Phil Squire, now managing editor at Radio Leeds, worked with Mike at Radio Humberside. He pays tribute to his colleague and friend.
Mike Hurley was a lion of a man who created a radio world every Saturday morning which was award winning, infectious, creative, irreverent and a joy to be involved with. Originally created on Radio Aire in Leeds, “Hurley Burley” came to BBC Local Radio in the mid 1980s and was, quite simply unique.
Unmistakeable with his thick and unruly thatch of browny, ginger hair, his big beard and his frame in excess of six-feet tall, matching his enormous personality, there was no way you could ever ignore him.
When I first encountered Mike Hurley, he scared me witless. It was the late 1980s and I was the brand new member of BBC Radio Humberside’s sports team which obviously meant working every Saturday. Mike was the presenter of “Hurley Burley”, his Saturday mid morning show which included a short preview of the afternoon’s football matches for the less than glamorous Hull City, Grimsby Town and Scunthorpe United. I was nervous enough on my first Saturday and Mike did absolutely nothing to alleviate the nerves when, in asking his first question of me he did so, unannounced, in the most perfect Sean Connery impression you’ll ever hear and conducted the whole “chat” in a similar vein.
Mike’s vocal gymnastics were his trademark, and his livelihood. He was enormously proud of the fact that he was heard on dozens of radio stations every day, and often on the television as one of the finest, and much sought-after, voiceover artists in the business. Whether it was Hovis Bread, The Mirror newspaper or Ambrosia Cream Rice on the telly (“Devon knows how they make it so creamy”) or a clearance sale at the local furniture warehouse on your local commercial radio station, he could turn his voice to anything as required.
I subsequently spent four years as his producer an experience which I used to liken to controlling a bag of ferrets. Mike was ahead of his time in his creative use of jingles, sound effects and characters. He was the maverick who hated radio “cheese” and during a period when insincerity and painted smiles were the apparent trademarks of radio presenters, he was the one who’d actually tell you how it REALLY was with a genuine wit and exasperation which immediately connected with his audience. His most famous radio invention rightly won him a SONY award. Bill Bore, the archetypal, flat capped, opinionated Yorkshireman who was a weekly highlight of the show took the Local Radio Personality of the Year award in 1986.
Mike could be a nightmare to produce. He wouldn’t suffer fools gladly and was non too enamoured of managers who tried to mould him into something he wasn’t….but you’d roll with the punches because you knew that five minutes after he’d had a rant at you, he’d come out with some radio magic which would have you smiling for the rest of the day. He’s the only man I know who, when faced with the new system of logging the music he played, brought his shopping into the studio to register the barcodes rather than those on the CD cases.
And he was passionate about many things besides radio…. Northamptonshire County Cricket, Local Rugby Union, his battered old Volvo estate and buses. How many other radio presenters owned an original London Routemaster with the registration plate 007 and had a licence to drive it? The last time I saw Mike was two months ago, driving a coach through our village, grinning broadly and tooting the horn to give me a cheery wave. Mike Hurley was a one off and radio is a poorer place without him
Other colleagues of Mike add their memories
I regarded Mike as a friend as well as a colleague. As a broadcaster he was inspirational, creative, funny and clever. I admired the way he could tell a tale about his day to day life and turn it into a hugely entertaining monologue. He knew how to stretch the imagination of anyone listening as he used his gift of voices, accents and his impressive command of words.
He had an endearing way of not worrying about conforming which seemed to sharpen his skill as a communicator. Although that skill had two extremes, in a studio he was always fully confident and yet in front of a live audience he was shy and uncomfortable. - I’ve held his hand (not literally) at one or two public events.
I got to know Mike and his family well, and over many years enjoyed the hospitality of the Hurley household, by that I mean copious amounts of alcohol !!! Mike knew how to have a good time, I was honoured when he entrusted me to supply the entertainment for his daughter’s 21st birthday party and eventually her wedding celebrations at their family home. Two of the most memorable occasions I’ve had the privilege to be a part of, mainly because of the big man’s presence. As the expression goes “they broke the mould”, there’ll never be another Mike Hurley – God Bless You Mike.
Steve Massam, BBC Radio Humberside presenter
I worked with Mike on many Saturday mornings on Radio Humberside. He was very skilled at telling a funny story, often based on things that had happened to him, and keeping your interest from start to finish.
Among those I can still remember after all these years was one about a trip he and his wife had taken to Paris during which he'd been comprehensively ripped off at the Follies Bergere thanks to the ludicrously overpriced Champagne. Another was the time he'd rented out his beloved bus to a film company. They loaded it with bowler-hatted, brolly carrying actors who were then instructed to ram their brolly tips into the bus's ceiling, giving Mike's pride and joy a distinctly 'dimpled' appearance. Mike's telling of the story, especially his horror at the damage being wreaked on his precious vehicle, was hilarious.
Stephen Edwards, News Producer, Radio Humberside
I'll never forget every Saturday morning - I used to present the next show after Mike on BBC Radio Humberside in the mid 1990s on a Saturday lunchtime. I'd listen to him when driving to work, including Bill Bore and the Hurley Burley jingles! He used to call me The Head Boy because those awful presenter photos which we had in the old BBC building used to hang on the walls going up the stairs. Mine was at the very top of the stairs, with Mike directly underneath me. My stare was apparently reminiscent of a head school boy - telling Mike off!
Jeremy Buxton, presenter Radio York
He had a Volvo 240 estate in which he clocked up an astronomical mileage. I remember him being surprised and pleased when he was mentioned in the high mileage list in the Volvo company's magazine
Martin Cox, Radio Humberside Engineer
I worked with Mike, as his production assistant, on the Hurley Burley show from his first programme at Radio Humberside until 1990. I remember him as a BIG character - not just with his array of character voices but also for his opinions, personality and lifestyle. Mike appeared, when I knew him, to live his life as though he was trying to cram a week of living into each day (always working, working, working). So, whilst his death at the too young age of 59 is deeply sad, we can acknowledge that - in the time he had - he certainly packed a lot into it.
I remember Mike as a forthright man who would challenge and enjoy being challenged. A strong personality, he didn't suffer fools gladly - but I saw him as a man who respected hard work, strong views and character in others.
I remember the laughs we would have, through the studio glass, from 9-12 every Saturday - he had a naughty humour when he got going, and I remember his teasing of Gloria Johnson well (which used to give him great delight). It was with pride that I was able to have to have worked with him when he won his Sony Award.
Life moved on and I left Radio Humberside in 1991 and never got to work with Mike again. However, it wasn't the last time I was to see him. I live and work in London and, one day, I was heading back to my office - only to have a whirl wind of a man whiz past me and, almost as quickly, whiz back. It was Mike! We hadn't seen each other for about six years but it was like we had only talked the day before. It was lovely to see him and, before moving on, he gave me one of his promotional videos!
BBC Radio Humberside's mantra of the 1980's was: "We're All You Need!"
Mike Hurley was All You Got!
Indeed, he was All You Had!
And was All You Ever Wanted!
Plus, Mike was All You Ever Remembered!
Finally, he will be All The Radio Talent You Ever Needed!
Mike…….Your Life Was All We Ever Asked For!!!!!!!
Dave Gibbons, former Radio Humberside Sports Editor
A special message from the snug of Dog and Gun:
NNOOWW then Mike…Bill Bore here
Me and the lads in the snug wanted to say a few words about your sad passing.
Being Life members of the Mytholmroyd Ferret Breeders and Convalescent Society, we know what makes a good Northerner and you were certainly that…even if you were “adopted”. Not only that but you were a belting Radio Presenter who knew how to tell it straight….Unlike some of these Young’uns of today who reckon you’ve got to sound like you’ve got a peg on ‘t end of your nose and a mouth full of Christmas tinsel to be able to appeal to t’ masses.
If sommat wasn’t right with life, you’d ruddy well say so and if anybody used to ring in to argue with you, you’d put em straight….In a nice way like… and with a wit which was quicker than our Doris closing her purse on Pension collection day.
It was grand listening to you on a Saturday morning while I was scraping the pigeon loft out and telling that young councillor from next door about how this country SHOULD be run. Especially when you’d spin a yarn about what you’d been up to that week and it was an honour to be invited to air my modest thoughts each week. I DON’T miss having to race around ‘Umberside, or whatever the fancy name for the East Riding is these days, in my car trying to spot Radio ‘Umberside car stickers and phone you in with the description of the car and it’s registration number just so as you could give the owner 95.9 pence worth of Cow heel and Tripe.
But, to be fair, all pigeon fanciers used to love it when you’d tell us every week when pigeons would be liberated. It used to right tickle me when you’d put that daft voice on to read the times out and play that Battle of Britain” music or whatever it was, by way of accompaniment. It used to tickle me that much that I’d call Doris in from Mangling the washing in the back yard to listen.
…But we can’t do that any more, and radio won’t be the same.
So, Cheers Mike….rest assured that all in the snug are raising a glass to you
…And it’s back to the show DADDIO