His broadcasting career spanned almost 70 years, but to many Brian Matthew’s name will always be synonymous with the sounds of the 60s.
One of the most familiar voices throughout BBC Radio 2’s history, Matthew made his name as one of the station’s first DJs more than half a century ago, hosting shows such as After Seven and the Pulitzer award-winning Round Midnight.
But it was his 27-year stint as presenter of the Saturday morning show, Sounds Of The 60s, which kept him firmly in the hearts of radio listeners all the way into the 2000s.
The nostalgic two-hour programme signalled his last regular radio slot, as deteriorating health saw him step down from the role in November, shortly before his death at the age of 88.
But even after his retirement from regular programming, Matthew continued to work on a series of specials with Radio 2, determined not to part with the career that began with his very first broadcast while posted in Germany in 1948.
Born to musical parents in Coventry in September 1928, it is unsurprising that he blossomed on the radio music scene, capturing the attention of BBC producers after his first appearance on the new Saturday Skiffle Club – later renamed Saturday Club – in 1957. The move was to change his life from radio announcer and producer to renowned presenter and interviewer, bringing his listeners the personal words of the biggest musical stars of the day, including Bo Diddley, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Manfred Mann and The Who.
But while it seemed like a role he was born for, Matthew made no secret of his other passion and first serious ambition: the theatre.
Before joining the BBC in the early 1950s – and taking on brief jobs at Radio Netherlands Worldwide, and then as a milkman in Coventry – he trained at the prestigious acting school Rada, and eventually came to own a 50-seat studio theatre in his own home.
The stage turned out to hold an even deeper meaning for Matthew, as it was while working with the Old Vic Company in the late 1940s that he met his wife-to-be, Pamela Wickington. His talents in front of a camera saw him take on television roles during the 1960s – including hosting shows such as Thank Your Lucky Stars and Swinging UK – before he cemented his career as a much-loved regular radio presenter.
The job saw him claim the well-deserved Broadcasting Press Guild Award for outstanding contribution to radio in 1990.
Even after a generation-crossing career on the channel, he rarely failed to give his loyal listeners his signature goodbye: “This is your old mate Brian Matthew saying that’s the lot for this week, see you next week.”
On April 4, just weeks after he presented his final Sounds Of The 60s programme, the BBC mistakenly announced that Matthew had died.
The organisation issued a statement on behalf of his family, before withdrawing it several hours later, clarifying he remained “critically ill”.