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Long before he became betterknown for his own radio show, Jimmy Young was a popular singer who had two big hits in 1955 with “Unchained Melody” and “The Man from Laramie”. By then, however, he had already recorded more than 80 songs, initially with Polygon before moving to Decca and then another 60 songs, mostly with Columbia.
Born in 1923 at Cinderford in the Forest of Dean near the River Severn in Gloucestershire, Jimmy had connections with rugby union at Bath and with rugby league at Wigan. Turned down as too young for the wartime Army he added two months to his age and joined the RAF instead, who sent him off to India where he became a physical training instructor.
Back home in civvy street he sang and played the piano which led to a contract with the small Polygon label, which had been recently established to promote the young Petula Clark. He did reasonably well at a firm which relied on bigger record companies to actually press its songs, and when his recording of “Too Young” brought him to wider notice it was only a matter of time before he moved to a bigger label in search of more success.
The early Fifties saw him performing in Manchester with the BBC Northern Variety Orchestra, later the NDO ( see Evergreen, Summer 2012) conducted by Ray Martin. The announcer was Trevor Hill and the two struck up a friendship which survived both of them trying to put off the other by pulling faces while live on air.
Now popular in pantomime, in variety theatres and on radio, he reached his singing peak in the mid- Fifties with both “Unchained Melody” and “The Man from Laramie” reaching the coveted number one slot in the pop charts. He also did well with other songs, especially “Eternally”, “Chain Gang” and “More” all of which reached the top ten but when the rock and roll era suddenly burst on the scene he, like most of the other sentimental ballad singers, was left out in the cold.
A period of relative inactivity followed, but during the Sixties he was invited to host Housewives’ Choice on BBC radio and his easy relaxed patter quickly led to him compering Saturday Roundabout leading to his own daily programme called Through Till Two, the precursor to the Jimmy Young Show which ran for 35 years from 1967 until 2002 when it was axed by a BBC which was trying to attract younger listeners to Radio 2. Jimmy — by now Sir Jimmy because he had been knighted for his great services to broadcasting the same year — was not at all happy and neither was his dedicated band of followers who felt something special had, once again, been prematurely removed from the BBC airwaves by someone out of touch with the mature and older generation. They were quite right but just why were they so annoyed?
The fact is that just like Terry Wogan, Jimmy Young had a way with words which appealed to his audience and made them feel at home. Despite his apparent laid- back approach, however, he managed to extract detailed information from the famous, especially politicians, that other allegedly greater interviewers never achieved. Roy Hattersley described it as “Courtesy with a cutting edge”, while Jimmy himself said “You catch more flies with honey rather than with vinegar!” Balance this against the mundane and general routine, and his programme was hard to match.
Cookery recipes were a favourite topic with several books published on cuisine. The bouncy theme tune was “Town Talk” played by Ken Woodman and his Piccadilly Brass and, although Jimmy was technically a DJ ( disc jockey), rather like Wogan his programme, which he liked to refer to as “The JY Show”, was a cut above the rest. Aged 95, Jimmy died in November 2016.
In 2002 “Too Young” suddenly became “too old” when, much against his wishes, Jimmy was removed from his long- running radio show. At the age of 91, however, he was honoured with a Doctorate of Art by the University of Gloucestershire for outstanding...
Awarded an OBE in 1979, Jimmy Young was knighted for services to broadcasting in 2002.
This 45rpm EP ( extended play) record included Jimmy’s two number one chart toppers, “The Man from Laramie” and “Unchained Melody” plus “More”, which made it to number four, and “Round and Round” which reached number 30. After a spell in the...
Jimmy Young had more success than anyone when interviewing prime ministers and the royal family, his gentle questioning concealing a steely resolve at uncovering information. Margaret Thatcher appeared 14 times and said Jimmy Young was her favourite...
The Jimmy Young Show