OK, it all went a bit wrong at the end for JIMMY YOUNG when he left the Beeb in a rather undignified fashion, but before that he’d been a stalwart in showbusiness for some five decades.
He began as a singer in the 1950s where he was undoubtedly one of the biggest names of his day. JY enjoyed two number one singles (and would probably have had more if the singles chart had been going earlier) but by the end of the decade, with his crooning falling out of fashion, he decided to broaden his horizons and start working as a broadcaster.
His instantly recognisable voice – with the Gloucestershire accent he never lost – saw him immediately get work on the Light Programme, most notably on Housewives’ Choice, and indeed that’s a label that went on to apply to JY for the rest of his career.
In 1967 he was in the launch line-up for Radio 1, hosting the mid-morning show for its first five years, representing the establishment side of the station alongside all those bloody hippies, and despite being already way older than most of the listeners he was hugely popular with his outside broadcasts from fish finger factories and recipes, heralded by his pet chipmunk Raymondo.
In 1973 he moved to Radio 2, and here he became even more celebrated… and, yes, hugely innovative. The JY Prog, as it was forever dubbed, saw Young mix music with news and current affairs, featuring regular phone-ins on the day’s events and interviews with a host of major names including every single prime minister.
Moving seamlessly from light music to legal affairs, the Prog became a highly influential programme when people realised Jimmy was reaching an audience who wouldn’t normally watch Panorama. Despite being hugely respectful he clearly knew his stuff, and for 30 years he remained a stalwart of the station. For many years his handover from Terry Wogan became so amusing and important that it was even awarded its own Radio Times cover.
Sadly ill-health kept him off the air for much of his last few years, and although he was eager to carry on, the Beeb decided it was time to call it a day, and he rejected their offer of a weekly slot. He’s still about, writing for the Sunday Express, and he was back on the station the other week to celebrate his ninetieth. TTFN!
THE DEFINING ROLE: The JY Prog is imprinted in the memories of a generation of kids spending the holidays round at their grandparents’ house, though the first minute of the show when he bantered with Tel tended to overshadow the rest of it. “Begone, you whey-faced hypocrite!”