Obituary: John Browell

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The Independent Online
The milestone in John Browell's production career in BBC Light Entertainment was The Goon Show.

Its original producer was Dennis Main Wilson, who produced the first and second series. It then passed to Peter Eton, who remained sane enough to cope with series three to seven (with some help from Pat Dixon). Series eight had to be dealt with by three other producers and, because of a lack of discipline, a permanent producer with a firm hand had to be found to deal with the vagaries of the show. Enter John Browell - who then produced the ninth and tenth series, from 3 November 1958 to 28 January 1960, to be the end of the show's crazy run. There was a sequel, The Last Goon Show of All, in 1972, which was also produced by Browell.

Although he was born in Poplar, London, Browell's family soon moved to Leeds, where he went to school, learnt to play the violin and saxophone, and went to work for Barclays Bank. With the rumblings of the Second World War ahead he volunteered for the Royal Air Force and became a wireless mechanic. Being a musician soon led him to entertainments. He saw service mainly in Ceylon, where he combined his duties as wireless mechanic and entertainments officer; and it was during this period that he met his wife, Rita, who was a WAAF wireless operator.

Upon demob Browell, by now fired with entertainment expertise, had no wish to return to his former bank job. He visited the BBC premises in Leeds and enquired about vacancies. Yes, he was told, there were jobs in London for studio managers if that would be suitable.

Browell sailed with ease through the BBC school courses, soon becoming a senior sound engineer in the Light Entertainment department. By 1954 he had become a producer, dealing with music productions that involved the then newly formed BBC Show Band directed by Cyril Stapleton. Music for Sweethearts was Browell's turning-point, a show which featured Eric Jupp and his Orchestra. Then came Sing Something Simple with the Cliff Adams Singers - a programme heralded by the somewhat lugubrious voice of Browell himself. The programme is still there on Radio 2, 40 years later, long after Browell's retirement in 1977.

Being a producer in Light Entertainment meant all things from music production through to comedy production, and Browell handled the full range. His music productions, such as many series with Matt Monro, were intermingled with long-running series with Frankie Howerd, Tony Hancock, Morecambe and Wise, Spike Milligan, Beryl Reid, Benny Hill, and the original radio series of The Likely Lads.

Always self-effacing, John Browell lived for his work in radio. He gave a talk recently to an audience of the Goon Show Preservation Society - full of wonderful reminiscences of the pitfalls that befell producers of that show. He was 79 by then, but he could recall perfectly the momentous occasions throughout those hectic production years.

John Logan Browell, radio producer: born London 29 June 1917; married 1945 Rita Walker (one son, one daughter); died Watford, Hertfordshire 19 May 1997.