My Mentor: Graham Dene on Brian Johnston

'His style taught me what I could do to make my listeners feel I am there in the room

I had never been a huge cricket fan but something made me listen to Test Match Special on Radio 4 around the time that I was starting out in radio in the 1970s. It was fantastic broadcasting, just the way it should be, and I was mesmerised by Brian Johnston. Johnners, as he was known, had a wonderful personality and I suddenly developed a love for cricket. That's the power a great broadcaster can have on listeners.

Johnners was like the naughty uncle you wish you had who was always getting up to mischief but getting away with it, but he was doing it on live radio. I used to look forward to when rain stopped play because that's when he came into his form and the anecdotes would spill out from him and the rest of the Test Match Special team. He was wonderfully descriptive and could make something out of nothing, an amazing feat in broadcasting.

The gaffes he made endeared him to all his fans, the oft quoted ones being when Ian Botham hit wicket and Johnners said, "He didn't quite get his leg over," and during a Test where Michael Holding of the West Indies was bowling to England's Peter Willey and he said, "The bowler's Holding, the batsman's Willey".

Then he'd just dissolve in fits of laughter, uncontrollable schoolboy laughter, and the fact it was on Radio 4 made it all the funnier.

Even though I have made my way in music broadcasting rather than sport, on Capital, Virgin and Magic, he had a huge impact on the way I go about broadcasting. He had a very different style to mine, but it taught me what broadcasting should be and what I could do to try and make my listeners feel as if I am there in the room with them, which Johnners always managed to do.

The power he had over me meant I ended up becoming a member of the MCC and I often think of him and how he would describe something when I'm on the air.



Graham Dene is Smooth Radio 102.2 FM's breakfast host, weekdays 6-10am. Brian Johnston joined the BBC in 1946 and presented Test Match Special from 1970 until his death in 1994

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