Bob Stanley Meets Brian Matthew

My name is Bob Stanley. I'm a writer and musician, and I've been a fan of sixties music since I was old enough to read the labels of my mum and dad's Decca, Pye and Top Rank 45s. I first remember hearing Brian Matthew's rich voice when he presented My Top Twelve in the seventies, Radio 1's version of Desert Island Discs – before long, I read about his work on Saturday Club, Easybeat and Thank Your Lucky Stars in the sixties, and have been a Sounds Of The Sixties 'avid' since it started back in the mid eighties. So I was more than excited to be asked to write this blog celebrating Brian's life and career. I first met him two years ago, when I was writing a piece for MOJO magazine - it was a great pleasure but slightly strange to be sat opposite the man whose voice I'd listened to for so long. I went back to meet Brian at his home in Kent earlier this month to talk about Sounds Of The Sixties, which he has now presented for almost 25 years, and his 50-plus years in broadcasting. The best place to start, it seemed, was at the beginning.

There's only two things to remember - don't go on air drunk, and don't swear.
Brian Matthew

"How did I end up in broadcasting? It happened while I was in the army. I'd been in an ordnance depot in this country for a couple of years. Then, suddenly to my amazement and distress - because it was quite late in the day - they decided to draft me to Germany in 1948, and I ended up in another ordnance depot. So I thought while I was there why didn't I try and get in on this forces radio caper? Family Favourites, and that sort of thing. I applied for an audition, and thought it went quite well. Months and months later, I was still stuck in this depot, so I rang the radio station and asked 'what's going on?' Which is just as well, as they said 'We don't know. We wanted you, and asked for you!' It had been buried by stupid people in the admin side. I had a talk with the Brigadier and they transferred me to British Forces Network - BFN - in Hamburg immediately.”

Brian's confidence in getting a job with forces radio stemmed from his background. He was born in Coventry in 1929, and had grown up wanting to be an actor. Once he was stationed in Hamburg, he worked with some illustrious figures. "We were based in what had been an old opera house, and lived in a hotel. The guys in charge there included Cliff Michelmore (presenter of BBC1's Holiday from 1969 to 1986) who was head of variety, and Raymond Baxter (later, the presenter of the BBC's Farnborough Air Show coverage and Tomorrow's World) who was head of the announcing department. He'd not long been out of the RAF, a terribly hoo-ray chap. When he first met me he said 'There's only two things to remember - don't go on air drunk, and don't swear.' I thought crikey, what sort of set-up is this? Of course I broke all the rules. Not intentionally."

Brian retains an obvious fondness for his first break in broadcasting. "I was only there for nine months, because I was due for demob then, but I thoroughly enjoyed every minute at BFN. It gave me the opportunity of learning how to do pretty well every aspect of the business. Disc programmes, obviously, and interviewing people - we had our own concert orchestra which was quite classy. It was smashing, I couldn't have had a better introduction."

What are your first memories of Brian? In next week's blog we'll hear about Brian's first experience at the BBC, and why he has skiffle to thank for it.