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Radio / Tony Blackburn

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Godber: I'll have you know they're piping Tony Blackburn into the kitchens now!
Fletcher: (cynical) Yeah, they tends to take the point of view that we're in prison to be punished!
Porridge, circa 1977

Anthony Kenneth "Tony" Blackburn (born 29 January 1943) is a veteran radio presenter and disc jockey whose career began on the Pirate Radio ships operating outside British territorial waters in the 1960's. In mid-1967, shortly before the pirate stations were closed down by the British governmentnote , Blackburn moved to the BBC Light Programme. Later he became the first voice to be heard on BBC Radio One on its establishment at the end of September that year (the first song he played was The Move's "Flowers in the Rain"). He was also a frequent presenter of Top of the Pops on BBC TV.

He left the BBC in the early 1980's when it was thought that his style of presenting was too old-fashioned for a youth-oriented radio station. Spurning the usual career move to the BBC's Radio Two, the haven for superannuated Radio One DJs, Blackburn was lost to most of the country when he opted to go to local commercial radio, presenting the breakfast show on the London-based nostalgia station Capital Gold for several years. His avuncular cheesey style of presenting made him a natural butt for humour and parody, notably by comedians like The Goodies and Harry Enfield. (the Smashy and Nicey radio DJ characters are a portmanteau of old BBC presenters, including Blackburn).

Blackburn, who came to national attention again in 2002 as a result of winning the first series of I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!, returned to the BBC's nationwide output in 2010 note , presenting nostalgia show Pick of the Pops on Radio Two, appealing to older fans who remember him in his radio heyday. There was a massive popular outcry in February 2016 when the BBC management abruptly fired him, in the fallout from the Jimmy Savile scandal, in fiercely contested circumstances. While there is no suggestion Blackburn was ever involved in any improper behaviour with under-age girls, the sacking reason appears to be a difference of opinion concerning evidence he may or may not have given to the investigating authorities. After a massive protest from fans, Blackburn has been reinstated with a Friday evening nostalgia show giving him free rein to be as large and hammy as he possibly can be.

In July and August 2018 he appeared on television in the light hearted celebrity reality show Celebrity 5 Go Caravanning alongside fellow celebrities Colin Baker, Todd Carty (replaced by Brian Capron in the third episode), Sherrie Hewson and Sonia as they toured some of the UK's most spectacular countryside in two towed caravans.

On March 24th 2024, Blackburn presented his last live show for BBC radio aged 81, although he will still be presenting pre-recorded shows on Radio Two and making personal appearances around the country.

This radio presenter's career involves examples of the following tropes:

  • Affectionate Parody (just about): Harry Enfield lampooned him as Smashey. Or Nicey. Most probably Nicey. He even had a cameo as himself in the 1994 TV special Smashey & Nicey: End of an Era in which Enfield 'retired' the two characters. Specifically, Tony is denied entry to a party at Radio Fab FM (to all intends and purposes, an Expy of Radio One) when the security staff, who are too young to remember The '60s, won't let him in.
  • Buccaneer Broadcaster: Blackburn's career began on the pirate radio ships Radio Caroline South and subsequently Radio London.
  • Jingle: Blackburn's current music nostalgia shows on Radio 2 are the perfect venue for dusting down and airing his original radio jingles from the Sixties and Seventies.
  • Large Ham Radio: Tony could be the Trope Namer.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Blackburn was provoked into making one when sacked by the BBC in dubious circumstances in February 2016.
  • Self Deprecation Blackburn was aware from an early stage that his presentation style teetered on the brink of self-parody, and cheerfully invited parodies and gentle jokes at his expense from such as The Goodies.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Was one for Noel Edmonds note  in Noel's House Party.
  • Totally Radical: His use of slang, argot, and old jingles from The '60s which was obvious even in The '70s and which today is very likely to be knowingly self-referential.