Last updated: 22 July 2010
Wind up the gramophone and let Dewi Griffiths transport you back to the golden years of entertainment with Sunday morning's A String of Pearls.
Dewi was born in Ton Pentre in the Rhondda Valley in 1931. His father became the librarian at the Workmen's Hall and Institute, and part of the building was the family home. The Institute also provided the village with a cinema, which was why Dewi grew up seeing almost every film that came out of Hollywood and the British Film Studios throughout the 30s and 40s - and was very much influenced by the musicals of those years.
The family wireless was hardly ever switched off and a day at home was never without the sound of the Dance Bands on the BBC. With a piano in the living room on which his mother played the popular songs of the time he grew up with a wide knowledge of the songs and singers of what he refers to as 'The Golden Age of Entertainment'. During Dewi's three years with the Royal Air Force he became a member of a small jazz group and with his imitations of famous Hollywood musical stars he became the opening act of The RAF Revue Show. He also formed and skippered the Rugby XV at RAF Luneburg.
Dewi joined the BBC in May 1954 as a Probationary Technical Assistant with The Welsh Home Service in the control room and studio centre at Park Place, Cardiff, making full use of his work as a Radar Technician during his RAF days. He transfered to television in 1956 at the BBC TV building at Baynton House, Llandaff, the site of today's Broadcasting House. Along the way he was a Vision Engineer, a Cameraman, a Sound Supervisor, balancing the microphones for outside broadcasts and the choirs and BBC Orchestra in the studio.
In 1961 Dewi became an OB Stage Manager with Peter Dimmock's Outside Broadcast production team in London, returning at the end of 1962 to join the legendary Welsh Outside Half, Cliff Morgan, the newly appointed Sports Organiser and Tom Davies, the radio producer, as BBC Wales formed its very own Sports Department. Over the next 30 years Dewi directed the cameras at every rugby match played at Cardiff Arms Park, his first being Wales v England in 1963, live into Grandstand, with three cameras, no action replay and no zoom lenses. Dewi has particularly fond memories of The 'Golden Years' of the 70s and the famous 1973 Baabaas defeat of The All Blacks.
Dewi continued to work on BBC Network Sports coverage during these years, covering Horse Racing, Boxing, Rugby League, Golf, Cricket, Wimbledon Tennis Championships, the Olympic Games, and Lions Rugby Tours. Among his Wimbledon Final matches were the win by Australian John Newcombe and Australia's Yvonne Goolagong beating Billy Jean Moffat. In July 1967, Dewi's coverage of the quarter-final match between Britain's Roger Taylor, and South Africa's Cliff Drysdale launched the Colour Television Service of the BBC.
But Dewi never forgot his early days in the Rhondda with those stars of radio and Hollywood providing constant entertainment for his family, community and of course, the whole of the UK. It was all before television arrived and those wonderful memories were to be the key to Dewi's twilight career as a BBC Radio Wales Disc Jockey, introducing original recordings of the songs and stars of yesteryear every Sunday morning since October 1988 in his popular programme, A String of Pearls. He's particularly pleased that because of the internet he has fan mail from, literally, all over the world. It's even more pleasing when a couple who have been married for 50 or 60 years, or more, hear a song that was part of their early romantic life together. It's all about musical memories!
Hear Dewi on BBC Radio Wales every Sunday morning playing a selection of musical memories from the golden years of entertainment in A String of Pearls at 9.30 AM. (Repeated Sunday nights at 8.00pm.)
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