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Obituary: Adrian Love

LIKE MILLIONS of other radio listeners in the South East, I grew up with Adrian Love. He was part of life in London. Capital Radio saw to that, and later, his show Love in the Afternoon on BBC Radio 2 became a regular date for many nationwide.

At the London station Capital Radio from 1976, though, he was the firm but fair presenter of a nightly phone-in which was compulsive listening. He was no "mister nasty", a style which was in vogue among so many of his phone-in host colleagues at the time, but a man who seemed to talk just like the rest of us. Idiosyncratic perhaps, but he connected with people, and that was his strength. It did not matter whether it was a top international celebrity (and he knew many, as he often reminded us) or the postman delivering letters to his house near Edenbridge, in Kent, Love got close to people.

He coined a phrase on that programme at Capital that became the ultimate radio brand - to listeners it came to sum up the whole show. "Anna and the doc" was his description for the problem phone-in he presented with the agony aunt Anna Raeburn and the doctor, whose name to this day eludes me. The show was an unforgettable insight into the lives of others.

To Anna Raeburn it was unforgettable for other reasons. She recalls her first show with Love, who was driving her to despair with his fidgeting. At the end, she laid into him: "While you are clicking and twitching, I am trying to do something for people." His reply was typically simple and disarmingly honest: "You do realise I am terrified of you, don't you?"

Meeting him was a bit of a shock. Listening on air, one built up a mental picture of a big man with that amazing vocal characteristic, a strange mix of sandpaper and fresh honey, with a pair of lungs that had fought the good fight with cigarettes and won. The reality was somewhat different. He was a tall lean man who looked as though he could spend a week in a fast-food restaurant without showing signs of overeating.

The son of the bandleader Geoff Love, Adrian was born, in 1944, into a showbiz family. He told stories of how he entered the "business" as a child and never left it. He began his broadcasting career with the pirate radio station Radio City in 1966 and moved to the BBC Light Programme the next year, followed by work with the World Service, LBC and UBN (United Biscuits Network, the "biscuit factory" station, where he worked with Nicky Horn, Roger Scott and other radio icons).

It would be easy to think that he had led a charmed life from the outset, but life was no picnic for Love. After a move from Capital to an award- winning show on Radio 1 he fell from grace; he was sacked in 1982 for presenting his show while drunk. He made no secret of his alcohol addiction, and even shared his experience with listeners.

He was a family man, and he gave credit to his wife Ros for getting him through the addiction that nearly finished him off. He frequently shared personal moments from his family life on air; Ros and Love's three daughters became part of the bigger family he created with his listeners.

He moved from Love in the Afternoon on Radio 2 to Jazz FM. He then became part of the starting line-up when Classic FM was launched in September 1992. In more recent years he worked for the local BBC radio station Southern Counties Radio, broadcasting to Surrey and Sussex.

Love had an inner strength which you could hear on the air, and which helped him through his alcohol addiction. Unknown to many, he used that strength to help others, through charity fundraising. It also showed in his unnerving enthusiasm to get back to work after a car accident in December 1997 that led to continued ill-health. Simon Bates, a former colleague from Radio 1 described Love's burning enthusiasm for his radio programmes as "exhausting for everyone else".

During what his colleages hoped would be his recuperation from his operation, a couple of us went to visit him at his house. We expected to see a man who was somewhat frail, but he would have none of it, he was full of life: "OK boys, what's the gossip, and when can I get back on the air? Let's start with the goss first."

Adrian Love did get back on the air, but it was not long before his lungs, weakened by a lifetime of asthma attacks, took him off again. He will be remembered by colleagues at Southern Counties as the consummate professional - especially when things didn't quite go the way they were planned - for being unflappable in the face of adverse odds, and for being a friend, not just to those who knew him, but to the listeners, who loved him. As one listener put it, "He was a friend to everybody. I never met him, I didn't even know what he looked like, but he was like a best friend to me."

Adrian Love, disc jockey: born York 3 August 1944; three times married (two daughters, one stepdaughter); died Tunbridge Wells, Kent 10 March 1999.