"I try to forget the mike," Alan Dell said. "It's just something that's there." Most times in his broadcasts Dell sounded as if he had swallowed the mike, for his technique was to get as close to it as possible and then to speak quietly, giving his voice a resonance that would not be there when he spoke normally.

Dell was the best kind of disc jockey, managing to impart individuality into his presentation without imposing personality or humour. He was not a noisy or fatuous broadcaster and Sounds Easy, one of his most popular programmes, was titled as much for his smooth presentation as for the implied promise that the listener would be subjected to nothing which would strain his brain.

The son of a newspaper editor, he started his long career in broadcasting in his native South Africa when he worked for the South African Broadcasting Corporation in its record library during the late 1940s. He first broadcast as an announcer on Springbok Radio from its launch in 1950. One of the earliest programmes he presented there featured the Hungarian-born singer Eve Boswell, who preceded him to London in 1949.

In 1953 Dell returned via London from a trip to Los Angeles where he had gone to study the remarkable recording techniques of Capitol Records, then producing some of the best sound quality in the world. Dell found the London of 1953 in the thrall of the forthcoming Coronation and persuaded the South African Radio Corporation to let him help cover the occasion.

In the meantime, Eve Boswell had a hit record in England with the South African song "Sugarbush". Someone at the BBC asked Dell to write a four- part programme for her. As Dell had worked in South Africa as news-reader, script-writer, announcer and technician, he was well placed to take advantage of such opportunities. One of his first jobs was to introduce the Ted Heath band, then one of the best British dance bands, in one of Heath's radio series.

From 1955 Dell began presenting reviews of new releases for the BBC. In 1959, although his link with jazz was tenuous, he presented Jazz Club for a time and in 1962 helped with the sound at Frank Sinatra's Festival Hall concerts and in the subsequent recording sessions.

"Middle of the road" was where Dell lived. The music he liked was the music a large part of the general public wanted, too. He preferred polish to inspiration and most of the bands he liked best for his long- running (from 1969) The Big Band Era series were the smooth and often bland ones of the predominantly white part of the Swing Era. Whereas Humphrey Lyttelton, in the adjacent spot to Dell's on Radio 2 for the last quarter of a century, regards Duke Ellington as the Holy Grail, for Dell it was Glenn Miller. Dell never pretended to be a jazz fan, although much of his music came from the fringes of jazz, and he sometimes unbent sufficiently to play one of Count Basie's records.

Another of Dell's long- running series, The Dance Band Days, preceded The Big Band Era in Radio 2's Monday-evening schedules and concentrated on recordings by British dance bands, bringing a huge audience of listeners who wanted their nostalgia buds tickling. When the BBC realised that the potential audience of those over 40, particularly since they were living longer, was much larger than the younger one for rock music, Dell became an element in their attempt to capture it. As recording techniques became more sophisticated, he built a studio at his home in Kent where he had the equipment to record programmes without leaving home.

Dell worked also in record production and helped to assemble some highly popular collections of tracks by Frank Sinatra and Nat Cole. He became in demand as a compere for concerts and in 1983 won a Grammy Award for his work on the contemporary re-issue of the Tommy Dorsey-Frank Sinatra sessions of the 1940s.

The BBC celebrated Dell's 40 years with them in a special programme on Radio 2. His prestige in the industry was perhaps epitomised by his reply to a lowly representative of a record company who asked him to lunch. "I'll give you a ring when I'm hungry," he said.

Steve Voce

Alan Creighton Mandell (Alan Dell), broadcaster: born Cape Town 8 March 1924; married (two sons, one daughter), died Westerham, Kent 18 August 1995.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'