Thursday 6 July 2017

Farewell, Paul Hollingdale

Just about everyone knows the name of the first presenter on Radio 1 in 1967 - and the station's first song.  Fewer would know that 'The Sound of Music' was the glorious opening tune on Radio 2 - and its first presenter was Paul Hollingdale.

Just shy of the station's 50th anniversary, news has reached us that Paul has died, aged 79.

Like many of his generation, his confident, capable tones were first heard on Forces radio at what was then the British Forces Network, whilst serving in Germany in the late 50s, fronting Two Way Family Favourites in 1959 from Cologne. 

Paul hosted at Radio Luxembourg for a spell in 1960 and 1961, with the 'Six O'Clock Record Show', sponsored by Philips and 'The Big O Show'. He was to be an early pirate, working on-air and as Programme Director of CNBC ("The Commercial Neutral Broadcasting Company'), an English language service from the Dutch Radio Veronica ship, funded by three brothers who'd made their fortune selling stockings. 

The BBC beckoned - and his voice was heard on the Light Programme, with such programmes as 'Swingalong', 'Nord-Ring' ("Your popular music passport to Northern Europe"!), 'Swing into Summer', 'Teenagers' Turn', 'This Must be the Place' - and 'Breakfast Special', the programme which was eventually to straddle the Light and its new Radio 2 identity from Saturday September  30th 1967: "Paul Hollingdale with resident bands and singers of the week discs news, weather, and traffic reports".

At 5.30 a.m, on that day, some ninety minutes before Arnold barked, the Sonovox sang, and Radio 1 debuted, Paul delivered the first news bulletin 'on Radio One and Two' and began Two's first programme, so in a sense, his voice was the first on both networks.

After the initial announcements, Paul slid what was to be one of the year's biggest LPs onto the turntable. Julie Andrews sang - and the show got underway. It was unusual in the era at the BBC for the presenters to spin their own discs, but this was the start of a revolution.  His inaugural show included some more light favourites, and thoroughly mainstream 1967 hits, spiced with news and weather forecasts from High Holborn.  

Thus began Radio 2, also warming up the transmitters for the imminent Radio 1 - and for Leslie Crowther later on Radio 2 - albeit both services remained as conjoined twins that day and for some years, sharing chunks of the week's programming.

As was common in the time, hosting Breakfast Special was split between presenters, with such names as John Dunn and Ray Moore sharing the spoils with Paul, and presenting the news when not on disc-spinning duty.

Paul moved from Radio 2 in January 1970, onto a spell with what was then BBC Radio Brighton, a forward-looking BBC local.  

Six years later, his voice was to launch a station once more - Reading's Radio 210, alongside a typically grumpy Arthur Lowe, in character, and Richard and Karen Carpenter. Paul was also part of the station's launch management team.

He went on to help establish the famous Blue Danube Radio in his beloved Vienna in August 1979 - and, in later decades, was to be heard for four years on LBC;  and Chiltern; London's short-lived AM country station, Country 1035; and, most recently, his Vienna International Radio project.

Paul Hollingdale 1938-2017

(More about Paul on Andy Walmsley's excellent blog)


  1. In October 1996 a chap who thought he had a good voice wanted a career change and did a voice over course with Paul Hollingdale in Soho. Paul told me I had "it" and 20 years on I'm still getting away with it. Thanks Paul, you generous, fine soul.

  2. I used to prefer Pauls breakfast special on Radio 2 to Tonys show on Radio 1 even as a 15 year old boy. A great broadcasting voice and personality, so much better than todays celebrity culture

  3. From David Addis. Sad indeed to hear the news. Paul was a major part of Radio 210 - who can forget his way of saying "Twelve binutes past three" and of course his love of film came across in the weekly "Two-Ten cinema".

  4. Really nice guy, Paul Hollingdale. Met with him many times in my BBC days.

  5. Knew Paul Hollingdale quite well, at WMRS (InFlight Productions) Greek Street, LBC and at Chiltern through the eighties. An excellent broadcaster, and always quick with a knowing comment about 'That dreadful woman' at R2 (who could he mean? or anything else topical to do with broadcasting. Always cheerful and a true Gentleman.

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