Entertainment & Arts

Profile: Tony Blackburn

Tony Blackburn in 1971
Image caption Tony Blackburn when he was presenting the Radio 1 breakfast show

Tony Blackburn is one of Britain's best known DJs and is known as one of the hardest working radio presenters in the country having presented shows on a number of radio stations.

Born in Surrey in 1943, he started his career as a singer while still at college, and spent three years singing with a dance band at the Bournemouth Pavilion Ballroom.

Blackburn got into radio when he read in the music press that DJs were wanted by a pirate radio station.

He successfully applied and made his first radio appearance on Radio Caroline South in 1964.

"I was 21 years old going out there on there on the North Sea and playing all this wonderful music," he told OK!TV on Channel 5 in 2011.

"Nobody in this country had ever heard radio like it before. It had an enormous impact.

"I remember going to New York and sat in a hotel room for two days and just listened to American radio. I thought that's what we must have in this country - and we were able to go out and do it."

He then joined Radio London in 1966 and introduced the first ever soul programme in the UK.

Image caption Tony Blackburn is pictured top left in 1967 with the starting line up of Radio 1 DJs and the Radio 2 line up - including Pete Murray, John Peel, Terry Wogan, Kenny Everett and Jimmy Young

In 1967 Blackburn became the first person to broadcast on Radio 1 and hosted the breakfast show until 1974.

He remained at Radio 1 until 1984 and while at the station he became a household name. He also hosted Top of the Pops throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

"The Radio 1 DJs were a massive attraction. We were mobbed everywhere we went," he told the Guardian in 2014.

Image caption Tony Blackburn signs pictures for fans at Radio 1's 10th anniversary disco

After Radio 1 his career moved into local radio.

He worked at BBC London where he hosted a soul programme and consequent weekly club nights called Soul Nights.

He left to join Capital Radio in 1988 and launched their new Capital Gold station where he presented his soul shows until 2002.

He also presented soul shows on Jazz, Smooth and the Real Radio Network and spent four years presenting the Classic Gold Network breakfast show.

He joined the Smooth weekend breakfast show in 2008 and also presented shows on KCFM in Hull and KMFM across Kent.

Over the years he gained a reputation for being "cheesy" and author of cringe-inducing one liners.

Paul Whitehouse's comically dim character DJ Dave Nice (half of Smashie and Nicey), was said to be based on him.

But he told The Telegraph in 2010 he had no regrets. "I'm an entertainer, I've got to entertain. So what if people say I'm cheesy? Nothing wrong with that."

In 1977, when he split from his actress wife Tessa Wyatt, he played Chicago's If You Leave Me Now repeatedly on his radio show and begged for her to return. This he calls his "one big broadcasting mistake".

Image caption In 2007 Tony Blackburn returned to Radio 1 to present a special show with Chris Moyles to celebrate Radio 1's 40th birthday

In 2002 his career saw an upturn when he won the first series of I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.

Speaking to Piers Morgan in 2014, he said he "loved doing the programme".

"I thought it was terrific... it was terribly flattering, I had no idea that I would win it. To win something like that was tremendous, I really wanted to do it because it was the first one."

But he said he never saw it as a way to revive his career.

"I never thought of myself as being a joke, when I left Radio 1 when my contract wasn't renewed after 17 years, I didn't realise how far down I'd got, but I didn't go into the jungle to re-establish myself, it wasn't the point, it was a television programme that I found quite fascinating."

In 2010 he returned to national radio when he took over Radio 2's Pick of the Pops programme from long-serving host Dale Winton.

He called it his dream job. "I was 37 when I left Radio 1, and 2 seemed a natural progression. So it's only taken 30 years,'' he told The Telegraph.

Image caption Tony Blackburn presented Top of the Pops through the 1960s and 1970s

Although he admits he "wasn't the greatest singer", he also kept up his singing from his early days and has released 29 singles over the years, which were brought together in an album in 2012.

Blackburn has won 36 awards across his career.

In 2014 he won his second lifetime achievement from the Radio Academy for 50 years' service to broadcasting.

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