Back in the 1970s and 80s the morning shows on Radio’s 1 and 2 commanded some of the highest listening figures ever recorded. On Radio 1 over 25 million people tuned in to hear Simon Bates reading ‘Our Tune’ and around 9.30 on Radio 2 is when Terry Wogan handed over to Jimmy Young, the their banter and quips became legendary. In January this year we lost Sir Terry to cancer at the age of 77 and now we’ve lost Sir Jimmy at the age of 95.
Jimmy was born Leslie Ronald Young in 1921 in Cinderford, in Gloucestershire. His career began in 1950 when he was signed to Polygon records which was owned by Petula Clark’s father. His first hit in 1951, a million-seller, was Too Young, a cover of Nat King Cole’s American hit. He recorded two duets with Petula, Mariandl and Broken Heart. In 1952 he changed labels to Decca and charted 10 hits, most with Bob Sharples and his Orchestra, and included the two 1955 number ones Unchained Melody from the B-movie Unchained and the title track from the film The Man from Laramie. The ladies loved his voice.
He once claimed that Elvis’ success had killed his singing career and so turned to broadcasting where, in 1955 he became the presenter of Housewives’ Choice and had other shows called The Night is Young and Keep Young. By the end of 1960 he was presenting seven shows a week on Radio Luxembourg. In 1967 he was invited to be one of the original DJs at Radio 1 when it launched and was given a morning show even though certain bosses at the BBC thought he was too old (he was 46 at the time) for a young audience and was given a temporary three-month contract. He stayed with Radio1 for six years before moving to Radio 2 in 1973 to present the mid-morning ‘JY Prog’ show where he remained until he retired in 2002.
He interview numerous guests over the years including various Prime Ministers. He liked Margaret Thatcher and she appeared on his show 14 times. He had a very relaxed and informal interviewing style but could be fairly forceful when he wanted to be, but always polite with it. You can tell that Jeremy Paxman was not a listener.
He also had a number of catchphrases like ‘What’s the recipe today, Jim?’ and ‘Off we jolly well go’, he also signed off every day with Bye for now or TTFN (ta ta for now). His theme tune, Town Talk by Ken Woodman, was instantly recognisable.
He was awarded an OBE in 1979 and knighted in 2002. After 28 years in that slot he announced his retirement from Radio 2 at the end of 2002 but took over a weekend slot from 2003. After his retirement from weekdays he was offered a job as a columnist by the Sunday Express.
I last saw Jimmy Young at a Radio 1 reunion in 2009 and was in good shape with a full head of white hair, more than he had when I working with him in the late seventies. My friend, DJ Mick Brown tweeted: “Legendary DJ Jimmy Young has sadly died… what a poxy year! Radio heaven gets another top ock!”
Jimmy passed away peacefully at home on Monday 7th November with his third wife Alicia at his bedside.
Jimmy’s Radio 2 theme tune