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Tony Blackburn to return to Radio 1 for station’s 50th birthday

By | Published on Friday 30 June 2017

Nick Grimshaw & Tony Blackburn

As it continues to struggle to shift its listener demographic back to the 15-29 bracket, Radio 1 is bringing out the big guns to entice The Kids back to its FM channel. That’s right, Tony Blackburn is returning to the breakfast show.

There are a number of qualifiers to that statement, though. Firstly, it’ll be for one day only. Second, it’s part of the celebrations to mark Radio 1’s 50th anniversary. Third, it’ll highlight a three day pop-up station, Radio 1 Vintage, where most of the other birthday programming will be broadcast, so as not to bother those young people too much.

Radio 1 Vintage will broadcast 50 hour-long best of shows, pulling content from the Radio 1 archive. The aim is to show how important the station has been to music since 1967, just in case you forgot. Among the presenters to have their classic shows compiled and replayed will be Annie Nightingale, John Peel, Mary Anne Hobbs, Tommy Vance, Sara Cox, Tim Westwood, Jo Whiley and Noel Fucking Edmonds.

There’ll also be archive material from classic roadshows, the Live Lounge, the chart show, Newsbeat, all those great comedy shows they used to broadcast in the 90s, and some other stuff.

But what of Blackburn? Well, to kick things off on 30 Sep – 50 years to the day since Radio 1 first launched – he’ll co-present the breakfast show with current host Nick Grimshaw. This will be broadcast simultaneously on Radio 1, Radio 2 and Radio 1 Vintage. So most listeners can spend their morning asking, “who’s that bloke with the annoying voice?” The others can sit around wondering how they even got tuned in to Radio 1 Vintage in the first place.

Also that day, but broadcast only on Radio 1 Vintage and Radio 2, there will be a live recreation of the first ever show on Radio 1, seeing Tony Blackburn reprise his role as Tony Blackburn.

“Launching Radio 1 on 30 Sep 1967 is, undoubtedly, the highlight of my career”, says Blackburn. “Having worked on the great pirate radio ships, Caroline and London, being the first DJ on Radio 1 I saw first hand the impact that the stations had on the British public”.

Of the pre-Radio 1 days, he adds: “It is hard to imagine that there was a time when the BBC would only play 45 minutes of popular music per day and we, as teenagers, had to wait until 7pm in the evening for Radio Luxembourg to come on and play the music we wanted to hear. I owe so much to Radio 1 for my long career, to have been there at the beginning and to still be part of the BBC, it has been amazing to see how it has developed over the years to changes in technology, music, demand and, of course, its ever changing audience”.

His soon-to-be-co-presenter Nick Grimshaw says of the whole 50th birthday celebration: “Radio 1 is the only station I’ve loyally listened to my whole life. From John Peel playing punk on night times and Sara Cox playing Missy on breakfast it was key in forming my musical education. I can’t wait to celebrate 50 years with the legend that is Tony Blackburn!”

In addition to all of this, there are a couple of other things planned.

Live Lounge Month will be back in a special 50th anniversary form. This means the covers acts perform will have to be a hit from the last 50 years, limiting them to just any of the songs they probably would have picked anyway. That’ll run throughout September.

Annie Nightingale will also be presenting four special documentaries looking at the first 50 years of Radio 1, themed around love, heroes, rebellion and dreams.