The perfect voice for radio. This is said about a lot of people. For Brian Matthew though, it was never more true. The Radio 2 stalwart, who passed away recently at the age of 88, spoke in such a distinct tone. His was a lovely and smooth, a warm and friendly, voice. It is one I will sorely miss, having grown up listening to his Sounds of the ’60s show on Saturday mornings ever since I can remember. Even before this though, the broadcasting history of this great gentleman, as heard on the Easter holiday documentary The Brian Matthew Story, is something to behold.
Having been introduced to jazz and swing by his late father, Brian applied to join the Forces Radio during his time as a quartermaster sergeant with the Ordnance Corp. Having heard nothing for months after applying however, he auditioned and accepted a place at RADA, turning his attention to acting, and subsequently he became an Old Vic player. But radio came calling two years later. Brian accepted a job in Dutch radio, a placement which eventually led to him presenting a programme for the BBC’s World of Jazz. Thus, his journey onto the BBC airwaves began, becoming an announcer on shows such as Take it From Here and Hancock’s Half Hour. He would also become the announcer/ presenter for a show called Saturday Skiffle Club (later renamed Saturday Club), a two-hour live music show that, perhaps most famously, introduced Britain to a certain four-piece band called The Beatles.
Saturday Club is probably the most well-known of Matthew’s shows. Sounds of the ’60s would certainly be the other. It is the longest-running single show on Radio 2, with Matthew only recently stepping down due to ill health. Listeners held him in genuine affection. The show itself was full of the best hits of the decade, plus a few hidden gems and rare recordings that Matthew loved to include. I will always remember him as the sound of my Saturday mornings, getting up to travel the length of North Wales for swimming galas during my teens. Like a hot cup of tea, Brian Matthew’s voice was warm and comforting, the perfect start to every weekend.
Like Desmond Carrington: All Time Great, broadcast a couple of months ago, The Brian Matthew Story offered a standard chronological journey through the Radio 2 presenter’s life. It charted his early years, his history in broadcasting, and paid special tribute through the words and memories of those who knew him best. It was a gentle, insightful and humble journey, perfect for a Sunday evening.
Like Carrington, David Jacobs and Terry Wogan, Brian Matthew becomes another of that talented older generation to depart the radio family. He will be sorely missed. The Brian Matthew Story wasn’t advertised with any great fanfare, but it was a gentle and somewhat poignant tribute to a great and lovely man.
Featured image (C) BBC