ATV TODAY Takes a look back at the life of Sir Jimmy, who died today aged 84, with a picture special and his career highlights.
Best known in recent years as simply ‘Sir Jimmy’, he was born James Wilson Vincent Savile in Leeds and was the youngest of Agnes and Vincent Savile’s seven children.
He broke into the entertainment world in the 1940s when he became one of the first “disc jockeys” by using twin turntables for continuous play of music in dance halls – pioneering the concept of the dance floor DJ.
Sir Jimmy’s first major television break came on May 4th 1960 when Tyne Tees Television launched a teen-aimed music series, Young at Heart set in a fictional coffee-bar, with the studios audience encouraged to mingle and dance on the ‘dance floor’. Airing live at 6.30pm the series ran for eight weeks.
Savile recalled in 1999, as part of Tyne Tees’ 40th anniversary how he ‘accidentally’ walked into ‘television’.
“I just so ‘appened to be in George Black’s office”, Black being one of the co-owners of TTTV in its founding years, “and I blagged the presenting role.” However it was almost a short-lived co-operation. “George didn’t like my continual use of the phrase, ‘How’s about that then?’!” When news that Jimmy may be sacked by Tyne Tees for overusing the same few words the ITV broadcaster was inundated with fan letters telling bosses they loved Jimmy – and his catchphrase.
His catchphrases became legendary, and expanded to include, “Now then, now then, now then”, “as it ‘appens”, “Goodness gracious” and “Guys and gals”. In 1962 he released a comedy record Ahab the Arab. The B-Side Raindrobs was a half serious love song, which proved to be the better of the two recordings.
On New Year’s Day, 1964, he presented the first edition of the programme that would make him a household name, Top of the Pops. The music series launched in Manchester, in BBC North’s regional studio, a converted church.
In 1968 he joined the new, hip and trendy, BBC Radio 1 where he presented Savile’s Travels and a discussion series Speakeasy. His most likely best-remembered contribution to Radio 1, however, is the Sunday lunchtime show Jimmy Savile’s Old Record Club, where entire top tens from years gone by were played.
In 1973 he launched a short-lived variety series on BBC One, but its replacement would proved to be another long running success. Jim’ll Fix It saw Jimmy making children’s wishes come true. The show ran until 1994 and was revived by UKTV for a retrospective in 2007.
Savile remained with the BBC radio network until 1989, although left Radio 1 in 1987. There after he launched a commercial version of Savile’s Travels which was networked across the UK on local radio stations such as GNR and Metro FM. This show proved to be successful, running for a decade. Savile’s Travels was a weekly two-hour long show which looked back at the top 20, picking selected tracks, from two classic years. Sir Jimmy retired from regular radio work in 1997, but made occasional guest returns to commercial networks at this time during the 1990s he had also returned to TV, working as a regular voice over for ITV’s late night dating show, God’s Gift.
With the news Top of the Pops was to end in 2006 fans instantly suggested Sir Jimmy should present the final episode. On 30th July that year he co-hosted the final edition and was gifted with saying the last words “It’s number one, it’s still Top of the Pops” before turning out the studio lights.
Other notible appearances include hosting the BBC-ZDF co-production Pop Go The Sixties, shown across Western Europe, celebrating the hits of the decade. His 1980s adverts for British Rail’s InterCity 125 and a series of Public Information Films promoting road safety, notably “Clunk Click Every Trip” which was to promote the use of car seatbelts. In 2008 he was also recorded for ‘speaking street signs’ which were installed on lamp posts in Leeds warning students of thieves. He also made a guest appearance in the 2006 series of Big Brother where he ‘fixed it’ for some of the housemates to have their wishes granted.
In March this year he was back in the public eye to promote the return of Top of the Pops in repeat form to BBC Four, where episodes from 1976 onwards are currently airing, including many Jimmy Savile fronted editions. Sir Jimmy was a strong supporter of many charities and raised millions in funds for good causes, he was also a regular face at the annual Great North Run and London Marathon events.
He was knighted by the Queen in 1990 for his services to charity, he had been awarded an OBE in 1971.
Savile had been billed to turn on the Ilkley Christmas street lights for the third time. Sir Jimmy had first switched on the lights in November 2001 and returned again in November 2005. He was due to make his third switch-on on Saturday, November 19th this year. He would have also celebrated his 85th birthday in a few days.
Two of Sir Jimmy’s nephews broke the news of his death to the press, Roger Foster and Ian McKenna spoke outside the stars Roundhay flat in Leeds. Mr Foster said “It is with deep sadness that I can tell you that our uncle Sir Jimmy Savile passed away quietly in his sleep during the night.”