DATE FOR YOUR DIARY: JY writes for the Daily Express from January 5th 2003.
"Whichever BBC source suggested Jimmy Young is a soft interviewer clearly knows nothing about interviewing, and even less about Jimmy Young"
- Alastair Campbell, Chief Press Secrettary, 10 Downing Street.
Profile: Sir Jimmy Young: Sir Jimmy Young is one of Britain's best-known and most respected broadcasters. The importance of his daily current affairs and music show is reflected by the calibre of his guests, who range from Prime Ministers to royalty.
Born in Cinderford, Gloucestershire, Sir Jimmy's first job was as a baker's assistant before he joined the Royal Air Force, spending seven years as a physical training instructor based in India. Later, he became a clerk at the Ministry of Education, and managed a hairdressing salon. In 1949, he entered show-business, when radio listeners heard him performing songs at the piano.. After the charts were created in 1952, he had five top 10 hits, including three No.1s - 'Too Young', 'Unchained Melody' and 'The Man From Laramie' (1955), becoming the first UK artist to reach number one with two successive singles. But his star waned as Elvis Presley won the hearts of music lovers, so he moved to radio, hosting Housewives Choice on the BBC, and also working for Radio Luxembourg.
Jimmy presented many BBC Radio programmes before joining Radio 1 in October 1967. The following year the Variety Club of Great Britain named him Radio Personality of the Year. In 1973 he joined Radio 2, where he has stayed ever since presenting his daily programme, know to its millions of listeners as The JY Programme. The first interview on the new programme was with Erin Pizzey from Chiswick Women's Aid, a refuge for battered wives. The programme broke the mould, with top news interviews, interspersed with music and comments from listeners being read out on air, a feature that has continued to this day.
In January 2002 he was knighted in the New Year Honours list and Sir Jimmy - who gives his age as 78, though it is reported to be 80 - said: "I'm deeply honoured and I am indeed most grateful. This is an enormous honour and one that I share with five million listeners."
Since it began in 1973, the Jimmy Young show has become a broadcasting institution, with Prime Ministers regularly appearing as guests. Famously, Margaret Thatcher joined him at the microphone 14 times. John Major reportedly refused to appear on the programme again after Young told him "the voters took Lady Thatcher seriously while they laugh at and make fun of you". His show's influence is widely rated by politicians - Tony Blair's press chief, Alistair Campbell, said: "Whichever BBC source suggested Jimmy Young is a soft interviewer clearly knows nothing about interviewing, and even less about Jimmy Young."
2 has changed many times over the years, Sir Jimmy's show has remained one of its flagship programmes.
The BBC was embarrassed in 2000 when Radio 5 Live's Nicky Campbell claimed he had been approached to take over Radio 2's lunchtime slot. Sir Jimmy was furious and suggested success had made people "desperate" to get his job. "Unless of course, in the ageist pursuit of youth, someone decides to ignore my record-breaking ratings and fire me," he added.
Jeremy Vine and John Inverdale have also been linked with his job - but at the time, Sir Jimmy angrily stated that the only way he would leave his show would be after he died at the desk.
Nowadays, he credits his third wife Alicia - whom he married in 1996 - with bringing him "peace, sanity and understanding".
Jeremy Vine will take
over the JY slot in 2003, but in late Summer 2002, Sir Jimmy Young signed a new contract with BBC
Radio 2 to present the Jimmy Young Programme until the end of
2002 followed by a new weekend current affairs programme to start in 2003.
James Moir, Controller, BBC Radio 2 said: "I share in the general delight of all in BBC Radio at the knighthood conferred on Sir Jimmy Young. Jimmy is one of Britain's most popular and respected broadcasters and I am pleased that his expert contribution to the debate on the issues of the day has been secured for the future. A weekend News and Current Affairs programme hosted by Jimmy will be an appointment to listen and a landmark series for the network. I'm glad that Jimmy will continue to play an important role as Radio 2 evolves."
Sir Jimmy said: "I've thoroughly enjoyed 28 years of presenting 'the Prog' and I'm looking forward to one more year. A high profile News and Current affairs programme at the weekend will be a new challenge for me and I'm confident that it will play a key role in helping set the news agenda."
In November 2002, Jimmy changed his mind about presenting the weekend show from 2003 choosing instead to make a complete break from the BBC after 50 years, 28 of them on the JY programme. But octogenarian Sir Jimmy, who had a hip operation which took him off air in July 2002 insisted he would not be retiring and had plenty of other projects in the pipeline. At the time of his announcement, Jimmy was not back on air on Radio 2, and there were doubts as to whether he would be well enough to see his contract out. He did though record an announcement for listeners which expressed his wish to return to say goodbye properly just as soon as possible.
Speaking on his change of mind, Jimmy said: "Having presented the daily JY Prog for nearly 30 years, I do not feel that I could do justice to a weekly shortened version. I appreciate how hard the BBC tried to keep me but I have decided not to accept their invitation. I will therefore leave the BBC at the end of the year when my contract to present the JY Prog ends. I know that my many listeners will understand."
Radio 2 controller James Moir said: "I am naturally disappointed that Sir Jimmy has had a change of heart. I had hoped that he would continue broadcasting for many years to come on Radio 2, but this has not proved possible. Along with his millions of listeners, I and all his many friends in BBC Radio offer him warmest best wishes for the future."
Rumours of Jimmy's departure stemmed from 1998 - apart from Jeremy Vine, other names linked with JY's slot include John Inverdale from BBC Sport, both previous fill presenters for Jimmy in the past - when John was first linked to the post in 1998, Jimmy remarked "Nothing could be further from the truth.". GMTV's Eamonn Holmes has previously said he would like to apply if Jimmy left, and other names include the journalist from The Independent newspaper, David Aaronovitch, also a previous JY stand in, Radio Five Live's Simon Mayo, and outsiders Chris Evans and Noel Edmonds.
Legal eagle website www.consumer-solicitors.co.uk
has praised Sir Jimmy's contribution to the progression of consumer law in the
UK Following the news of Sir Jimmy's departure from the BBC, Adrian
Miles from the website, part of the Interactive Law Group said: "Jimmy
Young has become a national institution over the past 30 years. He is a
great entertainer in all respects. However I would particularly like to praise
his contribution to the field of consumer law and the advancement of consumer
rights. Although it was BBC Radio 4 which pioneered radio consumer
journalism in the UK, it was JY on Radio
2 who really brought it into the
popular public consciousness. His probing interviews on consumer matters,
coupled with his highly entertaining guest experts giving legal and other
advice, were always entertaining and more importantly, informative.
Consumer law could would not have made the strides it has in the UK if JY had not informed the public of its rights and raised its expectations for further improved protection. All of us in the Consumer Law field wish Sir Jimmy a long and happy retirement, and hope that he may be tempted back on to the airwaves again one day".
Jimmy presented his last show on BBC Radio 2 on Friday 20th December 2002 - his penultimate link referred to his future plans (more below) and he then announced his producer had forced him to play his own rendition of Unchained Melody. After this was played, Jimmy said he didn't want to go but this was what was to happen and that he feared for the last time, he would be saying '...bye for now...'. This was then followed by the 2:00pm news jingle. Previously, the day's news bulletins had also included a reference to the end of JY's time on-air. Jimmy's show was also full of reference and comment on the same issue with guests thanking Jimmy for his service over almost three decades in his own inimitable style. Often Jimmy referred to the fact that his departure was not down to him.
Up until 30th December, you can view Jimmy's gallery which includes photos of people he's worked with and interviewed over the years - the BBC site also states that a selection of his best interviews can also be heard on-line. Visit the page at www.bbc.co.uk/radio2/shows/jimmy_young/gallery.shtml
Farewell messages to Sir Jimmy can be left on his message board, which will remain open until 30th December at: www.bbc.co.uk/cgi-perl/h2/h2.cgi?board=radio2
Whereabouts: In one of his final links, Jimmy controversially said '...there is life after the BBC....' and that he had been asked to do some theatre in 'An Evening With Jimmy Young', an offer he was to consider. He is also now writing a column in the Daily Express from January 5th 2003. Who knows what else the future holds for the broadcasting favourite? We wish him the best for his continued post-op recovery.
Since his departure, Sir Jimmy has used his new
career as a newspaper columnist to launch a stinging attack on his former
employer, the BBC. Stating that he has 'no axe to grind', he
accused Auntie of having a 'frightening..brutal` history and described
his half-century relationship with them as 'loose and semi-detached'
Now writing for the Sunday Express. he asked his readers whether the licence fee
should be abolished. He said 'I was going to write that I had enjoyed
that relationship but that wouldn`t be true. Sometimes enjoyable, often
not, would be a more accurate description.'
Sir Jimmy again thanked his loyal listeners for their messages which ranged from dismay to outrage at the BBC's 'decision to axe my enormously successful, award winning programme` The Express column charted what he called 'one of the BBC`s many instances of brutality' after a producer cut short the career of an unnamed pop group because he had lost an argument with its manager over the treatment of a song.
'Back in 1949 the BBC was a virtual monopoly and its power was frightening...benevolent if it liked the cut of your jib, brutal if it didn`t. I could quote many instances of its brutality, just one will do.' His column went on to explain the Old Boys Club that existed 50 years ago, calling Beeb bosses 'amateurs who relied on their subordinates to get things done....things have changed a great deal over the past 54 years....people no longer automatically tune to the BBC as the authoritative voice of the news...ITV changed that when it proved it could mount news programmes just as well and sometimes better than the BBC. Consequently I wonder whether the BBC licence fee can still be justified ... As it has moved increasingly into the commercial world, is the BBC trying to have its cake and eat it?`
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