Signature Tunes

Housewives' Choice
Housewives' Choice was a record request programme broadcast on the Light Programme every weekday morning from 1946 until the arrival of Radios 1 and 2 in 1967. It had a different presenter each week, and the signature tune was In Party Mood by Jack Strachey.

Children's Favourites

A programme called Children's Choice ran from 1952, following the Housewive's Choice format. Children's Favourites replaced it two years later. Until 1965 it was presented by Derek McCulloch, known from Children's Hour as Uncle Mac. The Reithian spirit prevailed and the programme included not just records made for children, or pop, but light classical pieces and even hymns. The signature tune was Puffin' Billy. The launch of Radios 1 & 2 saw the programme, now called Junior Choice, broadcast on both channels with a new sig tune and more pop content. The programme ran until 1982.

Family Favourites
Family Favourites was a record request programme which linked families in the UK with members of the armed forces serving in Germany and elsewhere. As Two-Way Family Favourites it brought together London and Cologne but later it included more distant (and non-military) links including Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Hong Kong. The signature tune was With a Song in My Heart.

Down  Your Way
Down Your Way ran from 1946 to 1992, introduced by Horse Guards, Whitehall from the London Lankmarks Suite by Haydn Wood. The programme visited a different location each week, interviewing residents and playing their choice of music. It was hosted by Stewart MacPherson (1946-1950), Richard Dimbleby (1950-1955), Franklin Engelmann (1955-1972), Brian Johnston (1955-1987) and then by a different host each week.

Desert Isalnd Discs
The music of Eric Coates was often used. By the Sleepy Lagoon still is, with added seagulls. Desert Island Discs began in 1942 and can claim to be the longest running factual programme on radio. It was devised by Roy Plomley, who presented the programme for 43 years. Michael Parkinson took over in 1985 following Plomley's death. Sue Lawley followed in 1988 and Kirsty Young in 2006. Plomley himself was the castaway on two occasions, the interviewers being Leslie Perowne and Eamonn Andrews.

Music Whilte You Work
Another Coates piece, Calling All Workers, introduced Music While You Work which began in June 1940. It was intended to improve morale in wartime factories and thus increase productivity. It continued after the war up until 1967 when the Light Programme ended. With two editions a day, the programme was usually live, though some were recorded in later years. It featured dance orchestras, brass and military bands, light orchestras and small instumental groups.

Music Magazine
Music Magazine was co-edited by Julian Herbage and his wife Anna Instone. Presented by him (from 1952) and produced by her, the programme ran from 1944 to 1973. Julian had joined the BBC in 1927 and Anna became head of gramophone programmes. The tune used was Schubert's An die musik ("To music").

Paul Temple
Originally broadcast from the 1930s to the 1960s Paul Temple was a detective series. The signature tune was Coronation Scot by Vivian Ellis. Paul and his wife Steve were played by several actors over the years but probably the best known voices were those of Peter Coke and Marjorie Westbury. Some of the stories have been remade in the 21st century with Crawford Logan and Gerda Stevenson in the lead roles.

Dick Barton
Devil's Galop by Charles Williams was the sig of Dick Barton - Special Agent which began in 1946 at 1845 on the Light Programme. The serial followed the adventures of ex-Commando Captain Richard Barton MC and his sidekicks Jock Anderson and Snowy White. They solved various crimes, escaped from all sorts of scrapes and often saved the nation from disaster, each evening's programme ending with a cliff-hanger. The sensational nature of the programme was felt to be unsuitable and so the Archers took over the 1845 slot.

The Archers
The Archers is the world's longest running soap opera. It began in 1950 on the Midland Region of the Home service and was broadcast in the Light Programme the following year, subsequently moving to the Home Service and then Radio 4. The actor Norman Painting holds the title of longest-serving actor in a single soap opera in the Guinness Book of Records having played the part of Phil Archer from 1950 until his death in 2009. The theme, Barwick Green by Arthur Wood, is still used, though in a newer recording.

Sports Report
Sports Report began in 1948, initially produced by Angus Mackay. Through the years it has been broadcast on the Light Programme, its successor Radio 2, the Third Programme wavelengths and on both varieties of Radio 5. The first part of the programme included reports from several football matches, usually of one minute duration. Angus would scold any commentator who dared to over-run his slot!

Top of the Form
Top of the Form. began its 38 year run in 1948. Two teams of four pupils from secondary schools around the country competed, answering general knowledge questions. The programmes were recorded in the two competing schools which were linked by land-lines. The question masters in later years were Tim Gudgin (196586), Bob Holness (197476), Paddy Feeny (196586) and Geoffrey Wheeler (196275). A television version ran from 1962 to 1975. Marching Strings was composed by Ray Martin (using the pseudonym Marshall Ross).

My Word
My Word's signature tune was Alpine Pastures by Vivian Ellis (who also wrote the Paul Temple theme). After a pilot broadcast in the Midlands in 1956 the programme ran on the Home Service, and later Radio 4, from 1957 to 1990. The format was devised by Edward J. Mason and Tony Shryane. Two teams competed to solve word games and literary questions and in the final round Frank Muir and Denis Norden devised ingenious explanations of the origins of well-known phrases or quotations. A companion programme, My Music, ran from 1967 to 1993.

Radio Newsreel
Imperial Echoes by Arnold Safroni introduced Radio Newsreel. It started on the Overseas Service in 1940 and transferred to the Light Programme in 1947. The domestic edition ended in 1970 but the overseas editions continued for 18 more years. During the war US and Canadian stations also carried the programme.

It's That Man Again
Between 1939 and 1949 there were over 300 episodes of It's That Man Again (often called simply ITMA), a comedy show credited with making a considerable contribution to public morale during the war years. The title referred to a newspaper headline about Hitler. Tommy Handley starred and other performers included Jack Train, Clarence Wright, Deryck Guyler, Joan Harben and, late in the run, Hattie Jacques. The show made much use of catchphrases. Mrs. Mopp's 'Can I do you now, sir?' and Colonel Chinstrap's 'I don't mind if I do' were known and often quoted by much of the population.

Pick of the Pops. Two versions of "At the Sign of the Swingin' Cymbal" were used to introduce Pick of the Pops. This one was used until 1966 and was by Brian Faye and his Orchestra. in 1970 it was replaced by a second jazzier and faster version by Brass Incorporated. In addition to introducing the show it was used in the background during Alan Freeman's rundown of the whole chart, which was followed by playing the Number One record of the week.

Some more comedy show openings

Hancock's Halfhour

An early example of British situation comedy (1954-9) starring Tony Hancock and written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson. Other regulars were Sid James, Hattie Jacques, Bill Kerr and Kenneth Williams. In addition to the radio shows there were seven TV series, ending in 1961.

Ray's a Laugh

Running from 1949 to 1961 Ray's a Laugh featured Ted Ray with Kitty Bluett as his wife. It was a domestic comedy with musical interludes. The cast at various times included Patricia Hayes, Kenneth Connor, Jack Watson and Peter Sellers.

Take It From Here

Written by Frank Muir and Denis Norden (except for the final series), TIFH ran from 1948 to 1960. It starred Jimmy Edwards, Dick Bentley and Joy Nichols. Alma Cogan and June Whitfield joined after the departure of Nichols in 1953. Like many shows of the period it was structured in three parts separated by musical interludes, one of which was provided by The Keynotes. The final segment was a sketch featuring the Glums - a long engaged couple Ron (Bentley) and Eth (Nichols and later Whitfield). Edwards played Ron's father.

The Navy Lark

The Navy Lark

Radio Times cover
The Navy Lark followed the adventures of the crew of HMS Troutbridge and ran from 1959 to 1976. Cast regulars included Leslie Phillips, Jon Pertwee, Stephen
Murray, Richard Caldicot, Ronnie Barker and Heather Chasen. The writers were Laurie Wyman and George Evans.

Fred Vintner, of the Navy Lark Appreciation Society, supplies this note:

Back in the days of a British Film industry and new TV stations (regional as well as national) young composers were desperate for a break into the big time. This meant a company like Barry Music (there were others) would record copyright free material and send the discs to broadcasters to sift through at leisure and if a tune was played, a royalty would follow.

A young 'Dwight Barker', real name Tommy Reilly, recorded six 78s of incidental
music which varied in length from 5 seconds to 80 seconds in 1958. The library discs were BM 118, 201, 251, 252, 253, 254 which all got transferred to a single LP later.

The Navy Lark was commissioned in late 1958 and as the writing side of things was being started by Laurie (later Lawrie) Wyman, Alastair Scott Johnston was firming up in his mind, with the help of his secretary Evelyn Wells, how the sound of the show should be.

He wanted nautical references and to this end Evelyn plundered the BBC library and despite two and half days listening to stock recordings nothing 'worked' until the Tommy Reilly interludes were played, and both Alastair and Evelyn were smitten by the narrative in the music and its independent style.

Thence on all Navy Lark recordings were based on this collection of recordings.

I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again

Originated from a Cambridge University Footlights revue ISIRTA ran from 1964 to 1973. It featured John Cleese, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden, Bill Oddie, David Hatch (who later became Controller of Radio 4), Jo Kendall and Humphrey Barclay. The sig, referred to as The Angus Prune Tune, was vocalised by Oddie at the end of the show.