We celebrate the 50th anniversary of Radio 1 with DJ Tony Blackburn
Veteran DJ Tony Blackburn, who spoke the first words on Radio 1 in 1967, shares his memories of that musical milestone with Pam Francis
At 7am, on Saturday, 30 September 1967, a very young Tony Blackburn uttered the words he will never forget. ‘And good morning, everyone. Welcome to the exciting new sound of Radio 1.’
On 30 September this year – also a Saturday – he’ll be back in the BBC studio recreating the same show to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the music station that’s been the soundtrack to so many of our lives.
‘They’re even bringing in turntables and the vinyl records are being polished so that we do it exactly the way it was done all those years ago, instead of just pushing a button on a screen, which is how it works now,’ says the 74-year-old DJ, who seems to have just as much energy as he did back then when we meet at Wogan House in London.
‘I think it’s a fabulous idea to remake the original show, but the kids listening will probably wonder what on earth this old bloke is doing on Radio 1!’
At the age of 24 and already a favourite from his three years on the pirate radio ships Radio Caroline and Radio London, Tony couldn’t quite believe his luck when he was chosen to launch the exciting new radio station. Until then, he’d been allowed to play pop music for only 45 minutes a week on The Light Programme on a show called Midday Spin.
He still remembers when he arrived at the BBC dressed in a suit and tie and called everyone ‘Sir’ only to be met by older producers wearing their 1960s ‘Flower power’ T-shirts and jeans.
‘The first thing they asked me was for my script. I said, ‘Well, I don’t really have one, I just ad lib.’ The producer said, ‘If you don’t mind, we’ll have to do some sort
of script otherwise I’ll have to cancel the coffee and doughnuts while we rehearse.’ And he showed me an Alan Freeman script which had typed on it: ‘Not ’arf, hey hey!’ recalls Tony, laughing.
‘So that was my introduction to the BBC. I’d always joked with the others on pirate radio that if we ever got to the BBC, I was sure there would be a dear old lady sitting there, knitting a jumper. And there was! It was her job to open up the microphone on the first show I did for them, by which time she’d completed a sleeve! But then, of course, Radio 1 coming in modernised everything.’
Both Tony and fellow DJ Kenny Everett were invited to design the first Radio 1 studio where, instead of knocking on a window to cue the person playing the discs, they played their own records on turntables.
And he still recalls every moment of the first-ever Radio 1 show called Daily Disc Delivery.
‘I wasn’t at all nervous, just excited. This was the highlight of my career, and there was a huge build-up to the launch. The BBC was determined to embrace how things had been done on the pirate ships. We had the same jingle package as Radio London,’ says Tony.
For those of us who can remember, the first record played on Radio 1 was Flowers In The Rain by The Move.
‘I picked that as it was doing well in the charts and had that crashing noise at the beginning
The DJ with his wife Debbie and daughter Victoria
A young Tony in the studio back in 1967 Radio 1 had its own signature tune called by the George Martin Orchestra.