Chris Evans? Or Sara Cox? That bloke from Kiss? Who are your top broadcasters?
PUBLISHED: 14:05 06 September 2018 | UPDATED: 14:12 06 September 2018
Is it on-the-move Chris Evans? Or Sara Cox? Or maybe that bloke from Kiss? Do let us know who puts a spring in your step
So Chris Evans is off at Christmas, to scale another mountain in Radio World. Always brave – always wise – not to overstay your welcome and sink so low into your comfy chair that you struggle to clamber out again. And that’s been a fundamental part of his success over the years – the desire to avoid getting stuck in a rut.
To be frank, Mr Evans isn’t really my aural cup of breakfast tea – still a little too laddishly chirpy for me, even on BBC Radio 2 – but he’s undeniably bright and creative. Britain’s broadcasting scene would be a lot more monotone had it not been for his creative drive and shows such as Channel 4’s The Big Breakfast and Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush, and the time at fabulous Radio 1.
So, Grumpy (said my colleagues), who do you like to listen to? All right. Here goes. My 10 Favourite Radio Personalities of All Time. (It’s national broadcasters. Don’t want to upset our brilliant East Anglian Artists of the Airwaves by ranking them, do I? If I did include locals, Alan Partridge would be right up there. Obviously. Sorry, Alan.)
10 Julian Worricker: I still miss this broadcaster (who we could claim as semi-local, if we were so minded, as his parents lived on the Essex/Suffolk border). His time with Victoria Derbyshire was a halcyon period for BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast.
Julian’s calm voice signalled authority, yet there was always room for “sensible mischief” in the right measure. You’d want your doctor to sound like him if there was bad news to impart. (Indeed, his first boss apparently said Julian had “valium instead of blood”.)
He still pops up on radio, and the Beeb’s 24-hour news channel, but should be back on a regular, daily, radio slot.
9 Eddie Mair: Why did the Smooth-Tongued One trade in BBC Radio 4’s news magazine show PM for LBC’s drive-time slot last month? Heatstroke from the summer sun? He’ll surely be back one day with his hard-to-pull-off mix of professionalism and raised-eyebrow scepticism. An object lesson in how you can drop in precision-guided questions because your gentle and measured style mesmerises interviewees like that snake on The Jungle Book and they don’t sense it coming.
8 John Peel: Every creative organisation needs a maverick, and this man from Merseyside who found that East Anglia suited him very well was BBC Radio’s. He did things his own way, skirted the nonsense, and it worked. (Lesson for managers and executives here.) He connected with rising talent decades younger than he, and his lack of ego attracted listeners in their droves. He died 14 years ago and is much missed.
7 Simon Mayo: Fiddlesticks. I might be breaking my own rules here. A bit. Mr M once had a home on the Suffolk coast, and might well still have. Let’s gloss over that, for Simon has emollient tones and, like Mr Peel, is happy to pass the limelight to his guests and topics. That is to say, it’s not about him – though I know from interviewing him long ago that he does have views (and he’s also a novelist of acclaim).
At his best doing the film review with Mark Kermode, where they complement each other perfectly. Someone you can imagine having a pint with of an evening and never tiring of his company.
6 Alistair Cooke: The thing about the modern world is that it’s increasingly about “now”, and space for reflection and historical context is pushed to the margins. His weekly Letter from America ran on the BBC from 1946 to 2004. Incredible.
I might not have agreed with everything he said, but he showed us the soul of the States. If I were a radio executive in the Trump era, I’d be hunting 24/7 for the new Alistair Cooke. Time to post a new letter.
5 Danny Baker: We wouldn’t be the best of pals – he’s a quick-witted and bubbly south-east Londoner and I’m not – but he’s a radio one-off (and he writes darn good autobiographies, too). I’d love to spend a day dwelling in his imagination – it would be like Willy Wonka meets Fantasia – and then I’d need a long lie-down. But what a day it would be.
Who else would have a phone-in about wearing famous clothes… and be rewarded by a caller telling how his father wore American president Jimmy Carter’s suit to his wedding?
The NHS should rent him per day, sit him in a hospital ward and watch recovery rates rise. Radio execs should keep folk like him away from bureaucracy and protocols and watch creativity levels rise.
4 Tony Blackburn: Deserves it for being so chirpy (well-publicised irritations permitting) for so long: from the choppy waters of Radio Caroline, round the block, and still on BBC Radio 2. Sounds as fresh, timeless and enthusiastic as ever – and at 75. That passion for music and broadcasting is infectious.
3 Jane Garvey: Jane’s like your normal and intelligent friend who is professional and polite but also isn’t afraid to point out when the emperor has no clothes or something needs saying.
On BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour she asks the questions the listener wants answered. Thank goodness her early forays into the world of work – medical records clerk, advertising agency worker (sacked) – did not last and the journey continued to Broadcasting House.
2 Terry Wogan: Is it sacrilege to suggest Tel was miscast as the main presenter of Children in Need, where he rarely looked comfortable, and that his Eurovision commentary left me lukewarm? Doesn’t matter what I think. Lots of people loved the cut of his jib – and his main radio career, breakfast on BBC Radio 2 from 1972 and again from 1993, outshines everything.
This was what people needed to bolster them for the commute or school drop-off to come: a warm, witty, daft but intelligent, banterish friend across the table who amused but didn’t hector or shout.
And beloved by his army of ardent fans.
1 Kirsty Young: Surprised? All right, it’s not like becoming the new incumbent of the Tardis, but listeners of BBC Radio 4 are very proprietorial about the things they cherish. So taking over as host of Desert Island Discs in 2006 was A Big Deal. There was, apparently, a bit of early listener resistance, but they must surely now be solid converts.
I want a talk show to expose the heart of the soul of its subject – not be a vehicle to showcase its host – and Kirsty succeeds brilliantly on both counts.
Her easy, friendly, charming, light-hearted manner camouflages a locked-on laser-beam-like determination to ask the questions that matter: about David Walliams’ fight against depression, for instance, or David Cameron’s disabled son.
At such moments you stop doing the washing up, stand stock-still and hold your breath.
Let’s hope her break brings some relief from fibromyalgia and that she’s back soon, doing what she does best.
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