Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Ed Doolan

For four decades Ed Doolan was one of the broadcasters that defined radio for the listening folk of the West Midlands. An intelligent interviewer, a champion of consumer affairs and with one of the biggest contact books in the business Aussie-born Ed became an honorary Brummie on BRMB and BBC WM. His death was announced today.

Born in 1941 in Sydney, Australia Ed had always wanted to be a broadcaster but his parents had other ideas and were keen for him to have a career in teaching.  But that didn't stop him hanging around the Macquarie Broadcasting audience shows in the 50s and 60s to get his radio fix.

Like many fellow young Australians he chose to pursue his career in the UK and in 1966 he became a teacher in Edinburgh and then London. By 1970 he'd moved across to West Germany as part of an exchange programme and dipped his toe into radio at Deutsche Welle. "Some friends who had contacts in Cologne told me they needed an English voice on German Overseas Radio. Mine was near enough".  His first broadcast was in September of that year on a 15-minute documentary called Hitch-Hikers in Germany. He also presented Afrika-Englisch Current Affairs for Deutsche Welle, Deutschlandfunk English transmissions to Britain and Top Marks School Quiz for the BFBS.     

Ed moved back to the UK and joined the newly launched BRMB station in Birmingham. Initially presenting the weekday afternoon show he later moved into mid-mornings, a timeslot that later would become his natural home for many years. He was keen to hone his craft and took to recording his own shows. "Every night when I go home I listen to every link," he said in 1975. If  something had gone wrong "I will sit and listen to it two or three times until I have put my finger on where it went wrong". Incidentally Ed was a keen home taper and his archive of TV and radio shows have since helped fill some of the gaps left after broadcasters junked their tapes.   

In September 1982 he jumped over to the opposition at BBC WM presenting a show between 12 noon and 1 pm, later on the breakfast show and then a mid-morning show. As well as covering the news stories of the day he would interview many politicians and celebrities - some of those celebrity set piece interviews have enjoyed repeats on Radio 7/4 Extra. By 1988 his programme started to champion the cause of his listeners and he was adept at challenging local government and companies to sort out injustices and shoddy service.  His broadcasting style was, albeit briefly, recognised by network radio when he sat in for Jimmy Young on Radio 2 in 1995 and 1996 but he remained loyal to his West Midlands audience.  He was awarded an MBE for his services to broadcasting and charity, won a Gillard Award and was inducted into the Radio Academy Hall of Fame.

In 2011 he stepped down from his daily show, Lunch with Ed Doolan - at the time he was also presenting a Sunday afternoon show, Ed Doolan: Other Side of - and just retained the Friday show and a new 3-hour Sunday morning show.  In 2015 he announced that he been coping with dementia for a couple of years but he continued to record introductions for a one-hour Sunday show featuring highlights from his big name interviews and radio archive, with the most recent show going out just a few days ago.

This tribute programme aired in 2015 and is presented by Jasper Carrott.

Ed Doolan (E double D double O LAN) 1941-2018

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Can I Take That Again? - Part 4

This post should be subtitled The Sound of Silence. When this week's Jamie Cullum's Radio 2 show was unexpectedly truncated - a beginning and an end but seemingly the middle section had dropped down a digital black hole - and the 'emergency tape' kicked in it didn't go unnoticed; social media and the fact that it's the biggest station in the UK saw to that. [The full pre-recorded version of Jamie's show is no online]  

The use of playout automation and voice-tracking have long been a feature of radio station output and, for the most part, work seamlessly so listeners shouldn't be able to spot the difference. But when Radio 2 adopted the VCS Autoplayer in September 2012 for a while it was a case of 'mind the gap'.

Radio 2 was aiming to make efficiencies and the use of automation was noticeable in the evening and weekend programming when, one assumes, technical staff were thin on the ground. Most of the early teething problems involved the junctions out of news bulletins with the next programmes fired off at exactly three minutes past the hour cutting off newsreaders in their prime. 

The network's problems were compounded when in January 2013 two programmes played out at the same time with Michael Ball and Russell Davies's show both simultaneously competing for about 15 minutes of airtime. Later that year, in October, we got two Bob Harris's for the price of one when the end of BST seemed to send the system haywire.

Here are a few example I collected at the time.

Note the jokey but rather pointed comment from Richard Allinson "normal service ... well that went out the window ages ago" was made around the time in 2012 when the old team of newsreaders was phased out and the automation came in.

The news at 1:10 is very odd. This is Susan Rae, on 23 September 2012, presumably reading the 2-minute 11.00 pm Radio 4 bulletin but on Radio 2! Hence we get a full minute of silence before the trailer kicks in.     

At 6:19 we get part of the infamous Bob Harris show from 27 October 2013 with two parts being played out at once.

At 8:24 it's the Ball/Davies cock-up.

And finally at 12:49 from 22 June 2015 Jeremy Vine signing off and Steve Wright loving a technical fault.

Needless to say Feedback picked up on all the drop -outs. On 28 September 2012 they dealt with one minute silence the previous Sunday night which was blamed on an "internal broadcast circuit" plus other losses of lines on Any Questions? and Today.  The 1 February 2013 edition called Radio 2 controller Bob Shennan to account who puts it down to 'human error'.  

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Sports Report Turns 70

In January 2013 I wrote about Sports Report and Saturday afternoon sports coverage. This month we've now hit the 70th anniversary of that venerable radio institution which has prompted me to have a dig around in my archive and uncover past anniversary editions.

I've previously posted the 40th anniversary edition of Sport on 2 with Peter Jones but this is now uploaded to YouTube.  

For the 50th anniversary there was a special edition of Sport on Five with Ian Payne. It seems I only kept the Sports Report sequence which was pretty much business as usual though there are some reminiscences from Cliff Morgan towards the end.   

On 3 January 2008 Mark Saggers presented a special edition of 5 live Sport to mark the 60th. With Mark thoughout the programme are Des Lynam and the late James Alexander Gordon. You'll also hear Mark Pougatch, Mark Clemmit, the Grimethorpe Colliery Band, Jenny Pitman, Ian Payne, Cornelious Lysaght, Sir Henry Cooper, Sheena Mackay, Pat Nevin, Pat Murphy, Stuart Hall, Tony Adamson, Eleanor Oldroyd, Stuart Jones, Jimmy Armfield and Mike Ingham.  

As for the 70th anniversary last Friday (5th) on 5 live Daily Chris Warburton gathered together some familiar voices, speaking to Mark Pougatch, John Murray, Jim Rosenthal, and producer Mark Williams.

The recording then shifts to Saturday (6th) with the start of 5 live Sport on FA Cup Third Round day presented by Mark Chapman and then Sports Report, just a 30-minute edition to allow for commentary on the evening match between Norwich City and Chelsea. 

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Ringing in the New Year - 1978

A Happy New Year to all the readers and supporters of the blog. As a special treat I'm taking you back exactly forty years and the overnight show on BBC Radio 2, seeing out 1977 and welcoming in 1978.

This was the third year that both Ray Moore and Jean Challis had hosted an all-night late show at a time when overnight broadcasting on the station was restricted to New Year's Eve, occasional overseas sports coverage and US elections. In 1977 Ray was coming to the end of a stint presenting the weekend late shows before moving into the early show seat vacated by his mate Colin Berry. Jean Challis was usually to be found linking families around the world on Family Favourites.

Live from Broadcasting House the programme also included a visit to the Hilton Hotel to hear Joe Loss and his Orchestra with Ray making the dash over to the hotel to introduce proceedings. Sadly that bit of the show is missing. But there's still just over an hour's worth of audio to savour.  
Musically speaking we're still in the period when needletime restrictions means that records - from the likes of Roger Whittaker and Peters and Lee so nothing too raucous for a party night - were interspersed with the BBC Radio Orchestra, the BBC Big Band and the Don Lusher Quartet.

Such was the rarity of overnights on Radio 2 that Jean mentions that listeners to BBC Radio Oxford have just joined and there's a hello to BBC staff working over in the Bush House newsroom.

John Ireland's illustration for the Radio Times. Whilst Ray and Jean were on Radio 2 over on
Radio 1 it was Pop Into 78 with Kid Jensen and Peter Powell
This recording comes from two sources. The bulk of it was recorded by Martin Ward, running from about 12.50 am to 1.50 am on New Year's Day 1978, so all the midnight shenanigans aren't here. Jimmy Kingsbury is heard reading the 1.00 am news bulletin. As Presentation Editor Jimmy often took these unsocial hours shifts and he would also have read the 12.33 am shipping forecast on 1500m long wave - not heard on this VHF recording.

Topping and tailing Martin's recording is my own off-air snippets of the show opening and then winding-up at 6.30 am.

The original All-Night Late Show ran at just under seven-and-a-half hours kicking off after 11.00 pm news read by Paddy O'Byrne and Sports Desk with Tony Adamson. Sarah Kennedy was on continuity duty that evening.

So here's a taste of how Radio 2 sounded four decades ago. Cue Count Basie with Nice 'n' Easy.

With thanks to Martin Ward

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

The Blue of the Night

On 14 October 1977 Bing Crosby had just completed a round of golf. Par for the course, if you'll pardon the pun, as most days the old crooner could be found hitting it 'straight down the middle'.  After all this was the man that had invested in early tape recoding technology to allow his hugely popular radio shows to be pre-recorded so he could spend more time out on the course. 

Having played the 18th hole at Spain's La Morajela course Bing was heading back to the clubhouse when he was felled by a massive heart attack. It was a shocking, if fitting, end to the life of one of the century's most popular singers whose career had spanned the jazz age to the arrival of rock 'n' roll and beyond.

Just four days earlier he'd sung in what was to be his last public performance in concert at the Brighton Centre at the end of a short UK tour. The following day, Tuesday 11 October 1977, he was at the BBC's studios in Maida Vale to record some songs with the Gordon Rose Orchestra for a programme introduced by Alan Dell. That session was Bing's last recording.

The songs committed to tape that October were finally broadcast on Tuesday 27 December on BBC Radio 2 in an hour long special that also included songs, recorded at a separate session, by Rosemary Clooney who'd accompanied Bing on the UK tour.

Here's the full broadcast of Bing's radio swansong as heard on Radio 2 that holiday Tuesday complete with continuity announcer David Bellan. This isn't my recording and I don't recall how I came to be in possession of it, so I can't pass on the usual thanks. I've prefaced the show with the voice of Gordon Rose explaining how the BBC recording session came about, this extract is taken from the recent Bing Crosby in The Road to Rock and Roll broadcast earlier this year.

Monday, 25 December 2017

Christmas Countdown - 25 December - Just a Minute Does Panto

This year sees the 50th anniversary of that radio perennial Just a Minute. There are some special programmes this month marking the golden anniversary but on Christmas Day last year Radio 4 broadcast this extended version of the game with some added, if rather flimsy, panto elements. Joining the regulars of Paul Merton, Sheila Hancock and Gyles Brandreth are Tony Hawks, Tom Allen, Rufus Hound, Pippa Evans and Julian Clary. As ever the chairman is Nicholas Parsons.

The format reverts to a team effort, even if it does sometimes get undermined, a throwback to Just a Minute's predecessor One Minute, Please and there's a lovely nod to the days of Kenneth Williams.

Read more about Just a Minute in my recent post Just a Golden Minute.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Christmas Countdown - 24 December - The Snowman

A Christmas treat from Classic FM from this day last year with a retelling of the Raymond Briggs story narrated by Aled Jones with music written by Howard Blake. 
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