Tony Blackburn: My Life in Media

'It can be quite stressful when these ratings figures come out, which I don't believe in. I don't think anyone knows who's listening or not.'


Tony Blackburn, 65, was the first voice to be heard on Radio 1 when it launched in 1967 and is still broadcasting 40 years later. He spent 27 years at Radio 1 and was a regular presenter of Top of the Pops. He experienced a career revival in 2002 when he was crowned King of the Jungle on the first series of I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here on ITV. He can be heard on Smooth Radio where he presents the weekend breakfast show. He lives in north London with his wife Debbi and 11-year-old daughter, Victoria, and has a grown-up son, Simon.

What inspired you to embark on a career in the media?

It was what I always wanted to do, since the age of about four or five. I originally wanted to be a singer, but then I got more in to dj-ing and liked people like Pete Murray and Alan Freeman.

When you were 15 years old, which newspaper did your family get and did you read it?

I can't remember. I was more interested in radio in those days and I remember listening to Radio Luxembourg and the BBC. There wasn't much choice.

What were your favourite television and radio programmes?

There wasn't a lot on TV either, actually, though we did have one of the first televisions on the road. It was amazing, one of those ones that lasts 50 years or so. I watched Boy Meets Girl, a pop show that nobody remembers. I remember going to college and listening to the BBC Light Programme and thinking how astonishing it was that it never had anything to do with representing youngsters, which is why it was so great when Radio Caroline came along.

How would you describe your job today?

I work for four radio stations: Smooth FM, KCFM in Hull, KMFM in Kent and BBC London. With the first three radio stations I programme my own music. At BBC London they play absolutely everything and it's all programmed for you.I'm 65 now. I really enjoy what I'm doing and I'm lucky to be doing it.

What's the first media you turn to in the morning?

I watch all of the news programmes. It's important if you are doing radio to be up to date so I watch Sky News and BBC News 24, GMTV and the BBC. I channel hop.

What's the best thing about your job?

I love working with music, being able to share that with people and have some fun. I love going on the radio and making people laugh, talking about nonsense. I'm not a serious person and there a shortage of people to create fun.

And the worst?

I suppose I have worked for stations with bad atmospheres, but very rarely. It can be quite stressful when these silly rating figures come up, which I don't believe in. I don't think anyone knows who's listening or not.

What do you tune into when you get home?

I'm watching Heroes because someone gave me the boxed set. I love the American version of The Office and Harry Hill's TV Burp.

What's your Sunday paper, and do you have a favourite magazine?

I read them all. The Sun and The Daily Mail come in handy with funny stories for my show but I'm not interested in tittle-tattle.

How do you feel you influence the media?

I don't think I do. I just go on air and have a good time for three hours.

What's the proudest achievement in your working life?

Doing I'm A Celebrity..., I loved that. Also working for Radio 1. I've had so many.

Name the one career ambition you'd like to realise before you retire.

I would have loved to have done more TV and had a chat show, but it's not going to happen now.

What is the most embarrassing moment from your career?

Interviewing Duran Duran. When they came on I didn't know who they were and I called them "Durran Durran".

What would you do if you didn't work in the media?

I've no idea. Probably what my son does; he's in advertising. I'm quite good at selling things. I sell myself on the air

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

I'm very fond of Jonathan Ross but my favourite is David Letterman. He is the best thing on TV and I watch him every night. Ross is a British version of Letterman.

The CV

1964: Joins Radio Caroline aged 21, moves to London's Big L in 1964

1967-73: Radio 1 Breakfast Show

1968: Time for Blackburn, on ITV; regular presenter on Top of the Pops

1984: Moves to BBC Radio London

1988-2002: Capital Gold breakfast show

2002: Wins first I'm a Celebrity...; begins a Jazz FM's Real Soul

2004: Classic Gold, suspended for playing Cliff Richard records

2007: Poptastic; My Life in Radio

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When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
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