Radio 1, the BBC’s pop music station, began broadcasting on 31 August 1967, with Tony Blackburn spinning Flowers In The Rain by The Move.
The new station was designed to replace the various pirate radio stations that had transmitted from waters off the UK since 1964. The pirates had recently been closed down when the legal loophole which allowed them to operate was closed with the introduction of the Marine Offences Act on August 15.
Weekdays on Radio 1 began with Tony Blackburn, who broadcast for 90 minutes between 7.00 and 8.30 am and was also heard on Saturdays for a few months. Then Radio 1 united with Radio 2 for Family Choice (successor to the immortal Housewives Choice, which had begun in 1946 and was re-named for the new-style radio service).
It had a different compere each week, and mingling with established favourites like Rolf Harris, David Jacobs and Val Doonican were a sprinkling of the BBC’s latest signings – Stuart Henry, Simon Dee and Keith Skues.
After the competition ‘Crack The Clue’ at 9.55 came Jimmy Young, who was also heard on Radio 2.
Jimmy’s show was followed by Midday Spin (also shared by Radio 2) with a different DJ each day – the original five being ex-Radio Caroline DJ Simon Dee (Monday); Duncan Johnson (Tuesday) – a recruit from Radio London who also presented the first ‘Crack The Clue’ competition; Kenny Everett (Wednesday) – another ex-Radio London DJ; David Rider (Thursday) – a BBC Studio Manager who had previously broadcast in the European Service, and Stuart Henry (Friday), the sole representative from the Radio Scotland ship.
At 1.00 pm, the network continued the old Light Programme pattern with four programmes featuring big bands and one other live programme. On Monday, Dave Cash introduced Monday Monday with the Ray McVay Sound; on Tuesday, Keith Fordyce welcomed listeners to Pop Inn, in which stars with current hits and new releases were interviewed; Wednesday brought Parade of the Pops, the long-running show with Bob Miller and his Millermen introduced by Denny Piercy; Thursday saw radio switching to Manchester for the BBC Northern Dance Orchestra’s show Pop North, presented originally by Ray Moore and later by Dave Lee Travis; and it was back to London on Friday for The Joe Loss Show which was linked in turn by Tony Hall, David Hamilton and staff announcer Roger Moffat.
Between 1.55 and 2.00 pm, there was a repeat of ‘Crack The Clue’ followed by Pete Brady, another converted pirate. After Pete’s 2½ hour slog was finished, What’s New took to the air. A rota of DJs reviewed current albums and singles for at least one very good reason: record reviews were not counted as part of the BBC’s needle time allocation.
After the 5.30 pm news bulletin, David Symonds wrapped up the afternoon and opened up the evening for two hours. David was another “inside” man who had been a staff announcer and had also hosted a souped-up Easy Beat on Sunday mornings.
In the first three months, there was little change in this pattern. ‘Crack The Clue’ was succeeded by ‘Starwords’; Duncan Johnson (who had come to Britain from Canada) lost Midday Spin after eight weeks (“Disc Jockey Duncan too old at 29” said the Daily Mail) and was replaced by Tony Brandon.
The pattern of weekend programming was different from the weekday schedule. Saturdays on Radio 1 originally began with 1½ hours of Tony Blackburn, after which came Junior Choice (which had been called Children’s Favourites until then), and this was initially presented by Leslie Crowther.
After the answers to the daily competition at 9.55, there were two hours Of Saturday Club with Keith Skues. This venerable programme had begun in 1958 and was the province, until the advent of Radio 1, of Brian Matthew. The show was developed from an earlier venture, Saturday Skiffle Club, which was begun at a time when washboard rhythms ruled.
For many years, Saturday Club was regarded as a prime showcase for new and established artists, but when Radio 1 started, there were so many shows of a similar nature that its special aura was devalued, and, perhaps inevitably, its days were numbered.
Noon on Saturdays saw the start of what was undoubtedly the most earth-shattering programme of the week. Never before had the BBC had the temerity to transmit anything quite so extraordinary as the show recorded in Paris by Emperor Rosko.
Although he appeared to speak English, there were moments when one wondered as he battered his way into the fans’ minds with his unique rhyming style and apparent total unity with the music he was playing.
In contrast, he was followed at 1 o’clock by another established favourite from the Light Programme – Jack Jackson. With his skillfully edited clips from comedy albums which were used and reused to suit all manner of strange situations, Jackson had developed a distinctive and very popular programme although the music content leaned towards ‘easy listening’.
Chris Denning was in charge of Where It’s At for the next hour, and at 3.00 pm, there was a further needle time saving exercise with Pick Of What’s New, presented at various times by Pete Murray, Dave Cash, Ed Stewart, Chris Denning, Don Moss, Johnny Moran, Keith Skues, Rick Dane, Jonathan King, Dave Lee Travis and David Symonds.
Pete Brady then assaulted the airwaves for hours, calling his listeners ‘cousins’, presumably in case any of them actually were.
An hour of more specialised entertainment came next, Country Meets Folk with Wally Whyton at the microphone, and this was, in turn, succeeded by Scene and Heard, a weekly magazine programme introduced by Johnny Moran.
Saturday’s programming concluded with two Radio 2-orientated products – Pete’s People, with the long-running Pete Murray, and a further session of Night Ride. There was only one important change in the Saturday order of things in the first three months of the network when Pete Brady was given a 2.00 to 4.00 pm slot, and Pick of What’s New was retimed to fill his original 4.00 to 5.30 pm space, these changes being occasioned by Chris Denning’s move to take over Wednesday’s Midday Spin from Kenny Everett.
Sunday programming was always relatively simple. The network’s second day of broadcasting fell on a Sunday and started at 9.00 am with Junior Choice (although Radio 2 also broadcast the show, it was officially classified as a Radio 1 programme).
The two hours from 10.00 am were occupied by Ed Stewart, newly arrived from Radio London, with a Saturday Club-type mix of discs and BBC recordings entitled Happening Sunday.
Between noon and 2.00 pm, Radio 1 joined Radio 2 for Family Favourites and then went very much its own way for Top Gear. In 1964, in the hands of producer Bernie Andrews and DJ Brian Matthew, this had been a trendsetting show, broadcast on Thursday evenings between I0.00 pm and midnight.
Amid vociferous protests from listeners, it was dropped after six months, promptly voted Top Radio Show in a poll and was, somewhat reluctantly, reinstated as a one-hour show on Saturday afternoons for a further six months.
Now the title was revived for three hours of less commercial music of the kind which became known as heavy or progressive. For the first five weeks, Pete Drummond was the principal DJ, and the duties were shared in turn by John Peel, Mike Ahern, Tommy Vance, Rick Dane and John Peel again. Mike Ahern holds the unenviable record of being the DJ with the shortest career on Radio 1 – just one programme, Top Gear on 8 October.
Brought in from Radio Caroline, he later emigrated to the Antipodes and began broadcasting upside down. After these permutations had been effected, John Peel and Tommy Vance became the two regular comperes for a few weeks.
Between 5.00 and 7.00 pm, another well-established show continued – Pick Of The Pops with Alan Freeman (who used to broadcast upside down but was now the right way up).
Another newcomer to the network came on at 7.00 pm for half an hour – Mike Raven, who specialised in rhythm and blues and soul music.
The remainder of the programmes for Sundays were, as in the case of Saturdays, somewhat inclined towards Radio 2. The only significant change to the Sunday schedule during 1967 was on 17 December when Kenny Everett moved from Wednesday’s Midday Spin and replaced Ed Stewart between I0.00 am and noon.
1968 brought a significant event in the station’s history when on 2 June, Savile’s Travels brought the extraordinary Jimmy Savile to Radio 1. Savile was immensely popular throughout his radio and subsequent TV career – but a year after his death in 2011, multiple claims of sexual abuse came to light, highlighting what a predatory monster he had been in life.
Over the coming years, other Radio 1 DJs included “Tatty” Tom Edwards, Tom Lodge, Alan Black, Mark Roman, Alan “Fluff” Freeman, John Peel, Terry Wogan, Guy Blackmore, Anne Nightingale, Richard Park, Nicky Horne, Dave Eager, Paul Burnett, Bob Baker, Phil Jay, Dave Eastwood, Peter York, Paul Gambaccini, Kid Jensen, Tom Browne, Gary Taylor, Bob Harris, Mike Lennox, Chris Grant and Simon Bates.
Kenny Everett was famously dismissed from Radio 1 in 1970 after making what now seems a relatively innocuous joke following a news bulletin. He was replaced on his Saturday morning show by an up-and-coming young DJ named Noel Edmonds. In 1973 Noel would replace Tony Blackburn on the breakfast show.
Kenny returned to Radio 1 for a series of recorded shows and would also be heard on Radio 2 in the early 80s.
Following its 15th birthday in 1982, Radio 1 finally severed its last remaining links with Radio 2 and broadcast its own output for 18 hours a day, every day. In October 1984, Janice Long – elder sister of Swap Shop‘s Keith Chegwin – became the first female presenter of a weekday show, taking over the evening slot from David Jensen.