was one of the most zestful, charming and reliable character comediennes in the post-war London theatre; she also appeared in television series such as Dad's Army, All Creatures Great and Small, Are You Being Served?, Minder, Coronation Street and The Tomorrow People.
Her comic persona flourished on stage and television, particularly in provincial pantomime and in television partnerships with comedians like Benny Hill, Arthur Askey, Frankie Howerd, Terry-Thomas and Les Dawson, and in shows such as Dad's Army and Coronation Street.
She started broadcasting for the BBC radio service in 1944. It was when she was in Cairo with the troops that Douglas Moodlie saw her as a future radio personality, and Variety Bandbox gave her her big chance; followed by more than a year with the Carroll Levis radio show.
She had a topical musical slot called Look Back with Angers on the BBC radio show Roundabout, from which she was upset to be "given a rest" in 1959. From the 1930s through to the 1950s, she was a fixture as a cartoon character in Radio Fun, in a comic strip entitled The Adventures of Avril Angers
Archers star Mary Wimbush dies at 81 (1 November 2005)
Actress Mary Wimbush, who played Julia Pargetter-Carmichael on The Archers for 13 years, has died at the age of 81. Wimbush, a familiar voice on BBC radio for more than 60 years, died at the BBC's Birmingham studios shortly after finishing recording on Monday night. Julia was the actress' third major role in the BBC Radio 4 soap. She previously played village schoolteacher Elsie Catcher and Lady Isabel Lander. In 1946 she married the well-known actor Howard Marion-Crawford, a favourite of radio drama producers on both the Home Service and the new Third Programme, although the marriage did not last long. But both the Home and the Third were to become second home to her, especially during the 1950s through to the 1970s, when she was seldom out of the BBC studios.
Jenny Abramsky, director of BBC Radio and Music, said Wimbush had been "part of the fabric of BBC Radio drama since her first broadcast in 1945".
  Comedy actor, Ronnie Barker has died aged 76 (4 October 2005)
For more than 20 years Ronnie Barker was one of the leading figures of British television comedy. He was much loved and admired for his appearances in the long-running series The Two Ronnies, with Ronnie Corbett, as prison inmate Fletcher, in the series Porridge, and as Arkwright, the bumbling, stuttering, sex-obsessed shopkeeper in Open All Hours.
It was during the 1950s that he broke into radio. He was in 300 editions of The Navy Lark as A B Johnson (also known by the nickname 'Fatso').
Ronnie Barker first worked with Ronnie Corbett in The Frost Report and Frost on Sunday, programmes for which he also wrote scripts. In 1971 they teamed up for the first Two Ronnies.
BBC Obituary...
Telegraph Obituary
Independent Obituary...
Times Obituary...
  Composer, trumpeter and arranger Robert Farnon has died aged 87 (24 April 2005)
Bob Farnon composed many light music cameos for Chappell Music Publishers, primarily for use as background music in newsreels etc, but many of these pieces were recorded by Bob's and other orchestras, and often became familiar through their use as radio and TV signature tunes. Among his very well known compositions are 'Portrait Of A Flirt', 'Jumping Bean', 'Journey Into Melody', 'Melody Fair', 'Westminster Waltz' and 'Manhattan Playboy'. more....
Singing star Kathie Kay, 86, dies (9 March 2005)
Big band singing legend Kathie Kay, who belonged to a well-known Glasgow family, has died at the age of 86.
Her big break came in the 1950s when she was made resident singer on Billy Cotton's Band Show, which later switched from radio to television.
  Sound archive calls for lost relics (5 February 2004)
The British Library National Sound Archive are hoping that a rummage in the attic might unearth valuable radio recordings from the 1940s, 50s or 60s, or private recordings from earlier. While the archive has plenty of old-fashioned home tape players, gramophones and wax cylinder phonographs, it is keen to get hold of some of the rarer formats. The archive's Noel Sidebottom said: "We are particularly keen to get hold of dictating machines for the extinct tape formats."
  Andrew Dodds, prolific illustrator of books, newspapers and 'Radio Times' has died aged 77 (7 January 2005)
When, in 1951, the Radio Times wanted an artist to draw characters for the new broadcast serial The Archers, they made a shrewd choice in Andrew Dodds. He had been brought up on a farm and had illustrated for Farmers Weekly. Dodds created faces that would become inseparable from Dan and Doris Archer and their family. His models were close at hand: Dan was based on a neighbouring farmer near his home in Essex, Doris on Dodds's redoubtable mother Margaret, also a farmer.
Through to 1970, Dodds produced over 300 drawings for Radio Times. He was included in R.D. Usherwood's book Drawing for Radio Times (1961) and BBC Publications' The Art of Radio Times (1981) and was chosen by Martin Baker for the exhibition "Artists of Radio Times" at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford in 2002.
Cyril Fletcher has died aged 91 (2 January 2005)
Cyril Fletcher delivered odd odes in strangulated Cockney tones and was a surprising hit with television and radio audiences in a broadcasting career spanning more than sixty years. With his distinctive nasal twang and his contagious bonhomie Cyril Fletcher was one of Britain's most popular comedians.
In the post-war years, he was a regular in three series of the classic 1950s panel game What's My Line? and appeared in the first religious series, Sunday Story. He and his wife starred in Bob Monkhouse and Denis Goodwin's BBC sketch special Cyril's Saga (1957) and in the six-part series The Cyril Fletcher Show (1959), scripted by Johnny Speight. Fletcher was also a regular member of the panel in the BBC radio show Does the Team Think? As well as delivering his distinctive ditties, Cyril Fletcher was also, in his time, a cabaret artist, gardening expert and proud countryman.
Sidonie Goossens, the celebrated harpist ,has died aged 105 (16 December 2004)
Sidonie Goossens had a professional career as an orchestral player which lasted for nearly 70 years, probably an unrivalled achievement. She was the first solo harpist to broadcast, in 1923, and the first to appear on television, in 1936; the same year, she made front-page news in July when she was one of 50 Britons rescued from Barcelona by the destroyer Gallant when the Spanish Civil War broke out. She had been on holiday on the Costa Brava. Who could forget her harp introduction to 'Mrs. Dale's Diary'?
Molly Weir, the actress, has died aged 94 (29 November 2004)
At the start of her career, it was her distinctive Scottish accent and talent as a mimic in the 1940s which launched her as a member of the radio sketch show It's That Man Again (ITMA) where she became known to millions of radio listeners as Tattie McIntosh.
When the show ended with the death of Tommy Handley, she continued her radio work, and went on to another big success as Aggie in Life With the Lyons, which later transferred to television.
She went on to write a best-selling cookery book, eight volumes of autobiography and radio scripts for Woman's Hour, Children's Hour and Home This Afternoon.
Music hall star Billy "Uke" Scott has died aged 81 (23 November 2004)
Billy inspired three generations of ukelele players, composing, singing and writing a "teach-yourself" ukelele manual. A popular radio performer (he was one of the biggest variety stars in Britain in the 1940s and 1950s), his ability received its own tribute on BBC radio when, in a Goon Show script of 1954, Peter Sellers says: "Thank you, thank you. Tonight I have included in my repertoire Schubert's violin sonata, guest soloist Billy 'Uke' Scott."
Biography website
Max Geldray, harmonica player with The Goons, has died aged 88 (6 October 2004)
Geldray, known as "Conk" to listeners, performed alongside Goons Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers, Michael Bentine and Harry Secombe on the show. He was frequently introduced with such lines as "Mr Max Geldray will now play his new record in a reclining position", followed by "That was Mr Max Geldray imitating music". On occasion, he also had a speaking part, in which he never felt entirely at ease, not least because the others would ad lib with abandon. After he had stumbled his way through his lines the audience would be amiably assured that Mr Geldray was "the world's worst actor". He was also credited as the world's first jazz harmonica player, performing with Django Reinhardt in the 1930s.
  Les Ward - the surviving half of the musical novelty act Albert and Les Ward - has died at his Cardiff home, aged 82. (13 September 2004)
The Ward Brothers had appeared on many of variety’s biggest bills from the thirties until the early seventies. They predated artistes such as Lonnie Donegan and Chas McDevitt with their own version of skiffle, playing guitars, bicycle pumps, washboards and virtually anything - from kitchen or garden - that could accompany their country and western songs.
Albert and Les Ward became household names in the fifties on the BBC radio show "Welsh Rarebit". They made many comedy records and regularly appeared on radio shows such as "Variety Bandbox" and "Worker’s Playtime" They were regular guests on "Ignorance Is Bliss" being billed as “musical indiscretions with the Foulharmonic Orchestra”.
In the late fifties they were regularly featured as a leading support act at the London Palladium appearing with American stars such as Johnny Ray. They also appeared with Judy Garland at the Dominion Theatre.
Albert Ward died in 2001.
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