Remembering Jimmy Young

Singer and broadcaster Jimmy Young has died aged 95.

Jimmy Young, 1980s at BBC Radio 2
Jimmy Young behind the mic at BBC Radio 2 in the 1980s

Sir Jimmy Young, best known initially as a popular singer with hits including The Man from Laramie, which topped the charts for four weeks in 1955, has died aged 95. In 1967 he joined BBC Radio becoming a regular of the airwaves until December 2002 when he was sacked by BBC Radio 2 in its quest for ‘younger’ listeners.

“Jimmy Young defined Radio 2 and was a true broadcasting pioneer. He will be dearly missed by his many fans.” – Tony Hall, BBC Director-General

The son of a baker, Young was born in Cinderford, Gloucestershire in September 1921. He joined the RAF, three weeks before his 18th birthday, becoming a  sergeant PT Instructor. He departed the forces in 1949 and set his sights on show business. Signed up to Polygon Records, and later Decca, Young release numerous successful hits including Too Young (1951), Unchained Melody (1955) and Miss You (1963). However as the sixties progressed pop groups became the in-thing and crooners for a time were left behind. Jimmy decided to take a change of direction; rather than compete in the pop charts he’d play records from such pop groups on the wireless; first with Radio Luxembourg and then BBC Radio 1

Jimmy Young at ATV in 1973
Jimmy Young in singer mode at ATV in Birmingham in 1974 on The Golden Shot

His stint as a successful DJ turned into a much longer stint as a radio presenter, hosting his long running topical discussion show ‘The JY Prog’ each lunchtime on BBC Radio 2. He developed a popular programme format for audio broadcasting current affairs mixing music interludes between serious and not so important topical debate. The hand over from the late Sir Terry Wogan to Sir Jimmy on Radio 2 in the 1970s became legendary for their witty sparring.

Jimmy’s broadcasting career was cut short in the summer of 2002 when recently appointed BBC Radio 2 controller Jim Moir sacked the veteran broadcaster to give the station a more youthful image. Young went off air for several weeks, returning in December 2002 to present a final week of lunchtime programmes before departing for good. The BBC offered Young a weekend current affairs programme, but he declined. His bitterness towards Radio 2 softened and in 2011 was lured back to co-host a celebration of his 90th birthday alongside Ken Bruce.

The following year he returned to Radio 2 to co-host a series on 1950s ‘Icons’ alongside recently retired Desmond Carrington. While not much heard or seen in later years he did occasionally pop up on television programmes as a guest including on ITV’s The Alan Titchmarsh Show and This Morning and up until his retirement in 2014 wrote a weekly column for the Sunday Express newspaper.

Young received an OBE in 1979, a CBE in 1993, and, at the beginning of 2002, he was knighted for services to broadcasting.

“Sir Jimmy Young was a truly unique broadcaster who pioneered a form of presenting that generations have followed. He made Current Affairs relevant to millions of listeners and helped shape Radio 2 into the station it is today.” – Bob Shennan, Director of BBC Radio

Jimmy Young 1990s BBC
Jimmy Young at BBC Radio 2 in the late 1990s
Share Button