1 9 4 0 – 1 9 6 7 (UK)
This daytime radio programme featuring live popular music was broadcast by the BBC twice daily on workdays from 23 June 1940 until 29 September 1967.
The programme began during World War II with the theory (which was proven to be correct) that playing popular/light music at an even tempo would boost morale and help factory workers be more productive.
Although the programme became very popular with audiences at home and later with motorists – regularly achieving a listening audience of four million – it was aimed first and foremost at the factory workers, and strict rules were applied: predominantly familiar pieces, nothing lethargic, consistent volume, and generally cheerful programmes to which workers could whistle or sing.
The programme featured ballroom dance orchestras, light orchestras, brass and military bands, small instrumental ensembles and (initially) cinema organs, which were eventually phased out because it was felt that their tone was “incompatible with factory conditions”.
Initially, the morning edition was broadcast on the BBC Home Service at 10:30 am, with the afternoon edition at 3 pm on the Forces/General Forces Programme, and after the war on the BBC Light Programme. Between August 1942 and July 1945, a third edition was broadcast at 10:30 pm for night shift workers.
Music While You Work was broadcast live until the Summer of 1963, after which most programmes were pre-recorded. The show ended on 29 September 1967 when the BBC Light Programme became BBC Radio 2.
It was revived for a week to mark the BBC’s 60th anniversary in October 1982 and then as a regular part of Radio 2 from January 1983 to January 1984.
There were two short revivals in 1990 and 1991 and a final one-off programme in 1995.
The stirring theme tune was called Calling All Workers by Eric Coates.