Tony Blackburn

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Tony Blackburn
File:Tony Blackburn.jpg
Born Antony Kenneth Blackburn
(1943-01-29) 29 January 1943 (age 76)
Guildford, Surrey, England
Occupation DJ
Spouse(s) Tessa Wyatt (1972–1977; divorced)
Debra (present)
Children Simon (b.1973)
Victoria (b.1997)

Antony Kenneth "Tony" Blackburn (born 29 January 1943) is an English disc jockey who broadcast on the "pirate" stations Radio Caroline and Radio London in the 1960s and was the first disc jockey to broadcast on BBC Radio 1 at its launch in 1967. In 2002 he was the winner of the ITV reality TV programme I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!

Early life

Blackburn was born in Guildford, Surrey, but in 1946 his family moved to Bournemouth, then in Hampshire, where his sister, Jacqueline, was born. His sister was born with infantile paralysis and has been unable to walk since birth.[citation needed] Blackburn's mother, Pauline Cubitt (née Stone), was a nurse, and his father, Kenneth Fleming Blackburn, was a GP. He was educated at Castle Court School in Parkstone, Poole, Dorset and Millfield School in Somerset, which he entered on a sports scholarship.

He went on to become captain of the school cricket team, but left before taking any examinations. He then achieved O-levels, following private tuition, and enrolled for an HND course in Business Studies at Bournemouth Technical College.[1]


Tony Blackburn began his career as a singer, then worked as a DJ for the offshore pirate radio stations Radio Caroline and Radio London (1964–67), before joining the BBC in 1967, initially broadcasting on the Light Programme. He was in a group called Tony Blackburn and the Rovers which performed in the Bournemouth and surrounding areas. He was the first DJ on BBC Radio 1 when it was launched on 30 September 1967, and presented The Radio 1 Breakfast Show until 1973. The first words spoken on BBC Radio 1 were "...and good morning everyone! Welcome to the exciting new sound of Radio 1". His singing career failed to take off, although 14 singles were released of which two "So Much Love" and "It's Only Love" made the UK Top 40 in 1968 and 1969 respectively. After this he stopped singing and concentrated on radio work. His cheery style and corny jokes ensured his household reputation and made him a popular figure with some, though his dislike of heavy and progressive rock and punk/new wave made him a hate figure with others. His fellow Radio 1 DJ John Peel would often derisively refer to him as "Timmy Bannockburn".

At first he was associated mainly with bubblegum and mainstream pop, but he later championed soul music. It was largely due to him that I'm Still Waiting by Diana Ross, which was initially just an album track, was released as a single in the UK in 1971 and reached number one. He was a regular host of Top of the Pops and in 1968 he fronted his own show, Time For Blackburn, produced by Southern Television for the ITV network.

He got into trouble during the late-1960s for critical comments he made on the Radio 1 breakfast show against the Trade Union Congress (TUC). In an 2013 interview for The Radio Academy's Radio Talk podcast, Blackburn says that it is not advisable for a broadcaster to reveal their political allegiances. In this interview, he says that he's "not a great lover of the TUC or of unions ... but I keep it to myself now."[2]

In June 1973, he took over the weekday mid-morning slot, where he introduced "The Golden Hour". The feature was to prove popular, being carried on by Simon Bates and Simon Mayo when they took over the slot later.

In June 1978 he released a Northern soul single under the name Lenny Gamble, a version of Doris Troy's "I'll Do Anything" on the B side of a Flirtations 45 on Casino Classics CC1, and was allegedly furious when Noel Edmonds, revealed the alias on air. Nevertheless, Blackburn and Edmonds later became close friends.

Over several years of the 1970s, Blackburn was a co-presenter on the BBC's summer programme Seaside Special, alongside other well known names from BBC Radio such as Dave Lee Travis and David Hamilton.

In November 1977 he took over the weekday afternoon show and from September 1979 until December 1981 he presented the Top 40 show on Radio 1.

With Maggie Philbin at a Radio 1 Roadshow in the early 1980s

In early 1980 he took over Junior Choice on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 8-10am, while continuing to present the Sunday chart show until the end of 1981 – being succeeded by Tommy Vance. During 1982 BBC Radio 1 dropped the name Junior Choice and the show became the Weekend Breakfast Show which Blackburn continued to host until his final show on 23 September 1984. In addition to his BBC Radio 1 weekend show, he joined BBC Radio London in 1981, where he presented the weekday afternoon show. It was here that he showed his love for soul music.

Having left BBC Radio 1 after 17 years he took over BBC Radio London's weekday mid-morning show in 1984. On Saturday 6 November 2010, Blackburn replaced Dale Winton as the regular host of BBC Radio 2's Pick of the Pops programme.[3] Blackburn now presents the show every Saturday from 1 pm to 3 pm. He also presents shows on BBC London 94.9 on Sundays from 12–3pm and a weekly Sunday show on Magic 1161 (now renamed Viking 2).

Personal life

In 1972, Blackburn married actress Tessa Wyatt. They had a son Simon (born 8 April 1973). They divorced in 1977. He lives with his second wife Debra and their daughter Victoria (born 28 January 1997) in Arkley, near Barnet, Hertfordshire.

Blackburn has been a vegetarian since he was five years old.[4]


  1. Blackburn, Tony (2007). Poptastic My Life in Radio. Cassell Illustrated. ISBN 978-1-84403-600-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Tim Davie (7 February 2013). "RadioTalk: Tony Blackburn at 70" (Podcast). Radio Academy. Event occurs at 23:30–24:30. Retrieved 11 February 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Plunkett, John (24 September 2010). "Tony Blackburn to present Pick of the Pops". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 November 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "International Vegetarian Union – Tony Blackburn (1943– )". 29 January 1943. Retrieved 10 November 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Media offices
Preceded by
First presenter
BBC Radio 1
Breakfast Show presenter

Succeeded by
Noel Edmonds
Preceded by
Simon Bates
BBC Radio 1
chart show presenter

2 September 1979 – 3 January 1982
Succeeded by
Tommy Vance
Preceded by
Smooth Radio
weekend breakfast show presenter

Succeeded by
Graham Dene
Preceded by
Dale Winton
BBC Radio 2
Pick of the Pops presenter

Succeeded by
Preceded by
First Winner
I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!

Succeeded by
Phil Tufnell