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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 18 March, 2003, 12:45 GMT
Veteran DJ Alan Keith dies
Alan Keith
Your Hundred Best Tunes show was Keith's idea
Radio presenter Alan Keith, believed to be the oldest national DJ, has died at the age of 94.

He was best known for presenting BBC Radio 2's Your Hundred Best Tunes.

Keith had been due to announce his retirement to listeners on Sunday but was taken ill and his pre-recorded message was pulled at the last minute.

His family said he died of a "short illness" at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, north London.

Keith had already pre-recorded his final show for Sunday week, 30 March, and Radio 2 has decided to broadcast the show on that date in the usual timeslot of 2100.

Former TV newsreader Richard Baker will be the show's new presenter from 6 April.

His death marks the end of a 70-year association with the BBC, an achievement unlikely to be equalled
BBC Radio 2 controller Jim Moir
An interview which Baker recorded with Keith in 1998 for his 90th birthday will be broadcast again in place of this Sunday's edition of Best Tunes.

Keith, who was awarded an OBE, spent 70 years broadcasting at the BBC.

He began hosting Your Hundred Best Tunes in 1959 after coming up with the idea himself.

He was originally contracted for a 13-week run, but more than 40 years later it has been playing popular classics such as Pachelbel Canon, Allegri's Miserere and Albinoni's Adagio for Organ and Strings.

Keith's road to the airwaves began at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, going on to appear in the George Bernard Shaw's West End show Major Barbara.

His radio career began in 1935 and saw him perform as a variety show compere and interviewer on the radio series In Town Tonight.

But it was Your Hundred Best Tunes that really provided Keith with his niche, proved by his long stint as presenter.

'Place in history'

Talking just days ago about finally hanging up his earphones, he said: "Now that I'm 94 I've decided that the time has come to say farewell.

"I would like to thank my listeners for joining me over the years on this musical journey."

Radio 2 controller Jim Moir said: "I was very sad to learn of Alan's death. For over 30 years his programme, Your Hundred Best Tunes, was an appointment to listen for millions and he will be sorely missed.

"His death marks the end of a 70-year association with the BBC, an achievement unlikely to be equalled.

"He will have an honoured place in broadcasting history."

He leaves a wife Pearl and two children, Brian and Linda.

Obituary: Alan Keith
18 Mar 03 |  Entertainment

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